April 1, 2007

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (November 9, 1993)

In an effort to support both my own blog and the new Wu-Tang site that some of my co-conspirators have established, I thought I would return from my self-imposed hiatus with a review of their first group album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

SPOILER ALERT: At the end of this review, I'm going to tell you to buy the fucking thing. I'm just saying.



Most hip hop fans will already know that the group is made up of nine different rappers (The Rza, The Genius, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Inspectah Deck, and Masta Killa), but this site isn't just for hip hop fans, so there.

I don't feel like wasting time writing out the history of the Wu, so I'll share a different story. I'm a huge Wu freak, sure, but the first time I ever heard a Wu-Tang song was when Method Man released the video for "Bring The Pain". At the time, I was more into West Coast shit from the Nobel Prize-winning physician Andre Young, and his apprentice, Snoop. This was during a time where the East Coast had lost its luster with the hip hop audience; everything that was released sounded similar, the stories were all relentlessly violent and misogynistic, and all of the artists wore were straight-faced "don't fuck with me" poses. The West Coast provided all of that, sure, but they had fun with their musical output, and the G-Funk that Dre pioneered just sounded better to drive to, or to sit at a friend's house with for a party or a barbecue, or whatever.

As such, I knew that the Wu-Tang Clan was a rap group, but I knew jack and shit about them in 1993. After I saw the video for "Bring The Pain", with the stark black and white images and Meth just chilling on a train, I was blown away. I bought Method Man's album (on cassette!) based on this song alone, and listened to it straight through. At the time, I hadn't heard anything like it; dusty beats, provided by The Rza, that just barely constituted a melody, and grimy lyrics that actually said something besides "I'll fucking kill you". Sure, some of it was menacing, but some of it was laugh-out-loud funny; you actually saw the world with a different perspective after you listened to these guys.

I picked up Enter the Wu-Tang shortly afterward, and slowly pieced together the Wu-Tang story (how they were nine solo artists who united for a common goal; how they based their lyrical styles and their song titles on kung-fu flicks; how Ol' Dirty Bastard was fucking insane, etc.), without the help of the Internet, I might add. In a pretty short time period, they became my favorite hip hop group ever, which led to my current fixation on building my huge Wu-Tang album collection, including way too many sub-par releases by barely-affiliated rappers. Le sigh.

Their legacy has led to a handful of group albums (the final one is supposed to come out in 2007, but I'll believe that when I see it), many many many solo albums, Wu-fam affiliate albums of varying degrees of creativity and success, a book, a comic book, a video game, several viable acting careers, crew defections, and the death of one of the original players. Their family tree may have grown, and their output may completely suck now, but the Wu are among the chosen few artists who I still support wholeheartedly with an in-store purchase, even if I haven't heard any singles (which is usually the case these days).

As for the affiliates...yeah, those get the download, I won't lie to you. I still don't have a house in the Hamptons, you know.

1. BRING DA RUCKUS
None of your usual 'rap album intro' bullshit here; the nine-man group jumps right in and stabs you in the brain. No, that's actually a good thing.

2. SHAME ON A N---A
Primarily a showcase for head case Ol' Dirty, with a couple of cameos. There probably was no other way to introduce him to the world, and that's just fine by me. (Side note; one of the things that prompted this review, save for the Wu-Tang blog, was this video that I saw on someone else's blog that mashed up this song with footage from The Simpsons, and it surprisingly works about half the time.)

3. CLAN IN DA FRONT
After a bizarre intro where The Rza reads off from a roster sheet of all seven hundred and eighty-four members of the Clan, the Genius's solo showcase kicks in over a minimalist piano-key beat.

4. WU-TANG: 7TH CHAMBER
Weird ass title. The infamous "Killer Tape" skit precedes the first song which includes the majority of the members on the same track.

5. CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE / INTERMISSION
Time for some blasphemy. This song is awful. I like the concept, and I agree that not every song has to be violent or made up of all shit-talking; introspective songs can be great. Not this one, though.

6. DA MYSTERY OF CHESSBOXIN'
The weakest of the tracks here featuring most of the Clan members. Still like it, though.

7. WU-TANG CLAN AIN'T NUTHING TA F' WIT
Brilliant. Co-produced by Method Man. Who knew?

8. C.R.E.A.M.
Probably the song that the group is best known for. Stands for "Cash Rules Everything Around Me", but you already knew that.

9. METHOD MAN
Not a solo showcase for U-God, as the title may lead you to believe, but one for Method Man instead.

10. PROTECT YA NECK
The first single, which introduced every member to the world (and to record labels; they were signed based on the strength of this song). A somewhat censored version is included on the album, for reasons unknown.

11. TEARZ
A reworking of a track from the Wu-Tang demo tapes, previously known as "After The Laughter". An introspective song done properly.

