Tag Archives: Wu-Tang

The Ave Podcast – The Greatest Two Weeks In Hip Hop. Ever.

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee. Episode 57: The Greatest Two Weeks In Hip Hop. Ever.

Today on The Ave Podcast, we take you back down memory lane to discuss the greatest two week stretch in Hip Hop history. On Nov. 9, 1993, two iconic albums were released on the same day, A Tribe Called Quest’s 3rd album Midnight Marauders, and Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. Both albums went on help usher in a new era, and became two of the most influential bodies of work in the genre. If that wasn’t enough, exactly two weeks later Snoop Doggy Dogg released his debut album Doggystyle, which followed the same path as the two albums before it, and launched Snoop into superstardom.

I invite DJ Chris Nice (Grooves & Rhythms Mixshow, Fridays from 2 – 4PM on MyLime Radio) & Dennis Barham (Actor) as we discuss these three albums, the peak of Hip Hop’s Golden Era, how the ’93-’94 stretch may have represented the best 2-year period that ever existed in the genre, plus a ton more. Please enjoy.

*** Thanks for tuning in, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and the blog below, and also, the podcasts are now available for download. You can now check out the podcasts on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, and Spotify. You can get to all of those apps on your IOS or Android devices. ***

The Ave Podcast with Cal Cee // Episode 57

 

Download the podcast, feel free to click the link below:

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Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to South Shore Ave, click onto the Follow button, and enter your email address, or click onto the RSS Feed. Very special thanks to DJ Chris Nice & Dennis Barham for their guest appearance on this podcast.

Golden Era: Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx… (20th Anniversary-Ish)

We here at South Shore Ave are gassing up the DeLorean & taking you back to the musical Golden Era of 90’s music to celebrate one of the Greatest albums in Hip Hop history. While this isn’t quite the Twentieth anniversary date of Raekwon’s solo album “Only Built For Cuban Linx…” (initial release date was Aug 1, 1995), we simply couldn’t let 2015 pass us by without discussing one of the greatest Hip Hop Albums of the Golden Age era. So without further ado, me & my friend Shawn Adonis, break down four tracks off the legendary album. The Ice Cream Man is coming…..

**DISCLAIMER — this is not a Top 4 list. You could make an argument for 10 songs from this album being in the Top 4. This is strictly a review, a collection of songs from the album.** 

 

Ice Cream

Yo honey dip / summertime fine, jewelry dripping / Seen you on Pickens with a bunch of chickens how you’re clicking / I keep shooting strong notes as we got close / She rocked rope, honey throat smelling like impulse.”  – Ghostface Killah

Cee: Lemme give you my personal experience of this Ice Cream track, one that still stings somewhat years later. Twenty years ago, right after Labor Day weekend, I went down to New York City to visit my family for about a week or so in the Bronx. While listening to Hot 97, they announced that they’d be shooting the Ice Cream video in Staten Island that day, & get this…… EVERYONE and ANYONE were invited. They gave the address to the area where they’d be shooting the video and everything. Now, considering at the time that I damn near had this song & the album on repeat for weeks on end, this might have been the best thing I had ever heard in my life at that moment. What are the chances I’d be in New York City, the same time they’d be filming this video that I could actually be a part of??? Now, one thing about New York that I’ve come to realize over the years, a lot of people don’t know much outside of their borough. For example, you could live in Brooklyn your whole life, & have absolutely no idea how to get to or around the Bronx, or Queens, or sadly, even parts of Brooklyn. This brings me to my cousin Rob…

Now I shouldn’t knock him because he usually has a good sense of where he’s going for the most part when it comes to navigating through those NY streets. However, when I suggested to him that we should go down to Staten Island to check out the video, dude had no idea how to get there. I was so confused & annoyed at the same time. I was basically like, “What the f*** you mean you don’t know how to get to Staten Island?!?!?” I’m sure it was a logical choice to him, but to me, I wasn’t happy at all. Now mind you, I never expected to be in the video. I did not think I’d be on top of the Ice Cream truck swinging a cane alongside Meth, or scooping up the Butter Pecan Ricans, or trying to cop gold fronts at the swap meet where Ghostface was trying to get at the thick chick. I just wanted to experience the hype around it live and in person. So seeing that video for the first time & seeing how hype it was, maaaan……….. it still stings. To make matters worse, there’s Cappadonna popping up in the video with a Canadiens jersey on. The road colors & everything. I’m not gonna lie, it felt like he sent a subliminal shot towards me for not attending the shoot.

