The story is amongst the most hallowed in hip hop history: a nine-man hip hop posse manages to snag a record deal, subsequently releases one of the greatest debuts of all time, reinvigorates the commercially flailing East Coast scene and lands nine individual record contracts. Wu-Tang’s emergence still stands as one of the most unbelievable successes of the ’90s, itself an exceptional period for the genre.
There’s a lot more to Wu-Tang than their runaway commercial successes. Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the group’s debut album, outlined a new vision of East Coast hip hop, one built atop bleak, dusty beats and grim, antagonistic lyrics. RZA’s distinctive production palette would influence similarly acclaimed records, spread through both the Wu’s debut and the first generation of solo projects that preceded the release of the posse’s second LP. In an interview sampled on Ghostface Killah’s most recent LP, the storytelling luminary reflected on the changes to the rap game, musing that “back then, we had to fight for our spot, we had to rhyme for it.” In doing so, the Wu helped kickstart another legendary era, birthing artists and influencing emcees such as Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G..
The Wu-Tang are indelible characters in popular culture: the group’s quotables, personas and iconography are instantly recognisable symbols of its impact. This status is substantiated by a body of work including stellar solo efforts such as Method Man’s Tical, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, GZA’s Liquid Swords and Ghostface Killah’s Iron Man. Whilst more recent Wu projects such as Czarface have been well received, a lot of their mythical standing can be traced back to a sole record: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
"Bring da Ruckus"
The opening track is one of the Wu’s oldest: it featured on their 1992 demo tape, an 8-track unreleased oddity that included early renditions of eventual Enter The Wu-Tang inclusions “Bring da Ruckus” and “Tearz,” then-titled “After The Laughter.” Though the original featured RZA, Raekwon, and Inspectah Deck, the version included on their debut included additional verses from Ghostface and GZA.
The first track throws the audience right into the heart of the group’s vague martial arts mythos, lifting dialogue from the 1983 Hong Kong action film, Shaolin and Wu Tang.
Whilst most of the sampled dialogue is taken from Shaolin and Wu Tang, the second sample - “en garde! I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style” - is lifted from Shaw Brothers’ 1980 martial arts flick, Ten Tigers of Kwangtung. It’s the first of many Shaw Brothers Studio samples on this record.
The film was recorded in Cantonese, though RZA and the Wu use the English dubs to make the conversation intelligible for an American audience.
The drums that underpin the titular ruckus are lifted from Melvin Bliss’ “Synthetic Substitution,” a popular breakbeat from an otherwise obscure one-hit wonder.
The break within was first unearthed by producer Ced-Gee, member of influential alternative hip hop act Ultramagnetic MC’s, who put it to use of “Ego Trippin’,” the first single from the group’s debut, 1988’s Critical Beatdown.
Bliss’ drumming is short lived, however, and another breakbeat enters at 0:34. This beat, inelegantly titled “CB#2,” was included on Ralph Vargas and Carlos Bess’ Funky Drummer Vol. 1, a 1993 breakbeat compilation specifically intended for sampling use.
"Shame on a Nigga"
The shortest track on a record filled with multi-verse posse cuts, “Shame on a Nigga” features a career-defining turn from Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Wu-Tang colleagues GZA and Inspectah Deck remember ODB as an unabashed artist, inspired and relentless in his vision. His confidence, an essential part of his distinctive and revolutionary delivery, wasn’t just an aspect of his craft: it was a reflection of his very person.
The sounds of martial art conflict that jumpstart “Shame on a Nigga” are again lifted from the English-language dub of Shaolin and Wu Tang.
Director Gordon Liu had starred in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin - the film which gave the Wu-Tang Clan part of their album title - five years earlier, and reappeared in the film’s sequels. The second instalment, Return to the 36th Chamber, inspired the title of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s solo debut.
The track’s recurring five-hit horn riff is lifted from the close of Syl Johnson’s “Different Strokes.” That track is Johnson’s most significant contribution to hip hop, with varying elements appearing on over 300 seperate tracks. Infamously litigious regarding sampling, Johnson once bragged that his South Side Chicago house “was built with the Wu-Tang money.” He’s not kidding: Johnson was sampled again on Raekwon’s debut single, the RZA-produced “Heaven and Hell.”
Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “blaow, how you like me now” bar is a direct interpolation of a lyric from LL Cool J’s 1990 title track, “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
The confrontational return to form brought the new-school emcee back to the forefront of the genre five years after his blockbuster debut, Radio, typified the mid-'80s ghettoblaster subculture. It spawned one of hip hop’s most famous opening lyrics: “don’t call it a comeback"!”
