I’ve wanted to get into Wu-Tang Clan’s music for a while, I but fell victim to musical intimidation. The group seemed too ethereal for me to just jump in randomly and start listening, so I just accepted their significant place in hip hop history and moved on (though I have heard some of them on non-Wu-Tang tracks). While I didn’t want this week to turn into one that was filled with New York-based artists (which happened anyway lol), I couldn’t allow myself to pretend like Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) didn’t exist. I saw “C.R.E.A.M.” was on the tracklist, and I refused to just let the album continue to sit on Spotify unlistened to me.
1993: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
36 Chambers is my favorite album of the week so far. The expanded version comes in at 70 minutes (the long albums this week are KILLING ME, they’ve been good, but YIKES), and Wu-Tang fills every bit of that time with witty lines, martial arts references, heavy New York accents, and flows and verses that are absolutely incredible. Like with Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt (1996), my brain immediately felt the connection between some of my favorite artists and the inspiration they undoubtedly pulled from Wu-Tang (Denzel Curry and JID instantly came to mind). Wu-Tang’s mix of storytelling and technical skills on here makes for an extremely entertaining listen.
This album reminded me of The Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia (1995) (and Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde (1992)); it was a part of the group of albums that I listened to in the first round of this four-month journey into essential 90s hip hop albums. One of the things that stood out to me about that project was that it existed in a sort of different world than the other projects I listened to that week, which included Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992), Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted (1990), and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle (1993). Those three projects centered on a sort of praise and glorification of a lifestyle filled with various vices. And The Pharcyde’s projects sat on the periphery of that lauding without pretending like they weren’t witnessing the same things (and taking part in some of those lower-level vices themselves). Wu-Tang does something similar on 36 Chambers. Some of the songs still offer tales of “catchin’ keys from ‘cross seas” and “stickin’ up white boys in ball courts,” but they act more as a means for the guys to get their raps off rather than the direct message they’re trying to get across. And when those lines are offered, they’re talked about in the past tense or distantly.
Similar to The Pharcyde’s projects, 36 Chambers shows the power of a rap crew. Of course, solo artists can hold down albums by themselves, but there’s nothing like hearing a group trade verses over a track, and Wu-Tang helped write the playbook for the success that can come from packaging multiple musical personalities into one supergroup. You get a project like 36 Chambers that recognizes and utilizes the diversity of flows, pace, and lyrics and uses that to the project’s advantage. Songs like “Shame On a Nigga” and “Protect Ya Neck” are perfect examples of this. I also love being able to hear when an artist is clearly having fun on a project, and there are plenty of moments like that on here. That’s what happens when you make an album with your friends <3. Fave songs: “Protect Ya Neck,” “Method Man,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” and “Shame On a Nigga,” but all of the songs on this project are amazing for different reasons. I especially liked “Can It All Be So Simple/Intermission” because it worked as a sort of “this is who we are” track. The second half of the song runs down the list of Wu-Tang’s members, with Method Man acting as the introducer. When I started listening to the album, I was hoping that there would be a moment like that on it, and I’m happy that it happened.
So. After being blown away by Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), I’m adding the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan’s discography to my “to listen” list. I think I’m also gonna have to slide over to some of their individual discographies as well. Method Man and ODB are first on that list. Will 2021 be the year that I become a belated Wu-Tang stan? Maybe so.
(listen to Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) on Spotify by clicking the image below)
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