A week ago all nine of the surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan returned on The Daily Show to premiere a new song from their upcoming album A Better Tomorrow. This was a bona fide, anti-cynicism Good Thing. We all love the Wu-Tang Clan, and any time they collectively decide to return to their art should always be met with the adulation it deserves.
That being said, we think it's high time for a reordering of Wu-Tang hierarchy. For years the narrative has been set in stone. Ghostface is the best, U-God is the worst, but it's been more than twenty years since '93. Careers often don't look the same after generational shifts and presidential administrations. Let's set the record straight and celebrate who actually earns celebration in 2014. These are the official, undisputed rankings of which Wu-Tang members have aged the best.9. Cappadonna
Cappadonna's biggest claim to fame is being the biggest Wu-Tang Clan fan of all time, and we can't spite him too much for that. Let's move on.8. GZA
Look, this hurts me as much as it hurts you, GZA is probably my all-time favorite member of the Wu, but let's face facts. Our man hasn't put out a good album in nearly a decade now. It's clear that GZA is entirely uninterested with rapping anymore. There's a reason he's been on this "I'm performing Liquid Swords in full" through every city in North America, some more than once. This list is about the members of the Wu-Tang who have transcended their origin stories and adapted into modern times effectively. If there's one member who seems comfortable to let his legacy lay where it stands, it's GZA. That's a bummer, because he's likely still one of the best rappers on the planet.7. Method Man
The last major move Method Man made in a public setting was developing a line of e-cigarettes. Before that, it was getting arrested for tax evasion. Blackout 2 was fine. It was also released in 2009. Method Man seems pretty happy raking in that feature-verse money, and honestly, who could blame him. Is it disappointing that one of the weirdest members of the Wu is happy to fade into the background with a barrel of ASAP Mob money? Sure. Is it surprising? Not in the least. He's always been a businessman at heart.6. Inspectah Deck
Inspectah Deck was a better emcee twenty years ago, and now he's best known for putting out boring records with a dwindling cast of characters surrounding him. Trust me, you don't want to hear Inspectah Deck try to carry a whole album. I'm sure he'll be great again back in Wu-Tang environs on the new album -- I mean, the dude rapped "C.R.E.A.M." -- but I'm guessing you don't need me to tell you that Deck's solo career isn't really something worth looking for.5. U-God
U-God is similar to the Inspectah, in the sense that they're still active and probably need to rap for money. I'm not going to pretend that I had heard U-God's solo records before writing this list, but I will say that the guy has put out records in 2013 and 2009, and despite their immediate middling nature, there are at least seven good songs between them. How much is that due to the charity of other Wu members willing to rap on his albums? More than a little, but who cares? Listen to "Train Tussle" and tell me your curiosity hasn't been piqued. If U-God's one purpose on earth is to get other Wu-Tang members out of retirement every couple of years, I think he deserves all of our thanks. In 2014, that's the sort of altruism that'll get you prime placement on a list like this.4. Masta Killa
Want to listen a throwback, introspective, 40-minute rap album? Something that might make you think of Liquid Swords or vintage Talib Kweli? It's called Selling My Soul. Masta Killa put it out back in 2012. You're welcome.
Masta Killa has long been the most criminally unheralded members of the Wu-Tang Clan, his masterpiece debut No Said Date still stands as one of the best products that's ever come from the posse. Killa doesn't make music at anywhere close to an efficient rate, but you know, he still makes music. Right now he's on a two-albums-a-decade rate, but honestly you'd probably take those two albums over modern-day Ghostface.3. Ghostface Killah
At his prime Ghost would be on the top of this list, because the five-album run of Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Bulletproof Wallets, The Pretty Toney Album, and Fishscale is the sort of run lesser rappers dream about. In 2014 he remains the most musically active members of the group, but well, you know... There's Ghostdini, the left-field puffy-eyed R&B record, there's the middling collaborations Wu-Massacre and Wu-Block, and then there are the totally defendable, (and fairly ordinary) solo entries like Apollo Kids and Twelve Reasons to Die.
Which is all well and good -- expecting Ghostface to be at the top of his game for an entire career would be asking for one of the most unprecedented things in the history of pop music. He still makes it into the top three because he is still Tony Starks, and he is still putting out records. If there's anyone who's earned the right of being "just okay" for a little while, it's Ghostface Killah.2. RZA
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch the Throne, Doris, and one of the core propulsive forces behind Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. RZA has been everywhere, his workaholic nature has never betrayed him, and if you believe the stories, he's the only man fully invested in the forthcoming sixth Wu-Tang album in official canon, A Better Tomorrow. In fact, the only reason RZA isn't number one is because he hasn't really put out his own record in half a decade. But whatever, if you make it to 45 and are fielding calls from Kanye and Earl Sweatshirt and everyone in between, you've got to be pretty proud of your empire.1. Raekwon
This is your undisputed champion right now. The Chef's last two albums were the aforementionedOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx II
, which was a sequel decades in the making that probably should've been an embarrassing, rose-colored "real hip-hop" flop but ended up being arguably the only great rap album released in 2009. And then he put outShaolin vs Wu-Tang
, one of the most rock-solid entries in the entire Wu catalog, which only didn't get its deserved love because there wasn't an easy narrative to construct. More than anybody else in the Wu, Raekwon is the guy who understands how to be a rapper in the 21st century. He'll happily issue mixtapes like he's giving out candy; he'llinvite Rick Ross on a track
and it won't be a controversy. As has been reminded over and over again, getting older with grace in hip-hop is a treacherous path, but the 2010s have only made Raekwon a better, worldlier MC.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.