Artist: Wu-Tang Clan
Album: Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers
Rating: 10 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
When this album dropped, the entire hip hop world took notice. It cannot be overstated how much of an impact the Wu had on hip hop with this album, most noticeably on the east coast. After a couple of years of g-funk and west coast dominance, it was the Wu, with the help of some other east coast notables (ie. Black Moon) that helped raise the east out of the dredge it was in at the time.
Unlike the popular hip hop of the time, which was either pure pop (ie. MC Hammer), conscious (ie. Native Tongues), or g-funk (ie. Dr.Dre), the Wu was gritty, underground, and grimy. It sacrificed aesthetics for sonic experimentation, and used loops and samples that no one had thought of before the RZA.
Coming out of New York and it’s boroughs, most notably Staten Island, the Wu had 9 members, each of whom was unique in style, cadence, and delivery. Plus, they had a made up mythology of their own that incorporated elements of hip hop, kung fu, and comic books, mixed in with the teaching of the 5% Nation. All of these elements helped to give them the mainstream and underground megasuccess that they enjoy today.
1) Bring Da Ruckus
A kung-fu sample opens up the proceedings, and as it fades, the refrain of “Bring da muthafucking ruckus!” used as the chorus jumps in. This track featured the lyrical styles of Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, and the GZA, all weaving in metaphors, pop culture references, and thug slang into their lyrics. As with every song on the album, production is by the RZA, and for Da Ruckus, he uses some dirty sounding drums, and a rolling rhythmic bassline, in addition to what sound like swords clashing in the background that further add a kung-fu element. A classic.
2) Shame On A Nigga
Featurings the stylings of Raekwon, and for the first time, Method Man, and the Clan’s resident wildman, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Shame” once again uses the dirty drums and bassline that the RZA is known for, including a chorus that you just can’t help but nod your head too. This track is a rarity, in that you kinda ignore the beat in order to check exactly WHAT ODB is saying. The man may be nutso, but damned if he ain’t interesting to listen to.
3) Clan In Da Front
The third track opens with an echo effect, and soon after, the RZA, over a chanted chorus, begins naming off endless names, all of whom are members are the Wu’s extended family. After all this, the beat just ends, and a new beat starts up, with a simple bassline and drums. Nothing too crazy here, and rightfully so, as the GZA proceeds to absolutely MURDER his verse. The best part is when he uses baseball as a metaphor for his skills –
“I’m on the mound G,and it’s a no-hitter,
and my DJ the catcher, he’s my man ,
anyway he’s the one who devised the plan,
he throws the signs I hook up the beats with clout,
I throw the rhymes to the mic and I strike em out,
so it really doesn’t matter on how you intrigue,
you can’t f@#k with those in the major leagues.”
4) Wu-Tang 7th Chamber
Probably one of my favorite cuts of all time. This cut features ALL of the Clan, and not only that, but it has a sick beat to add to it. The only way I can describe the beat is dirty. It sounds almost like it’s going too slow, but it isn’t, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I honestly can’t pick my favorite verse on this, as everyone kills it, but I will say that Meth does his thing extremely lovely on this, hinting at the great things that were to come in his future.
5) Can It Be All So Simple
Another classic track. Sampling an old soul tune, which I should know but don’t, the RZA’s production can be summed up as haunting. He’s got the loop of the woman singing, and some atmospheric noises in the background accompanying that. Then he goes and lumps in a pretty heavy bassy noise. Deceptively simple and complex at the same time. This is also the first time we hear Ghost and Rae alone on a track together, and the subject matter this time is the trials and tribulations of growing up. Beautiful.
6) Da Mystery of Chessboxin’
One of the singles released, and also probably the most accessible track on the LP, strictly for the beat alone. Again, RZA starts things off with a cool little kung-fu dialogue, and the beat jumps in hard soon after, with U-God kicking it for the first time on the album, due to his being incarcerated at the time that this was recorded. The beat itself is just rugged. No other way to describe it, and in addition to some more sword noises, you’ve got a pretty crazy chant running in the background as well. ODB steals the show once again, rhyming off the whole Clan in his deranged fashion, and Meth takes care of the chorus admirably. Outstanding.
7) Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuttin to Fuck Wit
A crazy horn like sound starts off this track, and soon after, the title of the track is chanted over and over to start things off. The mood that RZA creates at the beginning is great. You KNOW the beat is gonna explode when it drops, but you don’t know WHEN it will. When it does, you get some sick drums, the horns still, and a funky bassline, plus you get the RZA is full force, giving out reasons why the Clan can’t be messed with, followed by Deck. After a brief reprieve, but continued chanting, Method Man does his verse which if even more energetic if you can believe it, and the song ends with another RZA verse, ending abruptly. Fantastic.
Probably the most famous song off the LP, and also the one that introduced the word cream into the rap lexicon. Cream is money basically, and the acronym stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, as the chorus tells you. RZA again keeps it simple, letting his MC’s do the work, which in this case involves telling tales of how money has played a huge part in their lives, due to their lack of it as they grew up. A classic.
9) Method Man
This is the only solo cut on the album, and as you can guess from the title, it’s Meth’s show. It starts off with Meth spelling his name over a really nice piano loop, and then just EXPLODES both lyrically and sonically, as RZA uses the same loop plus some sped up drums, and Meth tells you exactly what he’s all about. The track that made Meth a star in my opinion.
10) Protect Ya Neck
We finally get to the track that raised eyebrows in the first place. ‘Protect Ya Neck’ was the single that got the attention of hip hop fans everywhere, and here it is in all it’s glory. Again showcasing the talent of everyone of the members of the clan, the RZA this time uses something sounding like a chime to accentuate a beat that also has a whistle sounding throughout. Add in the movie sound effects, and you’ve got a classic beat and song, as everyone of the MC’s exhibits their uniqueness.
The RZA uses another old soul song as a sample for the chorus in this one. Sounds like an organ accentuating the now famous dirty drums and bass, and some electronic keys over top of that in a nice little looped tune. This particular song also has the most obvious message as well, as both RZA and Ghostface tell tales of young men who took the wrong path in life – one by contracting AIDS, and the other by getting shot and killed needlessly. Some great storytelling that’ll make you shiver, and overall, another classic.
12) Wu-Tang 7th Chamber: Part II
The final track is also misnamed, since it isn’t actually a part II, but rather a remix of 7th Chamber found earlier on. Instead of the simple drums and bass from before, the RZA utilizes a driving bassline that you need to hear to believe. In fact, it’s so overpowering that you hear little else aside from that and the vocals, which remain the same by the way. A nice treat to end the album, and in my opinion, a hotter beat than the original.
So there you have it. Some might not view this as a very biased review, since I absolutely loved everything on this LP, but honestly, this in one of 3 albums I own that I NEVER have to skip tracks. Every song on here is a classic hip hop track, and in 20 years, this album will be looked upon as one of the greatest albums of all time, both for it’s impact on its genre, and for it’s expansion of music in general. Trust me on that.