With that said, this song/video always represented the absolute peak of Wu-Tang’s powers to me. They already changed the game by staying as a group while each individual was allowed to put out solo albums. As a unit, they were on fire, but this was one of the hypest videos that ever came out of the Wu camp. Method Man by this time was almost like a fu**ing superhero. So much so that when he dropped that legendary hook (that became legendary the second it came out by the way)….

“Watch these rap ni**as get all up in your guts / French Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Chocolate Deluxe….”

……. I’m not entirely sure people remember what anyone else said. It didn’t matter if Ghost’s verse stole the show, or that Rae & Cappadonna kept the level high. This was a perfect storm for Wu: right production from The Rza, right characters to rhyme over the beat, right rapper with the right flow/delivery to make the hook incredibly memorable, and then capped off with the right video to marry the song. Even if this was Raekwon’s song, this was the Wu’s version of perfection. 

Shawn: If it makes you feel any better Cee, Robert’s inability to navigate beyond his own neighborhood might not have ruined such a potentially “epic moment” in your youth as you may think.  Did you miss the opportunity to be in the vicinity of a video shoot for one of hip hop’s most legendary groups at the height of their careers?? Quite frankly, yes.  But you know who I’ll bet didn’t miss it?  Every other young New York hip hop head sporting clothing with the signature Wu Tang “W”, with hopes and dreams of making a cameo appearance in the video. Which would of course in their minds, launch their own rap careers….. only to realize once they got to the video shoot that their lack of having a vagina & a pair of breasts made them pretty much irrelevant, watching from a distance where they could see no Wu member, French Vanilla, Butter Pecan Rican, or Chocolate Deluxe shaking their ice cream scoops.  So you’d be in NY in the mid-90s era, surrounded by a pack of angry & disappointed dudes, just looking for someone to take their frustrations out on.  So, you and good ol’ Rob might have ended up in the remix as the newest ice cream flavor…. Blood Pudding.

Now, allow me to take a walk down memory lane of my youth.  I was a certified Wu fanatic around the time the purple tape came out. So much so, that I convinced myself that anything affiliated with the Wu was automatically great (ie. Killa Army, Sons of Man, and Gravediggaz, all groups that I can now admit fell somewhere between garbage and mediocre in the talent spectrum).  So while listening to Rae’s first solo project, I was pretty much in a state of euphoria by the time Ice Cream came on.  After the beat dropped, I decided 3 seconds into the song that this was probably going to be my favorite track on the album.  By the time Method Man came in with the hook, I was looking around for a brown paper bag to breathe into so that I wouldn’t pass out before the song was over.  To this day, I’m pretty sure that respectable women everywhere fell into a trance with an uncontrollable urge to let dudes get “all up in their guts” whenever this song was played.  I can just imagine a business woman in the board room meeting hearing the hypnotic hook from a car stereo playing it outside, suddenly ripping open her blouse, hiking up her skirt, and daring her colleagues to take turns in them “guts”, until the car drives away, and she suddenly realizes what’s happening, and runs out the room screaming in shame straight toward HR.

Wu-Gambinos

“Who come to get you, none, they want guns / I be the first to set off shit, last to run / Wu roll together as one / I call my brother ‘Son’ cause he shine like one….” – Chorus by Method Man

Cee: Remember that time in hip hop when every rapper was adopting the persona that they were part of an Italian crime family? Well, you can thank this song for being the originators of that era. Back in 1993, Wu-Tang was able to change the slang culture with C.R.E.A.M., five percenter philosophies, martial arts teachings and sound bites. This time, they went all in with the Gambino a.k.a’s. Or should I say Rae, because it’s known that he was the one that made sure all members of the Wu had an alias similar to the movie “Once Upon A Time in America”, in order to be a part of this album. Something that I’m sure was a small detail at the time, ended up not only being one of the sickest records, but changed the way artists presented themselves to the public.