Monk recorded the album of Ellington’s jazz standards in order to raise his own profile with the record-buying public: despite his reputation as a talent, his own compositions were considered too impenetrable for the average audience.
The track’s final sample comes in the form of a cinematic interpolation. The Wu are disciples of film, a fact flaunted by their martial art-indebted aesthetic and the RZA’s recurring collage of b-movie sound effects.
"Clan in da Front"
“Clan in da Front” opens with almost a minute and a half of shoutouts and the steel-on-steel pastiche of a kung-fu sample. RZA shouts out every member of the Wu, as well as a swathe of Wu affiliates including 12 ‘O Clock, ODB’s younger brother, Shyheim, Ghostface’s 13-year-old cousin, 60 Second Assassin, Scientific Shabazz, The 4th Disciple, and Stestasonic member Daddy-O.
The crips bass lick that enters at 0:07 is a pitch-shifted, sped up sample of New Birth’s 1971 track, “Honey Bee.”
The bizarre outfit was a synthesis of no less than four seperate groups, and in the early ‘70s, the 17-person ensemble released music under three different names. “Honey Bee” was included on the second LP credited to New Birth, the aptly titled Ain't No Big Thing, But It's Growing.
The brief insertion of dialogue and cinematic sound effects - “come on, give him the sword” and the ensuing unsheathing - is lifted from Gordon Liu’s Shaolin and Wu Tang, the same film sampled in “Bring da Ruckus” and “Shame on a Nigga.”
The clean break that enters at 1:32 is taken from the opening to Melvin Bliss’ 1973 b-side, “Synthetic Substitution.”
“Synthetic Substitution” was originally unearthed by Ultramagnetic MC’s member Ced-Gee, who broke it in on their debut single, 1986’s “Ego Trippin’.” It’s since been sampled nearly 700 times, making it one of the most prolific breakbeats of all time.
The piano that runs alongside Bliss’ popular breakbeat is yet another composition by legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.
Unlike his rendition of “Black and Tan Fantasy” sampled on “Shame on a Nigga,” 1957’s “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are” is an entirely original composition. The 13-minute piano, bass and alto saxophone joint was later resampled by RZA on ODB’s 1995 album closer, “Cuttin’ Headz.”
In the first verse, GZA makes a reference to an already recorded but yet-unreleased solo track.
GZA released his solo debut, Words from the Genius, in 1991, though it failed to make an impact. After the success of Enter the Wu Tang, label Cold Chillin’ rereleased the LP with a new lead single, the RZA-featuring “Pass The Bone.” The original single, “Come Do Me,” was a new jack swing joint at odds with Wu Tang’s dark & brooding aesthetic.
One of the record’s funniest interpolations comes when GZA flips a wholesome Jackson 5 lyric into a brutally intimidating threat.
On “The Love You Save,” a chart-topping 1970 hit, an eleven-year-old Michael warns a girl to slow down, saying that “the love you save may be your own!" GZA, however, has a more serious warning to offer: “…so stop, the life you save may be your motherfuckin' own!”
"Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber"
The first of the track’s two appearances on the LP, “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” is filled with sword-swinging violence and fearless lyrical boasts. In an interview with UK’s HipHopChronicle, Meth and Masta Killa break down the memorable opening skit, in which the Clan set out to avenge a bloody murder.
The subdued brass hits of The Charmels’ “As Long As I’ve Got You” can be heard underneath the panicked dialogue of the opening skit, a sly allusion to the track’s prominent feature of Enter The Wu-Tang’s most famous single, “C.R.E.A.M.”
The drums at 1:31 are taken from the breakbeat within jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel.”
That track, originally included on Smith’s 1970 Blue Note release, Drives, has been sampled more than 100 times. It’s appeared on numerous tracks by A Tribe Called Quest and Black Moon, and also features on prominent releases from Beastie Boys and Ultramagnetic MC’s, who first sampled the cut.
The opening skit and ensuing track are demarcated by an introduction that utilises another very famous cinematic quote.
This time, the Wu borrows the titular phrase from Good Morning Vietnam, a 1987 Vietnam war comedy-drama starring Robin Williams as an Armed Services radio DJ. The same line was interpolated on Mos Def’s “Brooklyn,” included on his debut, released in 1999.
