QUICK, WITHOUT LOOKING NAME ALL 9 EMCEES OF THE WU-TANG CLAN RIGHT NOW!
How many did you get? I always make it a point to remember Masta Killa, but then that makes me forget U-God. Sorry, U.
The Wu-Tang Clan. One of the largest and most acclaimed groups to ever shake up the hip-hop world, helping to launch the NYC rap renaissance of the early ‘90s, causing a major shift in the sound and style of the music for the rest of decade, launching the careers of seemingly hundreds of people, and creating a legitimate music and business empire, complete with a clothing line, video games, and hell, even a financial company.
Wait, that last one was a Chappelle’s Show skit. But it could happen.
Anyhow, before all of that, the Wu-Tang Clan began with rather humble beginnings, just three Brooklyn emcees: The Genius, Prince Rakeem, and A-Son. In the early ’90s both Genius and Rakeem issued solo efforts which went nowhere, and as a trio, was a group known as All In Together Now, which issued a single that got a little buzz but nothing much else. Fed up with the tough breaks, the three began working on a new group, with a very different sound and attitude. They recruited emcees from around NYC, taking in members Method Man, Raekwon the Chef, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, U-God, and Inspectah Deck. The three also took on new personas. The Genius became the GZA. Rakeem became the RZA. Ason adopted the eyebrow-raising moniker Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a slight alteration of an old kung-fu flick.
And speaking of old kung-fu flicks, the crew had a hot and heavy obsession with them. You know what I’m talking about, those ’70s-era poorly dubbed bootleg joints that’s all fighting and all mysticism, and a whole lot of cheese, and to that end, they created a mythology which heavily utilized elements of the films, right down to extensive samples in their music. To complete the aura, they dubbed themselves the Wu-Tang Clan, and called the slums of Shaolin (AKA, Staten Island) home.
Under the leadership of the RZA, who also handled the production duties, the Clan was in place by 1992 and wasted no time getting to work on their debut. Simply put, the album was blunt, in sound, content, and frequent recording studio activities. Through the weed smoke and numerous martial arts film samples, you hear harsh tales, great stream-of-consciousness rhymes, and distinct personalities and vibes of nine different emcees (well, seven and two-halves, since RZA was mostly behind the boards and Masta Killa was doing time in the clink during most of the record’s development), such as the methodical approach of GZA, the wild outbursts of Ol’ Dirty, and the blunted ways of Meth. When Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) dropped in late ’93 it signaled to the West Coast-dominated rap world that New York was back. Along with debuts by Black Moon and Onyx, 36 Chambers heralded the arrival of the NYC hardcore, as well as the Wu’s bid for total world domination. In a brilliant move, the group managed to secure separate record deals for each artist, and RZA had a 5-year plan in place to handle the production duties of everyone in the camp, allowing for the Wu to release some of the finest rap of the ’90s and become a very high-profile crew.
Now, when people mention classic tracks from 36 Chambers, pretty much half the record is mentioned. Everyone knows “C.R.E.A.M.,” or “Can It All Be So Simple,” or “Method Man,” or “Bring The Ruckus,” or “Protect Ya Neck,” but personally, one of my all-time favorites on the record is “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit’.“ For me, this one is wild, awesome, and just all-out fun as hell, made perfect by the “TIGER STYLE” vocal sample and the verses RZA and Inspectah Deck, which, after all these years, I still know by heart.
“And the survey said, YA DEAD, fatal flying guillotine chops off ya fuckin’ head!”
Ah, the Wu, still ain’t nothing ta fuck with.
Originally posted on my old blog, Emaciated Wildebeest, on October 4, 2011.