After that album came out & particularly this song, some of the biggest artists in hip hop changed their style up. Nas went from Nasty Nas to Nas Escobar off of his 2nd album, “It Was Written”. You remember the pink suit off the Casino-inspired “Street Dreams” video, right? Mobb Deep flipped up their style a bit & became more menacing on their “Hell on Earth” album. I used to have their poster where their whole team was sitting at the big table with coke residue on some of the crew member’s noses, as well as a big pile of coke laid out on the table (can you imagine the shitstorm that would hover over Havoc & Prodigy if that poster was handed to kids today??? Twitter alone would lose its collective minds). The Notorious B.I.G added the Frank White alias to his name (borrowed from the character of the King of New York flick + also using alias to subliminally declare himself as the King of New York Hip-Hop wise), & played the part of a crime boss until he was murdered in 1997. Even Tupac had the Makaveli name added to his brand, even creating a whole album around that character right before he lost his life. Check out Jay-Z’s debut album. For those that actually have his album & not the bootlegged version, check out the photos in the packaging. Hov, Dame Dash, and Kareem Biggs all looked like either they were part of a Mobster conglomerate, or they were headed to an Al Capone-themed Wine & Dine function right after the photo shoot. What about AZ? That Doe or Die album was not only dope, but was presented in a big boss way too.

The record played a major part in how East Coast rappers portrayed themselves, pretty much everyone from the ones I mentioned to Kool G Rap (Fast Life) & others acted as if they were in Goodfellas. Everyone was touching their inner Scarface. Pretty soon, it morphed into the whole Versace/Named brand clothing; which was championed by Biggie & Junior Mafia; which then graduated to the shiny suit era that Puffy led with his chest out. Even Hov did a video with the shiny threads on & the fish-eye-lens-supported “My Sunshine” record.

Moral of the rant: Blame Raekwon for the Shiny Suit era.

Shawn: Ok, can we start by agreeing that the intro to this song was entirely too long & uninteresting to have been eating up an entire minute and 10 seconds of my yellow Sony Sport Walkman’s fast forwarding time? Back when I used to have to damned near beg, borrow or steal to find a pair of mismatched AA batteries to be able to use my Walkman in the first place.  I think we need to file a class action lawsuit against Rae to get some of that battery money back, I’m sure there were many out there that shares my plight.

You bring up a good point though Cee, about Wu being the alias trailblazers, it never occurred to me but you’re right.  Before Wu, every rapper and crew had one name, it was pretty simple.  But after Wu, everyone had aliases, alter egos, different personas, crew nicknames, hell even country singer Garth Brooks caught the bug and became a darker “Chris Gaines” for a minute (which he abandoned with the quickness, I don’t think country fans were ready for the small taste of hip hop).  But can we take a moment to make note of the fact that other than Tony Starks, Johnny Blaze, and Lou Diamonds, that every other Wu Gambino name was pretty much garbage?  With the worst being Master Killa’s confusingly bizarre alias: Noodles (Rollie Fingers gets an honorable mention for sounding pretty uncool as well).

As for the song itself, is it me, or does the beat start to get a bit redundant after a while?  The track starts strong, Meth and Rae both captivated you as they did in every track back then, but I could have done without RZA or Masta Killah’s submissions, and jumped right to Ghost’s verse to close it out.  Speaking of Masta Killah, was he an official member of the Wu or not? Sometimes he’d be around, but most of the time he was nowhere to be found.  I never missed him mind you, because he was consistently boring, but where the hell was he? Did he have better things to do at the time then to be part of hip hop’s biggest super group? Did he have another job that he just couldn’t get the time off from? Were there not enough sick days?  That never made much sense to me; he was the allusive mysterious Wu member that always seemed to be away doing other things.  I mean, U-God probably had 3 verses over the entire Wu Tang reign (for good reason), but at least he was around for the ride.  I’m not sure Masta Killah made enough of an impact that he is even recognizable to the casual hip hop fan, then or now.

Incarcerated Scarfaces

“Thug related style attract millions / Fans, they understand my plan / Who’s the kid up in the green Land? / Me and the RZA connect, blow a fuse, you lose / Half-ass crews get demolished and bruised”

Cee: There are some pros and cons to the argument about Raekwon’s stake of the mythical King of New York crown back in the mid-90s. Did he have some say in that title with Cuban Linx? Absolutely! For those that don’t remember, that album played in every car, house, Walkman, CD Discman (if you could afford one back then), anything that had a speaker or earphones connected to it. That trip I made to New York that I was telling you about earlier? I’m not lying when I say almost every car in New York was blasting some album cut of Cuban Linx. It was almost like a unified understanding. The knock on his stake is that you can’t be called “King of…” anything when you have so many guest appearances. Outside of two songs, every song featured Ghostface (who played more co-pilot than sidekick to Rae) or a Wu member. Even with that said, out of those two, Incarcerated Scarfaces was a certified classic.

