Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Tiny Tunes

By Jon Kulas and Jessica English

AUGUST 4, 1997: 

Alibi Value Scale Formula:
Total minutes of good music @ 50¢/minute minus total minutes of bad music @ 25 ¢/minute = Value

Wu-Tang Clan Wu-Tang Forever (Loud Records)
Good Minutes: 90:37
Blah Minutes: 12:31 (no cash value)
Bad Minutes: 9:23
Actual Retail Price: $24.95 (two CDs)
Value: $43.50

The saga of the Wu-Tang has had several origins, with each of its nine members fighting his own individual struggle on the streets and eventually all maturing together in the force that is Wu-Tang. With their first album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), The Clan established itself strongly in the hip-hop community, setting a standard of self-management and promotion that many other rap artists would try to duplicate. In an industry that has become ruled by record company moguls and chock full of one-hit wonders, the Clan strategi-cally signed contracts that would allow their members to operate and create individual solo efforts outside the label, but also marketed, distributed and promoted their first single Protect Ya Neck under their own Wu-Tang label. This arrangement has made the Wu-Tang Clan a huge source of music over the past four years, not only as a group but with each of its members contributing to the rap arena.

The new album Wu-Tang Forever (two CDs) continues to build on what was demonstrated in the first album: the group's blending of martial arts practices and Islamic beliefs into a unique vision of hard-core hip-hop. The music itself evokes images of stark streets and harsh conditions but moves far from the gangsta-rap mentality. Much time is spent telling us to find value in our brothers and sisters and represents the attainment of education and knowledge as the development of power in a community. I think we're all sick of hearing the word "gat" these days, and I can't recall hearing it on either of these CDs, although they could have stuck it in somewhere. Overall, it ranks low on the gangsta-hype scale.

The album continues to be creatively unique in its mixing of powerful beats, disciplined rhythms and East Coast flavor. As there are nine members in the group, the album is multilayered, having several dimensions as each artist offers a different verbal style and a different stylistic vision from which the music is created. Monotony is not something to be found here. Fans have been waiting four years for this album to come out, and the Clan has not let anyone down. In the words of group member, Ol' Dirty Bastard, "We're comin' off with crazy shit that nobody can touch." Enough said. (JK)

Nearly God Nearly God (Island Records)
Good Minutes: 54:32
Blah Minutes: 6:21 (no cash value)
Bad Minutes: 0
Actual Retail Price: $15.97
Value: $27.16

Nearly God is the newest extension of trip-hop genius Tricky's psyche. This new collaboration, featuring the vocals by Neneh Cherry, Allison Moyet, Bjork and, of course, Martine (cited in the liner notes as Martina Topley Birds), moves with the same slinky beats--primitive yet complex--that are Tricky's signature style. The difference between Nearly God and his previous releases, Pre-Millennium Ten-sion and Maxiniquaye, is far deeper than just the inclusion of megatalents. He has taken these already incomparable works and perfected them, with a wider range of rhythms and instruments--each song is constantly morphing until it reaches a climactic pitch. In "Keep Your Mouth Shut," a droning, machine-like hum is cut by a booming sample; Tricky's chanting, "Mother, I'm hungry," infiltrates the deep thudding bass and the ethereal voice of Bjork (sans annoying incomprehensible wailing). From the gospel song set to the pairing of pulsing rhythm and solo violin to the gentle plucking of bass strings overlapping with the sultry voice of Martine and electronic even beats in the jazzy little number "Black Coffee," the constant mixture of opposite elements--the feminine and masculine, regular and sporadic, classical and electronic--makes Nearly God a sensory experience that's nearly crippling. Pleasantly crippling, though, dictating even the rhythm of your own blood coursing through your veins. Indulge in something so divine. (JE)

--Jon Kulas and Jessica English

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