|Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers||1993||2.92/pi|
A conglomeration of New York MCs created as a stepping stone to world domination for its individual members. Despite (or perhaps because of) its relatively loose, pragmatic affiliation, the Clan has stayed remarkably stable over the years, avoiding the conflicts that would quickly tear apart most other 8+ piece bands. There has not, as far as I know, been any falling-out between members, and the Wu empire has only grown, with a number of new faces entering its orbit since 1993. It remains to be seen how they will respond to the untimely demise of ODB (R.I.P.)
Main lineup: The GZA, the RZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspector Deck, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killa, Masta Killa, U-God.
“Bring da Ruckus” sets the scene: we wake up, bound and gagged, in the center of a cavernous abandoned warehouse somewhere in New York. We are surrounded by a group of hooded kung-fu masters, possibly with rabies. Their intentions do not appear to be friendly. Oh yeah, and there’s this beat that sounds like it was produced by a hundred foot long cowbell.
“Shame on a Nigga” introduces the group’s two most distinctive MCs, Method Man and the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard (who falls somewhere between Flava Flav and Wesley Willis.) “Clan in da Front” features the GZA in the first of the album’s two solo tracks (Meth, of course, has his eponymous spot later.) With the dizzying array of talent available, everyone else is spread thin on here, dropping in only for the occasional verse—but the group’s restraint in releasing a compact masterpiece rather than a bloated ego-fest is admirable. In fact, the album actually gets better as it goes on, a rarity in the front-loading record business. Almost every Clansman is an excellent MC in his own right, and the RZA’s dark, cinematic production never flags.
It’s not all just a bunch of deranged tracks about choppin’ heads and forming like Voltron. There’s a contemplative storytelling side to the Wu that pops up now and then, as on breakout single “C.R.E.A.M.” and the closing “Tearz”, which begins in standard macho mode and then abruptly changes gears, switching perspectives to the victims of violence.
After this album, the Wu would rapidly bloat up into a thousand solo projects, unfocused reunions, and hit collections. Many of these are excellent; others are tnellecxe. But for for the forseeable future, this is their shining moment.