The eerie four-hit guitar lick that debuts at 2:28 is sampled from Otis Redding’s 1965 recording of “Down In The Valley.” That track, originally performed by soul singer Solomon Burke, was included on Redding’s Otis Blue, a 1965 album of soul covers.
This inspired use of Redding’s rendition was, up until 2014, the only sample of either version of the track.
The sounds of melee are taken from a fight scene in the already-familiar Shaolin Vs. Wu Tang, and though there are no clips that show this track’s specific “Wu Tang style” exclamation, it’s fair to assume that that too comes from the 1981 martial arts film.
Though it’s the most frequently sampled film on their debut, Shaolin vs. Wu Tang has not been revisited on any subsequent Wu projects.
"Can It Be All So Simple"
One of RZA’s simplest joints, “Can It Be All So Simple” is just that. The two-verse affair finds Rae and Ghostface considering their origins in Staten Island, contrasting them with their now-rough lifestyle and the decadent desires they’re still holding out for. It closes with a conversation between Meth, Rae, RZA and Ghostface, which acts as the intermission: the next track, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin,” marks the opening of the ‘Wu-Tang Sword’ side of the album. “Can It All Be So Simple” was released as the fourth and final single in February ‘94, the track received the music video treatment from hip hop visual legend Hype Williams.
The female monologue and subsequent titular refrain is courtesy of Gladys Knight, an R&B singer, and her famous outfit, The Pips. The spoken word elements are sampled from the opening of her 1974 cover, “The Way We Were / Try To Remember,” and the refrain is lifted from 1:09.
RZA later interpolates lyrics from Streisand’s original version of “The Way We Were” on “Tearz,” the album’s penultimate cut.
"Da Mystery of Chessboxin'"
“Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” is the only Enter the Wu-Tang track to feature a verse from original member Masta Killa, whose incarceration throughout the recording process severely limited his appearances on the LP. He would appear on seven tracks when the Wu reunited for 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever.
“A game of chess is like a sword fight,” begins “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’.” The quote is yet another sourced from Gordon Liu’s Shaolin vs. Wu Tang, a 1983 Hong Kong-produced martial arts spectacular.
Interestingly, no samples from Shaolin vs. Wu Tang - alternately titled Shaolin and Wu Tang - have appeared on subsequent Wu releases, though Raekwon named his fifth LP, released in 2011, after the film.
A sample from Five Deadly Venoms, a 1978 Shaw Brothers-produced Hong King martial arts film. The cult classic helped inform elements of Tarantino’s Kill Bill, which also starred the director of Shaolin vs. Wu Tang.
The pull quote used is as follows: Toad style is immensely strong / And immune to nearly any weapon / When it's properly used it's almost invincible.
The drums that enter at 0:19 are RZA’s second sample of Otis Redding, following the brief instrumental appearance on “Wu Tang: 7th Chamber.”
“Tramp” was included on King & Queen, the Stax-released collaborative album by Redding and Carla Thomas. The 1967 cover was followed by a 1968 instrumental rendition, The Mohawks’ “The Champ,” became a much-sampled hip hop staple.
"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit"
With a title that’s since become one of the group’s most popular refrains, “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit” brings RZA, Inspectah and Meth together to brag about their lyrical abilities and threaten brutal Wu-Tang sword style decapitation for those who “bring the ruckus!”
The melody that underpins the track’s titular refrain, itself one of the Wu’s most legendary quotables, is pieced together from the original Underdog theme. The cartoon, which originally aired from 1964 to 1973, concerns the exploits of an anthropomorphic canine superhero.
As the story goes, RZA actually borrowed the Underdog record from legendary producer Prince Paul.
The utterance that kickstarts the track - “tiger style” - is lifted from 1977 martial arts film, Executioners From Shaolin. That film, like the earlier sampled Five Deadly Venoms, was produced by Hong Kong studio Shaw Brothers.
The relatively subdued drums that enter at 0:16 are courtesy of Joe Tex, a Texas-born R&B musician who experienced his greatest successes in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“Papa Was Too” has since been sampled in nearly 300 songs, including notable tracks by artists such as Jay Dee, EPMD, Kanye West and Gravediggaz. RZA later resampled the track on solo cuts by Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
The new drums that enter at 0:26 are taken from Biz Markie’s “Nobody Beats The Biz,” a single that found the jokey emcee playing a game of dozens.
The Marley Marl-produced track samples its drums from Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s “Hihache.” It’s clear that RZA took these drums directly from “Nobody Beats The Biz,” however, because of the audible sample of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” included on the 1987 hip hop cut.
