Ok, I know for some of you, before you even get past the title you’ll hate me. And I’m perfectly OK with that. I had a boner for Wu-Tang Clan as much as the anybody. In the mid-90’s, I rode around the San Fernando Valley in my friend George Ramirez’s late-70’s model shitty Ford Mustang on the hunt for cammo cargos (this is before they were being sold at Old Navy for all the hip hop pops), big ass jeans, and Ol’Dirty Bastard t-shirts. I even have old pictures of me with giant yellow ‘W’ emblazoned on my chest. I was down for the Wu, god.
It wasn’t enough that Enter the 36 Chambers forever rearranged my cochlea, but with each subsequent release, The Clan of Wu took their mythical vocabulary, chunky pianos and kung-fu samples, and – what might as well have been occupied Shanghai – the tenements of the overlooked borough of Staten Island to a whole new comic book-esque level. It was like reading the Justice League, or Legion of Superheroes. Then each subsequent solo LP was like picking up a Green Lantern, or Flash issue. The Wu-Tang Clan had reached the status of demigods.
Method Man’s Tical introduced new slang (“PLO Style”) and taught us not all love songs are on some bitch shit (“All I Need”). Only Built 4 Cuban Linx from the Chef Raekwon was on some real mobster meets ninja madness. Best record of the bunch and still stands the test of time. “Incarcerated Scarfaces” was the hardest shit stylistically I had ever heard. GZA’s Liquid Swords had me wanting to rap on top of a giant clock face. It also has my favorite verse of all time on it: The Ticalian Stallion on “Shadowboxin’” had me rapping in the shower, “Johnny Blazin / nightmares like Wes Craven / I keeps it gunnin / my 3rd eye seen it comin / before it happened / you know about them Fuckin Staten kids – they smashin / everything, huh, in every shape form or fashion,” and telling people they were, “talkin out they asshoooole!” I’m definitely saving the awkwardly most awesome for last here - mah dude, everybody’s dude, except maybe the people at the Welfare Office, but probably them too, Ol’Dirty Bastard. With all the style and flare of a drunken fist, Dirt McGirt kept it real and raw on a level I hadn’t seen before. His project antics made Ice Cube start to look like the college boy he really was, and to this day I still call out to my students, “My people are you wit’me? Where you at?” Oh yeah, they know how to answer! Killa Beez on attack, whoaaa!
It was the heyday of underground rap. The foundation of today’s cellar dwellers nationwide, with all that esoteric rhyme scheming and gum sucking. No longer was it rap music. It was hip hop. No longer was it all tales of pussy, or banging. It was a mix of kung-fu, east coast slang, abstract rhyme patterns, Timbos, bomber jackets with the furry hood lining, and razor blades in your gums. Protect ya neck! We must have looked hilarious walking around Pacoima in the summer heat of the San Fernando Valley looking like we were right off the subway in Shaolin. We fronted on New Jersey Drive so hard! The Judgement Day soundtrack! Mobb Deep! Oh my god! Danger! Daz and Kurupt weren’t that interesting anymore. The G-Funk thing didn’t click with me that much – though I did bump me some Dove Shack! “Summertiiiime in the LBC!” But that east coast volcano that had been dormant to us sun worshiping thugs out west, had fuggin’ erupted!
But… you knew there was gonna be a ‘but’, and not the famously juicy Oakland Booty, but a flat subway ridin’ ‘butt’… Buuuuut then came Forever, and a host of other tired ass releases from the lesser Clansmen. Gravediggaz 6 Feet Deep, had injected some life into the Wu franchise through the participation of RZA, but that was gimmicky and although anthemic wasn’t destined for lasting glory. Each subsequent release seemed cornier than the last. It was like they were parodying themselves. Soon there was Wu Wear! fucking Wu Wear? I’m talking lime green moccasins and shit! God awful! And it took Method Man, arguably the most charismatic of member of Wu Tang four years to release his sophomore record, Blackout!, to minimal fanfare and lackluster reviews. In a few short years what had been like a revelation of originality, a paradox of tenement buildings filled with lyrical kung fu masters, a new and evolving lexicon of borough slang, and a new independent business model, became another carcass sucked dry and being humped by the industry jackals. It was sad, yo! What the Fuck was Mariah Carey and ODB doing on a track together. Money grab or not to subject our ears to that absurd drugged-out disaster was criminal. Who thought that Dirt slurring over dog-whistle screeching was a great idea? I mean, that Bobby Digital shit actually caused me lose faith in hip hop.
The Clan would did manage put together a few dope records again, namely the Meth and Redman tandem’s How High single (not the movie, sitcom, or deodorant commercials) and more recently Kwon’s respectable Cuban Linx, Pt. 2, but the magic is long gone and I almost feel bad for doing this. Wu Tang, outside of a funny Chapelle Show cameo, “Ko Neechi Wah Bitches!,” what have you done lately? I still see the stickers here and there, the logo an almost iconic longing for days gone by.
Apparently there’s a “Rebirth” tour going on right now. I don’t think I’ll be attending. Even if it is dope, I don’t know man? I’ve moved on. I’m just not interested anymore. I’m nobody’s fool and I’d rather risk missing some unlikely-to-be-legendary reunion tour, than be burned again by a lackluster product. I sincerely hope it is dope! You heard me right there right? Go back and read it again for me, ok? Ok! Either way, I’m sure the Clansmen have worked their way into cushed out behind the scenes jobs at labels, marketing firms, or organized kung fu crime syndicates. I never can fault these guys for being market savvy, intelligent, and deadly. I’m sure they’ll all be juuuust fine. I don’t have any doubts about that. But as a crew, as in the incarnation that left me forever altered, unfortunately it’s no longer to be. Wu Tang forever? Naw god, not really! While they were busy protecting they neck, I was busy protecting my ears from all the bad music and crossover promotions! So like I did with CD after CD, the Wu Tang Clan gets put down.
Chick chick… Bang!
Say whuddup to ODB tho!