Keeping with the grimy, drug game theme of the overall project, Raekwon takes you through to the life of being a big star, the “Avon Barksdale” of the block. At least I think that’s what it’s about. Let’s face it, as much as I love Rae & his swagger, style, and slang……. his slang even for me was over my head sometimes. There were times I needed that Wu-Tang Manual to decipher some of those lyrics because it was so rich in slang and double entendres that you couldn’t possibly keep up with everything. Much like Biggie & Nas, you may have rewinded this track over and over. Unlike those two, it was less him spitting bars that made your head spin and more of his ability of making anything he says make complete & total sense over RZA’s production. It’s a little low key compared to some of the other records (i.e. Guillotine, Glaciers of Ice), but it’s probably the cleanest/smoothest song that veers a little left from the rugged style of the songs.

As for the video now, it seems like the budget wasn’t a whole lot, and why would it be? Take a look at the above paragraphs. You know this was shot in Staten Island or some sort of hood equivalent, which is completely fine. It goes perfect with the song itself, from the slam dancing and rapping behind the fences, to the rooftop shots, etc. But of course Shawn, I have a couple of questions about the video:

1) Seeing that they were in the hood recording the video, do you really think that they had “that white” blurred on the table? I mean, why do that if it isn’t, right?

2) Was Dave Chappelle right after all in saying that Slo-Mo really does make everything cooler?

3) What was that girl really doing underneath that couch cushion while sitting alongside Ghostface?

Your thoughts…..

Shawn: Very good questions you ask there Calvin mi hermano (which means “my brother” in Spanish). I’ve been binge watching that Netflix show Narcos, which is a series documenting the life of the notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar, so you’re going to have to deal with me acting like I’m a member of the Medellin Cartel for the next little while.  Anyhow, here’s my take on your questions:

Question #1: If that was really La Cocaina that they were blurring out on the table?  

After a heated back and forth debate in my own mind, that may or may not have ended in violence, I’ve concluded that it’s not really that “white girl” (I had to throw in a bit of present day slang, to fool any young readers into thinking that I’m…..how do kids say “cool” these days? Turned? Lit? I can’t keep track anymore).

Let me elaborate.  I was torn about this until I realized at what point in Rae’s career this video was shot in.  If this video was shot during the 36 Chambers album, when the Wu were still a bunch a grimy, hood Staten Island boys, to the point that Ghostface used to wear a mask in videos and public appearances because he had warrants and didn’t want to jeopardize his freedom; not only would I have said that would have definitely been coke on the table, but also that there were most probably numerous fire-arms tucked in waist bands across the room, ready to be pulled out on the video director & crew if the coke wasn’t all accounted for by the end of the video shoot. But seeing that by the time Cuban Linx dropped, a shitload of money had been made, and the Wu members were a bit (and I stress the word “bit”) more refined at this point, I’m assuming it was a video director’s attempt to make an edgy hood video with a pile of baking soda on the table.

Question# 2: Does slow motion make everything look cooler?

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Si (the Narco effect continues).

I’ll be honest, before I saw this video, I pretty much slept on this song, and I would only listen to it long enough to allow my hand to press fast forward.  Then “Rainy Days” would come on and I would start “the wave” with my left hand and finish the dance off by pressing fast forward with my right, until I got to Guillotine (where Inspectah Deck absolutely bodied that sickening beat with his “Poisonous paragraphs / smash the phonograph in half / it be the Inspectah Deck on the warpath” intro, at which point I was trembling due to sensory overload, but I digress.  Back to me sleeping on Incarcerated Scarfaces, this stopped happening as soon as I saw the video, and a large part of my new found appreciation for the track had to do with the slo-mo scenes.  Between Rae walking through the hood, looking around and grilling dudes he had no business grilling (they were pretty intimidating figures), to the large mob of brothas hurtling the project fences in unison (what were they running from, you didn’t know and you didn’t care, cause they were doing it with visually pleasing slow motion wizardry). Every time I heard this song, I was inspired to stop whatever I was doing in normal speed, and switch to slow motion, which probably made me look mentally ill, but it made me feel cool, so it was worth the sacrifice.

Question# 3: What was that chick doing with her hand under the couch cushion?

The reasonable and mature person in me thinks that after a long day of shooting, she was pretty much just sitting there bored simply resting her hand on her thigh, & therefore incidentally creating a coincidental illusion there was some hanky-panky going on under there.  But the dreamer in me that would like to believe porno story-lines are in some way possible, and that one day I’ll order a pizza, and a sexy half naked delivery girl will feel compelled to “teach me a lesson” for giving her a bad tip (providing me with pleasure as punishment while chastising & belittling me may not make sense in the real world, but in the land of porn it makes perfect sense), likes to imagine that the young lady in the video didn’t mind the fact that there was a room full of brothas, and just had to treat her vagina like a turntable.  So, let’s just agree for my perverted mind, that she was being an amazingly filthy, naughty girl, who couldn’t fight the urge to defile herself in a room full of dudes, with only a pillow to cover her shameful act.  A pillow that some dude undoubtedly sniffed as soon as she left the room.

