Retroactive: “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”

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In so many ways, the Wu-Tang Clan was a natural landing spot for my adolescent journey through Hip Hop.  After devouring every word of Nas’ “illmatic,” I was hungry for more of that real Hip Hop.  Popular Hip Hop just wasn’t grabbing my attention like these old school emcees were.  I listened to Eric B. and Rakim, KRS-One, Mobb Deep, early Jay-Z etc. It wasn’t until I stumbled on Wu-Tang though that I heard something that really resonated with me.  From the marvel references to the Kung Fu samples, everything about the Wu was appealing to me.  Hard, aggressive Hip Hop like that woke me the fuck up and made me realize that a great song was first and foremost built around wordplay and lyricism but the energy an artist puts into a song is just as important.  The energy throughout this album is infectious.  I challenge anyone to listen to this and not bang your head or tap your foot. RZA crafts an atmosphere and vibe that is Forever Wu.

Since this album is a group effort; and since the Wu see themselves as martial artists; I’m gonna do this song breakdown as follows: the Wu rapper who I (personally) think kills it most on each song, will get the W…

  1. Bring da Ruckus: W: RZA; gotta throw it to the producer for track 1; RZA sets the scene properly with the Shaolin vs Wu Tang sample and keeps the theme going throughout the song; the beat is unmistakeable
  2. Shame on a Ni**a: W: ODB; Dirty steals the show getting to sing the chorus, a short 1st verse and an absolutely manic final verse; “Yo! I come with that ol’ loco style from my vocal // Couldn’t peep it with a pair of bifocals”
  3. Clan in Da Front: W: GZA; GZA’s first verse not only introduces us to him as a rapper but the Wu as a whole; he gets his own whole song to show just how dangerous the Wu is as a group and especially so with the wielder of the liquid swords front and center on this track
  4. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber: W: Method Man; besides him stealing scenes in the skits, Mef proves he’s the smoothest member in the crew with this verse; a Wu-Tang sword reference, a Meth-Tical name drop and tons of energy out of the Method Man here
  5. Can it all be So Simple/ Intermission: W: Rae and Ghost; our first taste of the dynamic due, Rae and Ghost; a prelude to Only Built for Cuban Linx; incredible Gladys Knight sample from RZA; forever linked, I can’t pick between their two verses; crazy detailed imagery from Raekown; a heartfelt Ghostface Killah verse; each verse foreshadows the success to come with both artists as solo acts and as a duo
  6. Da Mystery of Chessboxin’: W: Masta Killa; to be honest, everyone has a phenomenal verse on this song… that being said, Masta Killa has the best introduction on the album: “It’s the master of the Mantis Rapture comin’ at ya // We have an APB on an MC killer // looks like the work of a master…”
  7. Wu-Tang Clan Aint Nuthing ta F’wit: W: RZA; Easily RZA’s best verse on this album plus he gets to sing the iconic hook; a Dr. Doom reference; a Richard Dawson/ Family Feud reference; RZA brings the heat lyrically
  8. C.R.E.A.M.: W: Rae/ INS; perfect song from top to bottom; incredible 1st verse by Rae; an even more incredible 2nd verse by Inspectah Deck; Rae brought the real, gritty street verse while Deck went off with his wordplay while still managing to craft a tale of life in the streets
  9. Method Man: W: Mef; Method Man flows so effortlessly it seems like he’s not trying but on this track he gets the whole thing to flex his muscles;  switching his flow numerous times and even singing a catchy bridge; he uses sounds and wordplay better than anybody in the crew
  10. Protect ya Neck: W: Inspectah Deck; my personal favorite song with my personal favorite verse; Deck sets the song off by knocking it out of the park on the first pitch; his wordplay is at an elite level; he rhymes ‘Pakistan’ with Spider-man’; and he comes in proper with “I smoke on the mic like ‘Smokin’ Joe’ Fraizer // The hell-rasier, rasin’ hell with the flavor”
  11. Tearz: W: GFK; Ghostface Killah gives us a raunchy but incredibly real story that he weaves throughout his verse; his story telling on this track is epic as he goes from a night out with his friend to him dying years later from HIV
  12. Wu-Tang 7th Chamber – Part II – Conclusion: W: The Wu-Tang Clan; One of my favorite albums of all time that only gets better with age; it’s been 25 years since this album came out and this shit still bangs. Wu Forever.

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