12. WU-TANG: 7TH CHAMBER, PART II / CONCLUSION
Not a continuation of Track Four, but a remix. Not as good as the original.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Enter The Wu-Tang is a classic debut CD. And I say that even though I wouldn't listen to it straight through (I just really can't stand "Can It Be All So Simple"). This album opened the ears and eyes of many fans of music in general, and for good reason. All of the success that followed was well deserved, unlike, say, any member of G-Unit or DipSet.

BUY OR BURN? Buy this shit. No, really. You won't be disappointed, unless you just really don't like hip hop, and if that's the case, I can't do anything for you.

BEST TRACKS: "C.R.E.A.M."; "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing..."; "Protect Ya Neck"

-Max

29 comments:

  1. "The Rza reads off from a roster sheet of all seven hundred and eighty-four members of the Clan" - LOL!!! This is my my favorite on this. If there's one thing I do not miss about the WU era is their legion of dikriders telling me how good they are and blah blah blah. I still can't understand 80% of what they were talking about.

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  2. this album came out when hip hop was turning RnB and between them, WU kept hip hop on the street level that we all craved.....I brought a dodgy white 12" that only had the then unknown Wu tang symbol in the top right corner.....The A side was Protect Yo Neck!!...what a track!!

    B side was three mixes of Method Man, again, what a track!...although i had heard it before on a Red Alert Radio Show, i knew nothing bout it and was simply blown away by the whole 12"...it was on crazy rotation and i couldn't wait till they dropped an album....call me a dickrider if you like, i been loving everything bout the Wu every day since!

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  3. Da Mystery of Chessboxin is one of my favs on the album, everyone came really hard.

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  4. For real Max, DO NOT blaspheme on "Da Mystery of Chessboxin." That is an ESSENTIAL Wu track.

    As for "Can It Be All So Simple", I absolutely agree - that track is extremely overrated. In fact, I thought it was garbage when I first heard it.

    Then funny enough I stumbled upon Lauryn Hill's "Ex Factor" (which I also thought wasn't that great years ago) and both songs have grown on me, especially Lauryn's track, which uses the same drums as "Can It Be All so Simple."

    Great review though.

    SirBiatch

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  5. this album is also notable for having a decent skit - "torture, n***a". Not only do I not cringe when I hear it like almost every other rap skit in history, I find it pretty funny too. Especially when GZA stutters when saying "fuckin twelve story building"

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  6. AnonymousJune 03, 2009

    da mystery of chessboxin the weakest song?????? lol ODB,Deck ghostface and MK went hard on that track, u god sounded weak

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  7. AnonymousJune 06, 2009

    This is one of the rawest albums ever. The Wu really brought it with this. And ODB's verse on "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'" is one of his best ever. His delivery is craaazy. Also, Deck's verse on Brimng Da Ruckus is killer: "check it, my technique on the microphone's bangin', Wu Tang slang'll leave ya neck piece hangin'"

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  8. My introduction to the Wu-Tang Clan. I never cared for the Wu, but after every review I read about this album, I decided to check it out. THANK (Muhammad, Allah, God, goodness?) Point is that I'm a die hard Wu stan now.

    As far as the review, I agree 100%. Can It Be All So Simple just doesn't float meh boat.

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  9. I'm starting to dislike you buddy. Can It All Be So Simple was a banger, probably not the best track on the CD, but it is still waaaaaaaaaay better than all the ultimate radio rap. I guess good music doesn't affect you much. But this song is sooooo nostalgic.

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  10. So far im 3 hours some deep in looking at your reviews and a review on your reviews is worth making.. because i love WUUUUUUUUUUAHAHAAAAAHHAAAAHHAH lol.. i put a little ol' dirty bastard in there hehe :)

    One of the best hip-hop album productions ever!! There's not much more to say except, could they ever have topped this??? It seems like these guys were on a mission or something.... let me tell any "rapper" who checks this blog... Wu has got the definition of 'swagger' on here.. without a doubt!! no more to say, u know wat.. im done!! 5/5 10/10 20/20

    Wu---Tang, Wu---tang, Wu---Tang!

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  11. Oh and another thing, you are getting quite a bashing from that little review you gave on "Da mystery of chessboxin" I have to say tho, any Wu-head would classify that song as prolly the anthem of Wu-Tang... and i too thought everyone came hard on that track!!

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  12. dude u crazy sayin can it al be so simple and mystery of chessboxin are weak traks. those r considered classics bro. remmeber to point these things as opinion n taste man

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  13. For such a monumental album you sure didnt review it well -_- even though most of your reviews are good i was expecting more from this, most songs were reviewed with one or two lines

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  14. Can It Be All So Simple was the first R.A.G.U joint and it is FUCKING AWESOME, especially Ghost's part (mainly because he's my fav emcee). I was hating on it to at first but it grew up n me. I enjoy even more the remix of OB4CL because there ISN'T this 2min+ skit in which Meth talks about how good are the members of the Clan etc.