Though a disciple of cinema, RZA chooses to sample one of the album’s most cinematic sound effects from the opening to a 1971 soul single.
“In The Rain” was the biggest hit for Detroit-based soul vocal group The Dramatics, and the track has since been sampled on almost 100 different songs. RZA himself revisited the sample on GZA’s “Cold World,” and producer Ron Banks sampled it on Ghostface Killah’s “In The Rain (Wise).”
Method Man opens his verse with another unlikely cinematic interpolation, this time borrowing from famous musical-turned-movie Annie.
Riffing on the musical’s most famous tune, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow,” Meth announces his presence by spitting “the Meth will come out tomorrow.” Annie would most famously make her impact in hip hop five years later, when The 45 King produced Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life.”
A grim reflection on the realities of capitalism, “C.R.E.A.M.," is a hustlers anthem. The now-iconic refrain, performed by Method Man, takes a cue from an old school East Coast oddity, whilst the ‘60s soul elements that underpin the grimy meditation make for a hauntingly perfect example of RZA’s vision.
The underlying piano and vocal samples that make for the eerie instrumental are cut-and-paste from The Charmels’ 1967 single, “As Long As I’ve Got You.”
RZA’s compositional knowledge is on show here: the opening horns are taken from 0:20, the subsequent female vocals are lifted from 0:18, and the recurring piano lick underpinning the verses can be found at the open.
A notable interpolation comes courtesy of Jimmy Spicer, a Brooklyn-born old school hip hop artist who released six singles throughout the ‘80s. “Money (Dollar Bill Y’all)” is clearly interpolated in Method Man’s post-hook exclamation. Spicer was an early client of producer/manager Russell Simmons, who produced this 1983 jam.
The starring moment for the Clan’s most accomplished actor, “Method Man” is a cut littered with the titular emcee’s hard and fast cultural references and witty interpolations. He starts the track with one of the album’s most vivid and cringe-inducing skits, in which he links up with Rae to laboriously explain just how he’s going to punish and dismember his enemies. If you can make it past the squeamish opening, you’ll find a real highlight.
Method Man lifts the concept of spelling out his stage name from a 1985 Hall & Oates hit. The spelling of the word is a central element of the refrain to “Method of Modern Love,”
The track was a #5 hit for the pop duo, whose previous single, “Out of Touch,” had just hit the #1 spot. That would be their last chart-topping single, though the group would continue to score hits until the early ‘90s.
The drums that enter at 1:23 are lifted from Lightnin’ Rod’s “Sport,” the opening track from his sole album, Hustler’s Convention.
An alias of Last Poets member Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin, Lightnin’ Rod’s LP combined elements of toasting and spoken word poetry atop a musical backing. The record, which was released as hip hop first emerged in The Bronx, proved both prescient and an influence on the genre.
Of all the Wu-Tang emcees, Meth spends the most time pulling left-of-centre interpolations from the deep recesses of popular culture. At 1:30, the emcee pulls out a reference to George Clinton’s “Disciples of Funk.”
Though Clinton’s use of the phrase is itself an interpolation of The Rolling Stones, Meth has admitted in an interview with Complex that he deliberately emulated Clinton’s rendition.
Meth is back on his traditional music shit when he interpolates “Pat-a-cake” at 1:39. The nursery rhyme has been tracked back as far as 1698, when a form of it appeared in playwright Thomas D’Urfrey’s The Campaigners.
Next up, Meth borrows from one an OG rhyme god, Dr. Seuss. Seuss - real name Thedor Geisel - is perhaps the most famous children’s author of all time, writing classic such as The Cat in The Hat, Horton Hears A Who, How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham.
It’s from the latter that Meth takes his bars: “I be Sam, Sam-I-Am / And I don't eat green eggs and ham…”
Next up, Meth channels Mel Blanc, putting on his best Tweety voice and recalling the character’s most famous catchphrase: “I tawt I taw a putty tat!”
He’s far from the only emcee to have taken a cue from a Merrie Melodies character: Daniel Dumile sampled Foghorn Leghorn on King Geedorah’s Take Me To Your Leader, whilst Kendrick sampled Bugs Bunny on his 2012 cut, “Cartoon & Cereal.”
Meth drops yet another famous TV show character catch phrase at 2:40, when he busts out his Fat Albert impression and grumbles “hey hey hey!”
Fat Albert was the protagonist on Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, a moralising animated television program created and largely voiced by now-disgraced comedian Bill Cosby. Each episode had a specific moral, which the comedian expounded upon at the close.
