Posts Tagged ‘GZA’

Masterpiece: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

1 October 2010

[Today: Ain’t braggin’…]

This one goes back to Joe Namath and Muhammad Ali – two Southern gentlemen who weren’t afraid to proclaim their own brilliance and then back it up by performing when the lights were brightest and the stakes were highest. Namath and Ali certainly didn’t invent trash talk, but they perfected the craft. Their highlights – Namath’s prediction of victory over the heavily-favored Colts in Super Bowl III and Ali’s incantation that “I am the greatest!” – were delivered with the kind of verve and style that set the bar for professional self-confidence for nearly every form of entertainer that followed.

Hip-hop in particular is a field filled with artists rushing to call themselves the greatest and predict their own big victories, in terms that make Namath and Ali seem quaint and humble. But reality being what it is, only a few kings can sit at the top of any given mountain, so most rappers come off as hollow reflections of their own fantasies – a pack of dogs with no real bite. Not so the Wu-Tang Clan, a swarm of MCs who came buzzing off Staten Island with their 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). This album was greasy, raw and blood-soaked, even by hip-hop’s unique standards. And of course it was a wildly popular, certified-platinum success.

The clan was the brainchild of DJ Robert Diggs, who works under the name RZA (pronounced “rizza”). He assembled a wrecking crew of undiscovered MCs, including Russell Jones (Ol’ Dirty Bastard), Dennis Coles (Ghostface Killah), Clifford Smith (Method Man) and Corey Woods (Raekwon). RZA was also responsible for the group’s artistic direction – a fierce blend of Kung-Fu movies, eastern philosophy, cartoon violence, and the kind of dense flow that sounded like the work of a veteran, battle-tested crew. Wu-Tang is perhaps best understood through the prism of the comic book – a fantasy world where super powers abound, people die gruesome deaths regularly, and Gotham is packed with maniacs and murderers.

RZA’s sound collages feature snippets of Kung-Fu movies and murky funk and soul samples, while the MCs take tag-team turns rhyming about ginseng and body bags, Fort Knox and samurai, Jacques Cousteau and spiked bats, The Warriors and diarrhea, and everything but a Bronx kitchen sink, providing a stream-of-conscious peek into the ultra-violent Id of the Big Apple. Any group that promises to jam a rusty screwdriver into your balls can’t be viewed as the good guys, but Wu-Tang are as entitled to their dramatic violence as Bruce Lee and Superman. Every comic book superhero had a dark-side or an evil alter-ego, and Enter The Wu-Tang lives in a world of tension where super powers are being misused, the bad guys are winning, and the skies are turning black.

Best protect ya’ neck…

Listen: Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’

Listen: Shame On A Nigga

Listen: Method Man

Listen: Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber – Part II

Weekend Playlist

30 November 2009

“If I’m going to Hell, I’m going there playing the piano.” ~ Jerry Lee Lewis

The Zutons | Who Killed The Zutons?

Jerry Lee Lewis | 18 Original Sun Greatest Hits

Jeff Buckley | Grace [Legacy Edition]

Thin Lizzy | Johnny The Fox

Various Artists | Gather In The Mushrooms: The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974

The Blasters | The Complete Slash Recordings

The Specials | Guilty ‘Til Proved Innocent!

Listen: Running Away

The Rolling Stones | LiveR Than You’ll Ever Be

Various Artists | Sweet Relief: A Benefit For Victoria Williams

Listen: Crazy Mary [Pearl Jam]

Stevie Ray Vaughan | Blues At Sunrise

Listen: Tin Pan Alley (aka Roughest Place In Town)

Brian Wilson | Smile

Listen: Surf’s Up

Various Artists | Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues

Iron & Wine and Calexico | In The Reins

Listen: Dead Man’s Will

Iggy Pop & The Stoogs | Live In LA 73

Listen: New Orleans

The Black Keys | Rubber Factory

Listen: Girl Is On My Mind

GZA | Liquid Swords

Listen: Shadowboxin’

Various Artists | Locations [Global Underground]

Listen: Mushrooms [Marshall Jefferson Vs Noosa Heads]

XTC | Upsy Daisy Assortment

Johnny Cash | Country Style 1958
[album cover not pictured]

Van Halen | Tokyo, Japan – 6/22/78
[album cover not pictured]