Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the debut album of Hip-Hop pioneers, Wu-Tang Clan, continues to influence nearly three decades after its release
"Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuthin ta fuck wit
Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuthin ta fuck wit
Wu-Tang Clan ain't nuthin ta fuck wit"
November 9, 1993, is one of the most important dates in music history.
It was right in the heart of the early 90s musical and cultural revolution when it seemed that groundbreaking music and influential artists were dropping weekly. The debut album by Staten Island, New York's Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was no exception.
Wu-Tang Clan is a collaborative hardcore rap group consisting of many styles, voices, and themes. At the time of their debut effort, Wu-Tang was, GZA, Method Man, RZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol' Dirty Bastard, U-God, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Masta Killah, and 4th Disciple.
Let's back up a bit before we get into why this release was so important.
Rap, as we've come to know it, began in the Bronx, NY in the 1970s. It wasn't until the early/mid-80s that it took hold of popular culture. The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" is typically credited with being the first commercially released rap song but as with all musical genres, so much had to happen before the "first release" of anything gets out.
Soon after "Rapper's Delight" took off, artists like Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, Treacherous Three, Whodini, and others started to infiltrate the airwaves. Right before this, many people would argue the originators of rap were DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Master Flash.
If you want to go back even further, music historians have traced the beginnings of rap back to the early 60s and 70s with artists such as Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, and Millie Jackson.
All Music critic Jason Ankeny wrote: "With their politically charged raps, taut rhythms, and dedication to raising African-American consciousness, the Last Poets almost single-handedly laid the groundwork for the emergence of hip-hop"
Gil Scott-Heron's 1970 poem/song, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" which was presented over a soul/jazz beat, is considered to be a massive influence on hip hop.
The "Mother of Hip-hop", Millie Jackson, whose career began in the early 60s, injected long spoken word sections of her R&B/soul songs which earned her that moniker.
Back in the day, during the 80s and even into the early 90s, many music fans deemed rap nothing but a "fad". People couldn't understand how this new sound could be considered music when no one was singing and instruments weren't being played. How wrong were they?
The naysayers weren't just wrong...they didn't barely miss the mark. They were galactically off base with their prediction as any group of human beings could possibly be when making a prediction.
As Joan Anderman reported in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, “For the first time in the 50-year history of the Billboard charts, all Top 10 songs in the country last week were by black artists—signaling the culmination of hip-hop’s ascent as the dominant force in popular music and culture.”
November 9, 1993, signaled just how powerful rap and hip hop was and where the genre could go. In an age of rampant creativity and new genres making power moves throughout culture, Wu-Tang Clan dropped a bomb of an album whose shrapnel is still landing on artists to this very day.
With more than a dozen songs and over an hour of music, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was unlike anything we'd heard before. From the sheer number of voices on the record to the raw, hardcore beats and rhythms, Enter the Wu...was a clinic in how creative and emotional hip hop could be.
Hardcore rap existed before this release, and most would reference N.W.A. as the leader of hardcore or "gangsta" rap, but in my opinion, there was always something a bit forced about that band. Wu-Tang Clan on the other hand had that "it" that can only be described that way.
When art is real, it resonates. The songs on Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) are as real as songs can get. Whether it's the lead track "Bring Da Ruckus" with its quick intro from the 1983 martial arts film, Shaolin and Wu-Tang followed by the lyrics "Bring da motherfuckin ruckus" blasting over light percussion and a sparse beat, or the now famous "Method Man" with its hypnotic piano-based beat underneath the M-E-T-H-O-D Man lyric, this album was destined for lasting success.
One of the elements that make this album so unique is that just about everything that was done to and for it was done by the band itself. One member, in particular, RZA, is credited with producing, mixing, arranging, and programming the album. The use of soul samples and various esoteric clips, and the technique by which RZA employed them in his beats was unique and largely unprecedented in hip hop.
There was a bit of luck involved as well. Remember, this was their first studio album so they had to work with a very limited budget. This led to the band using studio equipment that wasn't necessarily the best and that played a role in its dirty, gritty sound.
This album also ushered in the use of free-associative lyrics and humor mixed with the blunt-force realities of life in the projects, showing artists it's ok to be different in their approach to the genre. One easy criticism of rap music is that due to its reliance on samples and studio equipment, it can often sound dated.
Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) never feels or sounds dated and that's a testament to the work put into it almost 30 years ago. Genuineness never goes out of style. Being real and true to your art never gets old. That's exactly why this album is so good and so important to the genre of hip-hop and music as a whole.