Monday, October 17, 2005

It's not what you want baby, it's what you need baby...

Remember the time when everyone was pretending to be Gangsta’s, fronting over the G-Funk CD friendly music with their tales of gangbanging and pimping ho’s?

Shit… OK I’ve basically described what’s happening now haven’t I?

Well think back to ‘The Chronic’ era. The West had won and was dominating the culture with Death Row basically running the show, with the rest of the West riding on their coat tails. The East Coast wasn’t exactly silent but Suge had a vice grip around the neck of the industry and most of the heads.

Then seemingly out of nowhere came the words:

I smoke on the mic like smokin Joe Frazier
The hell raiser, raisin hell with the flavour
Terrorize the jam like troops in Pakistan
Swingin through your town like your neighbourhood Spiderman

Backed with a dark, grimy anti-G-Funk beat… The Wu had arrived and the Hip Hop world was never going to be the same again.

(Yeah I’m rolling with the Wu for my first post as well, sue me.)

Now I’m not gonna lie, I was as hooked on Dre, Snoop and the West as much as the next man but the East Coast has always been the sound I’ve loved. Being from a poor Northern English town where there’s more rain and dark days than there are sun kissed ones may have played a part in forming a relationship with the NYC artists more so than the Cali artists, who knows, one thing was for certain though ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ was a perfect musical backdrop for here. It was aggressive, gritty and just straight up raw.

In the days before P2P my copy of the album must have spent more time in other people’s homes than mine for the first six months of owning it, everyone wanted a copy. The most requested 12” when we were messing around on decks doing mixtapes? ‘Protect Ya Neck’ (more so the flip, ‘Method Man’, in our circle of teenage heads.) Even with the shite state of the UK pressing of the album we’d make do, rhyming over the top of it along with our favourite member of the Clan.

Gone were the days of calling our shitty herb ‘Chronic’, it was now ‘Meth’ or later, for more comedic value, ‘Ticallllllllll!’ We had no idea what the hell we were on about but damn we’d signed up to the Clan mentality.

At that awkward age of 13/14 where formal education means little, the Wu provided us with about as much education as we needed or wanted.

‘C.R.E.A.M.’ was easily identifiable with our surroundings and the prospects we thought we had. Who cares about some mathematical theory when you could be learning the Shaolin kung-fu philosophies? Well ok that really means watching some Kung-Fu films for the violence but roll with the idealistic approach. ‘Bring Da Ruckus’… Well that amped up vibe was our night time, encounters with the Police, the vigilante residents wanting to kick the crap out of us for making too much noise and the houses we trashed when there was a house party. The torture skit providing the inspiration for many a drunk/stoned conversation about how we’d harm each other and any of the fools we knew at school.

As the solo albums began to drop we became more immersed into the whole ethos, as we matured so it appeared did the Wu, each album representing a different angle or approach to life, Hip Hop and the world we live in.

When ‘Return To The 36 Chambers’ was released my English teacher bounced into the room saying “I saw Old Dirty Bastard’s album last night, it looked better than I thought it would”, with a look on his face suggesting ‘I may have finally found a connection with this kid’. He hadn’t because he hadn’t bought it – therefore immediately getting the gas face – but it showed just how evident our Wu and Hip Hop attitude had become, they had to deal with us on our terms or face disruption. (See ODB at the Grammy's for a Wu example.)

This connection with the Wu will not be a unique one, behind the Kung Fu samples, golden fangs and white masks was the voice of the Hip Hop generation and possibly the last time that this connection was made on such a unified scale within Hip Hop.

By the time of ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ saturation point had almost been reached, thanks to all the affiliates and solo albums. Although it’s not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, the raw energy present in ‘Enter…’ was diminishing. As I had grown apart from my school ‘clan’, it felt like the Wu had begun to separate as well due to them being stars in their own right. That was fine though; it still shit on a lot of albums at the time and provided many people (including myself) with more walkman material to study.

The Hip Hop industry owes a lot to the Wu; every successful artist since them has basically followed their model – with clothing lines, their own record label, the manner of their contract, bringing all their crew through to share the shine and also their disrespect of UK audiences… That’s not to say any of what they did hadn’t been done before (well except for the contract), just that the Wu really went at it and managed to make it work (to varying degrees of success.)

The last great Hip Hop group? The Wu without question…

Now for your listening pleasure some Wu-Tang material that may have slipped under your radar...

Rza, Method Man & Cappadona - Wu-Wear: The Garment Renaissance
Prince Rakeem - Sexcapades (Wu-Tang Mix)
Wu-Tang Clan - Let Me At Them

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