This topic has been bugging me for a while now. Rap crews just can’t keep it together lately. 50 Cent left Interscope, signed a new, apparently more lucrative, indie deal with Caroline/Capitol Records, and seems to have left G-Unit behind. Raekwon seems to be allowing money concerns to hold up the Wu-Tang’s work on a new album that would commemorate the 20th anniversary of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). What’s going on?!
But first, let’s do the retro part of this post. If I can pat myself on the back for a second, I’m proud of my observation that Onyx’s high-octane delivery sounds terrible over Snowgoonz’ already loud beats. Not because it was especially insightful, but because I’m not at all a classically studied musician, so I like that I found a decent way to articulate that sonic problem. Besides that, the only other thing I have to say about one of the reviews since my last retro post is that the Schoolboy Q piece probably could have been more negative. After listening for the review I instantly became tired of its few good songs, so I pretty much hate that album now.
So I read somewhere that instead of complaining about bad music, critics should spend more time on the good stuff that they wish got more attention. The problem with that idea is the fact that we need some popular garbage in our coverage to grab the eyes of the masses, who would otherwise ignore all of our writings. Without this mainstream coverage we’re just preaching the underground gospel to the choir. So I’m trying to balance those two concerns by writing shorter reviews for the mainstream albums that I dislike. Usually. Of course, if I have a lot to say then that guideline goes out the window.
Now, on to the topic of intra-crew beef. It’s sad that both crews seem to be failing as a result of success. In the case of G-Unit (by which I mean the original members: 50 Cent, Tony Yayo ,and Lloyd Banks,) 50 signed a deal where he stands to make much more money on the backend (i.e. a larger percentage of sales revenue) than he made at Interscope, but that likely comes at the price of a smaller advances and a smaller label-funded production budget. A smaller budget means he can no longer fund the underperforming other members of G-Unit members, hence, they didn’t come along with him to Capitol. Call me an asshole if you need to, but that business decision makes perfect sense to me. Shit, if I were him, I’d have cut those two years ago! Their music quality does not and never did justify their stature. They’ve benefited greatly from his success, while not creating nearly enough of their own.
But I’d rather see these matters get handled with more class, as opposed to Tony Yayo proclaiming G-Unit to be dead and 50 joking that his (ex?, is the group officially broken up?) partners are now Troy Ave’s hypemen. Given that they’ve been together since before the Aftermath record deal, I hope they find some way to be friends again. But I’ve heard what must be half of 50’s upcoming album, Animal Ambition, already, and almost all of it sounds bad. Lloyd Banks and his whisper can’t change that. So really, who cares what happens to G-Unit??? It’s interesting to observe this falling out but let’s not pretend that the consequences will matter for any listener with an ounce of taste.
see 50 discuss the situation below
I’m a lot more on the fence about Wu-Tang Clan’s drama. Raekwon is refusing to record his parts for their album, A Better Tomorrow, until money is fully discussed. But Rza feels that everyone should just work on the album and the split of the proceeds should be a secondary issue to be ironed out after the album is completed.
Here, both sides resonate with me a bit. Raekwon seems to be demanding more money than the album’s budget can afford, but I bet what he wants isn’t far from his market rate as a solo artist. But many Wu members are successful solo artists, and each one demanding their usual fee would create a need for a pretty large budget. No label would fund such a Wu-Tang project because it wouldn’t sell enough in today’s market to justify such an expense. So, given that today’s market is not one wherein a Wu-Tang record could have breakout success, the same group and solo successes that make this album an awesome idea are the same things that stop the album from being done right (everyone getting paid what they really deserve). So Raekwon isn’t crazy for recognizing his worth, but he might need to be more realistic in expecting to realize it in 2014 on a Wu album with so many other people.
But I bristle at Rza’s public dismissals of Raekwon’s concerns. Sure, his request for music to come before business sounds really nice, in a pie in the sky, Reading Rainbow theme music kind of way. The pure music lover in me would greatly appreciate artists doing what they love only because they love it. But the practical person that I am sees that 9 emcees, all with varying levels of success, doing music together just because they want to, and letting business be handled later, is a very foolish idea. Everyone has the right to recognize their worth and act on that, and they should do so. Leaving that for later just leaves more of a chance to get exploited on the work that you’ve now already completed. If negotiation fails, at best you’ve wasted time and effort that you will never get back. It’s bad business.
Side-notes: this isn’t the first time that the Wu’s business practices have been called into question. I’m just sayin’, where there’s smoke there might be a fire. Rae also questioned Rza’s recent creative direction, citing the terrible (in my opinion) Wu single, Keep Watch. This also isn’t the first time that the Wu has put out some trash. I don’t know enough about their creative dynamics to say whether Rae is right and Rza should allow more people to have creative authority, or if that’s the problem and Rza should actually take on a dictator role like he did on 36 Chambers. If I had to choose one, I’d say that Rza making all the beats and controlling the creative direction would be best, based on how well that first album turned out. But I wouldn’t put money on that statement.
Anyway, I hope they come to some agreement and the album gets made, and, most importantly, I hope it’s good. All this drama for a crap album would just end up staining the Wu legacy. In that context, I almost wish this idea for A Better Tomorrow had never happened. How’s that for optimism?!
My final point is that success has a funny way of causing problems. 50 shared his success with his friends and is now being questioned for deciding he can’t do that anymore. To celebrate their group and solo successes, Wu-Tang’s members will likely have to accept less money than they deserve.
Isn’t success a bitch sometimes?
see Raekwon discuss his “strike”, and Rza respond to Raekwon’s statements (these videos are older than the MTV article linked above)