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  15. Da Mystery of Chessboxin' is most definitely not a weak track! Some of the sickest verses on the album are on that track. No lie I can't see how you think 7th Chamber Pt 2 is not as good as the first! Lol, the beat is so much heavier and it fits the sick lyrical flow of the song.

    I felt the same way as you did about hearing Wu for the first time, I had never heard anything that sounded so amazing. I heard Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers) for the first time in middle school. From that point on my perception of music/life changed.

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  16. One of the best in terms of beats and production. It've got really dope bars, but the overall lyric theme says why you may not fuck with the fuckin clan and that you gotta protect ya neck cause of they're like "I wanna chop you head off"... Not hatin, this is ok as a theme on a song, but 12 tracks of this >.<... "CREAM" and "Can it be so simple" are the exception

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  17. I was getting bored so I decided to check up some of your older reviews, especially this one.My eyes almost caught on fire when they gazed upon your blasphemous lines like those used to describe flawless tracks such as Da Mystery of Chessboxin', Can It Be All So Simple (that also had a great video to blend with the song) and the BETTER version of 7th Chamber.

    Really disappointed by this review.

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  18. Wu-Tang ForeverMay 22, 2011

    "Not a solo showcase for U-God, as the title may lead you to believe, but one for Method Man instead."

    That line made my day haha

    Btw I am a huge music fanatic of all sorts of genres, and this is my favorite album of all time, of any genre, PERIOD. Every single song is great and on top of that, memorable. Even Can It Be All So Simple ;)

    And btw people, Max wasn't saying Chessboxin' was the worst song on the album, he was saying it was the worst posse cut (something I can agree with, although I still think it's a fantastic song).

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  19. I still remember being one of the first dudes in my hood at the time, who had this CD from an unknown group called The Wu-Tang Clan. This is also the first album I ever bought period. With my own money I was 12.

    I also remember my older brother who was a die hard hip-hop fan, at the time, dissing me when I showed him the cassette cover of this album. He said to me "What is this some Chinese hip-hop group? Get the fuck outta here with this tape".

    Then a few months later like my entire hood, he went crazy over these dudes, due to the fact that they changed the entire sound scape of hip-hop at the time (1993).

    The same thing Dr. Dre did a year earlier with The Chronic Album. Anyways "Can It Be All So Simple Man" Is my favorite track on the album and I also love "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'" as well.

    Great review of a classic album regardless. Also love this blog. I spend more time reading your reviews, then making music (Which I do for a living). You got a gift for writing my friend. Keep up the great work!

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  20. People mystery is overrated I mean it Bangs but its over rated.

    can it be all so simple CAN SUCK MY NUTS

    but my point is the reason he didnt make paragraph long reviews for these songs is because there classic he makes long reviews for less classic WU because people who read reviews READ REVIEWS SO THEY CAN DETERMINE IF THEY WANT AN ALBUM NOT SO THEY CAN BITCH ABOUT THE REVIEWERS OPINION. i wright long reviews for non classic wu cus im a nerd but thats just me. Word up max your dope

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  21. Thank you. I appreciate your support.

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  22. chessboxin' is their best song.

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  23. Max, I suggest you should rewrite your old reviews as they pale in comparison to your new ones, and since you reviewed the classics first, all your classic album reviews are subpar compared to the other ones.

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    Replies
    1. I'll never be able to "finish what I started" if I keep revisiting albums I've already written about, especially since the sentiment would still be the same. So that's never going to happen. Not for the blog, anyway...

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  24. AnonymousMay 01, 2012

    I disagree with u sayin can I be all so simple being garbage. Truth is yeah it didn't fit in with the album and the remix on cuban linx was terrible but that song makes me reminisce to wen I was younger and hip hop was worth bloggin about. Not the greatest song, yeah ok but garbage no way!

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  25. As usual...

    Great review to a timeless Classic with a capital C!!!

    PS: Can It Be, act like you know, Maxy me boy!!

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  26. Max, it was because of this review which made me go out and buy this album, and turn into one of you... a Wu-freak!

    I hope you're happy now.

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  27. ODB and Meth should leave production tools to RZA. "Da Mystery" and "Ain't Nuttin" are the worst beats here and even mcs aren't able to save the tracks. Frankly, I usually skip after "Can't It Be" straight to "CREAM".

    k/

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  28. I guess I am the only one who laughed when a few commenters, while praising "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'," argued it was great because the rappers "came so hard on that track."

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