At 3:20, Meth drops the catchphrase of In Living Color character Calhoun Tubbs: “wrote a song about it, like to hear it? Here it goes!”
In Living Color was a sketch comedy series created by Keenen Wayans. It starred comedians such as Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and Tommy Davidson, as well as four of the now-famous Wayan siblings.
Meth interpolates the titular lyric from Captain Sky’s 1978 funk tune, “Super Sperm.”
Captain Sky was a funk artist whose decadent costuming put him alongside extravagant P-Funk pioneer George Clinton. Sky wasn’t as prolific as Clinton, however, and released just three studio albums in his brief career. “Super Sperm” has since been sampled 26 times, appearing on cuts by Afrika Bambaataa, Public Enemy and BDP.
Seemingly dedicated to making the track the densest lyrical showing on an already-stacked hip hop LP, Meth interpolates another unlikely lyric, this time borrowing from Mary Poppins. The lyric immediately follows his “Super Sperm” line.
He parrots the central refrain from Dick van Dyke’s performance of “Chim Chim Cheree,” a nonsense phrase which goes: “chim chimmeny chim chim cherie.”
Meth follows that interpolation with one last reference, this time alluding to a popular commercial.
The lyric “now, how many licks does it take / For me to hit the Tootsie Roll center of a break?” is based upon the commercials for the Tootsie Pop candy. The popular question first debuted in 1969, and has since become one of the candy’s most recognisable assets.
"Protect Ya Neck"
The only track on their debut LP to feature musical contributions from all original Wu-Tang members, with the notable exception of the prohibitively incarcerated Masta Killa. They roster appears in the following order: Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Method Man, U-God, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, RZA and GZA.
Though it’s not included in this breakdown, the blaring hits of sound used to censor the obscenity in the radio edit were sourced from LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells.”
The cinematic sample that starts “Protect Ya Neck” is taken from 1978 martial arts film, Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin. The Hong Kong martial arts film is yet another pilfered by RZA to create the rich soundscape of Enter the Wu-Tang.
The descending score falls at the start of a riverside confrontation, in which the protagonist - a very young Jackie Chan - takes on the Ting brothers.
The threatening mantra that opens the cut, “watch your step, kid,” is taken from the RZA remix of the Easy Mo Bee-produced 1991 GZA cut, “Words From A Genius.”
It’s not the first time that GZA’s commercially unsuccessful Cold Chillin’ debut has been sampled on the record, with elements of the then-unreleased “Pass The Bone” appearing on “Clan in da Front.”
The recurring kettle-esque horn sound that first enters at 0:39 is courtesy of James Brown backing band The J.B.’s.
Like many Brown affiliates, The J.B.’s have become a favourite amongst hip hop producers, and 1970’s “The Grunt” is their most popular joint. The distinctive sound is best known for its use on Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation, where it forms an integral part of The Bomb Squad’s “wall of noise.”
The backing melody that enters at 0:48 is a direct sample of R&B outfit The Intruders’ 1968 smash hit, “Cowboys to Girls.” An influential group in the development of Philadelphia soul, the embattled act enjoyed West Coast success through their 25 year career.
At the opening of his verse, Method Man samples Strafe, a shortlived Brooklyn electro-hip hop act from the early ‘80s. According to David Jefferies, manager Jus Borne sent a fake group on tour to promote the track, leading to the misconception that Strafe was a group. It was actually the work of one producer, the since-elusive Steve Standard.
Without missing a beat, Method Man interpolates yet another tune, flipping a lyric from Irene Cara’s “Fame.”
That track was the theme from the 1980 film of the same name, which starred Cara as a student attending the High School of the Performing Arts in New York City. The tune won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
In his verse, producer RZA interpolates a traditional folk song, “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain.”
As is often the case with nursery rhymes and folk tunes, there’s no consensus as to who first composed the track, though it’s thought to have originated as an altered version of Christian song "When the Chariot Comes." It can be traced back to 17th century Britain, though the first written evidence of the track appears in 1927.
Featuring a standout instrumental, owing to some of RZA’s finest sampling, “Tearz” is a two-verse showcase featuring RZA and Ghostface. Two two emcees wax poetic on the death of loved ones, whether by the hand of another or the foolish consequences of unsafe sex, a popular topic throughout the devestating AIDs epidemic. They duo are joined by singer-songwriter Wendy René, whose sultry vocals provide a recurring reminder of life’s cruelest reality: “after laughter, comes tears.”
