Monday, October 17, 2005

Wu Tang ain't nuthing ta fuck wit....

So what is it about the Wu Tang Clan that makes them hold a special place in so many people’s hearts?

While not being my favourite group (A Tribe Called Quest hold that honour), they do hold a very special place in my heart. Now I wasn’t into hip-hop when “Enter the Wu Tang: 36 Chambers” dropped (there go half the readers), so I came back to it. In fact I first heard “Wu Tang Forever” from my brother, who was a casual hip-hop fan, and loved it. Then while I was away in Germany on a school trip I saw “36 Chambers” and all I was sick of people telling me I had to own it so I ended up buying it to shut people up.

When I got home I put it in the changer and waited to be blown away…and I fucking was. I couldn’t believe how raw and rugged the whole thing was, the rhymes hit hard and the production hit harder. After listening to it solid for about two months, I decided to figure out what it was about the album, and the crew, that was so special.

Now let’s get this out of the way; “36 Chambers” is one of the finest albums ever made in any genre. The whole album is littered with martial arts samples and moody backdrops created by the RZA for his crew to spit over. The lyrics create vivid imagery about the streets and the hard life and are some of the most powerful you will find in hip hop. The mcs are brimming with energy and ruggedness, ready to blow the fuck up. It’s almost like when they made the album they didn’t care about what you thought about it, they had to say what they had to say. The production is flawless, every time I listen to it I still notice something I didn’t before; a drum, a certain sound…something. It’s timeless and Rza has created so many layers to his production on this that it still sounds fresh. The whole album has an “I’m going to say what I want, how I want and fuck you if you don’t get it” vibe. Anyway, this isn’t supposed to be a review of “36 Chambers”, it’s about what makes the Clan special.

I mean they have chemistry, of course they do, but that’s not just it. The fact is that there is nine of them, all with different solo deals, all different lives…it should be chaos and unorganised, and it is. That is exactly what makes them so special, sometimes you just get the impression that they haven’t rehearsed anything, written anything down, or even been around during the making of the music, they just popped in to drop some vocals and smoke meth. It is precisely this that makes them what they are, the fact that they’re not polished, they’re rugged as fuck. They say what they want on a record, if it doesn’t make any sense then fuck it, they’re not doing this for you, and they’re going to say what they say regardless. Their live shows are chaotic, they regularly forget the words, they don’t rehearse, they insult the crowd if they get annoyed...they’re just real as fuck. As a group, to me they are second only to A Tribe Called Quest.

On top of this, they all have strong qualities in themselves. Ghostface and Raekwon can drop drug tales like no others, Rza can drop gems you need an encyclopaedia to understand, Method man can flow to anything and everything, ODB (R.I.P) made no sense but was a demented genius…I can go on but I don’t need to. So when they come together they each add something, it’s not a case of you can get rid of half the crew because they are all the same. Each mc is like an actor in that they all bring something different to proceedings. The fact that so many dope solo albums came out of the Wu Tang family is testament to this.

On top of this, they made hip hop cool. What a load of crap I hear so many people cry, well it’s true. I remember seeing so many kids wearing Wu Wear, spending some ridiculous money getting a Wu Tang logo for their phone, calling themselves Johnny Blaze…it was cool to like the Wu Tang and be down with it. I can only speak for the U.K but that is exactly how it was where I am, people still rock Wu Wear and buy martial arts films purely because their titles have been mentioned by the Wu. They make you feel like you can do what the fuck you want, say what you want, like you are hip-hop.

So have I answered the question? Probably not in all honestly. There is something special about The Wu Tang Clan. The fact that they’re an unorganised bunch of muthafuckers, that they have so many aliases that you have no idea who is who sometimes, that they can invent their own slang and kids are still speaking like it are all part of the magic of the Wu Tang. They have one of the greatest hip hop producers of all time, some of the greatest and most memorable mcs, a clothing line, a computer game, a comic book, books, nine different solo deals….not bad for nine unorganised muthafuckas. They dropped one classic, one very good double album and two above average albums, yet they are sacred to so many. The fact that they have dropped countless dope solo and affiliate albums adds to it, but it wasn’t always what they did, it was how they did it. It shouldn’t have worked but it did. They must have something special.

I obviously couldn't do this without upping some of Wu Tang gems. I purposely didn't include any solo tracks, and only tracks from the first two albums:

Still my favourite Clan track of all time.

Protect Ya Neck
Probably the one everybody and their mother knows.

Shame On a Nigga
ODB steals this track, he just does.. Not to mention one of my favourite Method man verses as well.

Da Mystery of Chessboxin'
You cannot front on this track. This is actually my favourite ODB verse as well which will surprise some people. He fucking kills it for me.

A bit of history. All nine members of the Wu Tang (plus Cappadonna) on one track. That opening verse by Deck is dope as hell.

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