The track’s famous old-school vocal refrain - “after laughter comes tears” - is sourced from Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter,” a 1964 soul tune released on the legendary Stax Records. The track was her debut solo single, becoming a local hit.
Wilson Pickett’s vocals from “Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number 9 (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2),” a cut from his 1970 studio LP, Wilson Pickett In Philidelphia. Though RZA himself is prone to reusing samples, he’s never revisited Pickett in the years since.
At 1:41, RZA interpolates lyrics from Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were,” the theme from 1973 Streisand/Redford romance film of the same name. Composed by legendary songwriter Marvin Hamlisch, the track has since become one of Streisand’s signature songs.
Despite this, it’s only been sampled one: though Gladys Knight & The Pips formally sampled it for ‘74s “The Way We Were / Try To Remember,” that track was more a cover by way of fusion.
"Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber—Part II"
The album closes with a remix of “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” which incorporates elements of “Clan In Da Front.” In closing the album with the remix, the Clan draw attention to RZA’s considerable production prowess, allowing him to build a new instrumental from familiar elements. In the years following Enter The Wu-Tang, RZA’s style became one of the most integral in the East Coast, underpinning a swathe of Wu-Tang solo debuts and influencing a new class of producers.
The closing track opens with a sample of Wu-Tang’s own “Clan In Da Front,” which appeared just nine songs earlier, immediately prior to the original “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber.”
The breakbeat that enters at 0:18 is sourced from “Make It Funky,” a breakbeat by Ralph Vargas & Carlos Bess. It was included on 1993’s Funky Drummer Vol. 1, presumably named to take advantage of the popular JB cut of the same name.
The compilation was marketed as “18 Brand New Never Before Used Stupid Phatt Hip-Hop Loops.” Despite this promise, the breakbeat has only appeared on four tracks, one of which was Method Man’s Tical joint, “Release Yo’ Delf.”
The Legend Continues…
Of the Clan, RZA was the first to reappear, linking up with legendary producer Prince Paul, his Stetsasonic colleague Frukwan and onetime Tommy Boy signee Poetic as a part of horrorcore supergroup Gravediggaz. Their August 1994 debut, 6 Feet Deep, was followed by Method Man’s Tical, released in November. 1995 brought forth Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, Raekwon’s mafioso masterpiece Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and GZA’s first post-Wu effort, Liquid Swords. All production was helmed by RZA.
Ghostface’s debut, Ironman, was the only Wu record issued in ‘96. It was a singular entry for a number of reasons: the blaxploitation-tinged soundscape was graced with verses from every Wu member, with the notable exception of ODB, and the record did much to introduce eventual Wu inductee Cappadonna. The emcee, a pre-Enter the Wu-Tang group member and onetime mentor of U-God, was replaced by Method Man after his extended incarceration prevented him from joining the crew.
The Wu’s first epoch - known by fans as the ‘five year plan’ - came to a close in ‘97, when the group reconvened for their sophomore effort, Wu-Tang Forever. That release found the group at the peak of their commercial primacy: the half-decade of solo work that followed their already-acclaimed debut pushed them into every corner of the hip hop market, ensnaring fans and building an extended catalogue of irrefutably top-tier hip hop. After combining their powers on lead single “Triumph,” a distinctly radio-unfriendly release, the album nonetheless cruised to the top of the Billboard 200 without as much as the slightest industry concession. The title rung true: the crew had triumphed in a way that few before ever had, building a legendary hip hop posse out of peerless chemistry and congregation of raw, individual talent.
Later Wu debuts include Cappadonna’s The Pillage, RZA’s Bobby Digital in Stereo, Inspectah Deck’s Uncontrolled Substance and U-God’s Golden Arms Redemption. Masta Killa’s No Said Date arrived over a decade after Enter the Wu-Tang, finally rounding out the last of the debut records. Whilst these albums were showcasing the first solo steps of the lesser-known members, those who’d already debuted continued on with their solo careers, hardly a year passing without at least a few familiar Wu-Tang statements. Whilst more recent years have slowed the output of the greater clan, records keep coming from stalwarts such as Ghostface, Rae and Meth, now versed veterans of the much-changed scene.
No matter how much the game changes, it still remains the same. No new wave or hot trend could stop the Wu-Tang, one of the most prolific collectives in hip hop history. You get the feeling that the emcees will continue to push forward, their vivid storytelling and streetwise rhymes coming as clean as ever a whole two-and-a-half-decades since they first emerged from the Island.
You know what they say: Wu-Tang forever!