Verbal Intercourse

“It’s like a cycle, ni**as come home, some’ll go in / Do a bullet, come back, do the same shit again / From the womb to the tomb, presume the unpredictable / Guns salute life rapidly, that’s the ritual”. – Nas

“Perhaps bullets bust ni**as discuss mad money / True lies and White guys, we can see it through the eyes”. – Raekwon

Cee: Now before Cuban Linx, no Wu-Tang group or member ever featured an artist outside of their world. You can’t really blame them. When you’re one of the biggest entities in the genre altogether that go nine deep, and are also helping to change the landscape of hip hop, do you really need to? You want a banger of a beat? Call RZA. You want someone to wild out & act crazy on your track? Speed dial Old Dirty Bastard. You want a guest feature that will swing your song through the radio & the streets with the same impact of a bulldozer? Tap Method Man on his shoulder. You want your guest to slang & swag out our record? Hit up Raekwon and Ghostface easily. The list goes on & on. Wu Tang was like going to that friend’s house that had all the best toys & video games, and their fridge & cupboard was always stocked with everything. Right down to the different kinds of cereals, from Fruit Loops to Cocoa Puffs. You never needed to leave the house for anything. Which was why opening the doors for Nas to appear on a Wu-affiliated album was such a major deal at the time.

All Nas did once he entered the doors and took off his shoes was spit out one of the greatest lyrics he may have ever recorded. It was beyond being “Rewind-worthy” & it set the tone for the rest of the song. Both Rae & Ghost followed suit to destroy the record bar after bar. It remains the most underrated and overlooked song on this album, which seems crazy when you listen to this song again. You made a good point Shawn, on the Ready To Die profile, guest features between superstar artists were almost unprecedented, & when it actually happened, you couldn’t wait to hear it. So the fact that this song doesn’t get put on the same level as, “The What” for example, is almost blasphemous. I think only real hip hop heads with a great memory really appreciate this song for what it is.

Imagine if the three of them came together a few months after this album dropped and before It Was Written was released, and dropped a mixtape that was done by DJ Clue at the time. How seismic would that have been?

Shawn: No doubt Cee, a Nas, Rae & Ghost mixtape wouldn’t only have been ground breaking; it would’ve completely obliterated the rules of that era.  We’ve grown to get used to the collaborative albums from major artists to the point that we hardly bat an eyelash anymore; from the most recent merging of the two super powers Drake & Future, to R-Kelly & Jay, Hov & Kanye, the Lil Wayne & Juelz Santana mixtape, and the trailblazers Red and Meth, we pretty much meet these types of collaborative albums with a shrug. Although some of them are dope, others feel like a cash grab meant to capitalize off of two major fan bases that would want to purchase the same album.  But a Nas, Rae & Ghost album would have had hip hop purists at the time thinking the apocalypse was upon us. It would have sparked mass hysteria, looting, governments overthrown and national anthems being replaced by tracks from the album, it wouldn’t have been pretty. With all that said, I have to admit something that may affect our relationship my dear sir.  I have to plead guilty to being one of those dudes that you mentioned that slept on this track when listening to this album.  But it wasn’t one of those accidental “sleeps” where you doze off on the couch watching TV after a long day; it was more like as soon as I heard the song start playing, I downed an entire bottle of sleeping pills intentionally.  Now, I know what I’m about to say is going to be considered blasphemous and incredibly unpopular, and if I were to say this in certain barbershops it would earn me a punch square in my freshly lined up face.  But, how can I put this as delicately as possible; I kinda sorta find Nas……. boring.

Now before you start sharpening your cutlass, and setting your Google maps app for my address, hear me out.  I can fully appreciate that Nas is one of, if not the dopest lyricist we’ve ever heard, I get that.  But after I listen to a Nas track once, and take in the dope intricacies of his lyrics, I’m pretty much satisfied, forever.  I don’t really have the urge to hear it again.  I just feel satisfied that I’ve heard his verse that one time.  I’ll kind of compare him to Tim Duncan, or even the entire Spurs organization, you know they’re great, but I have more fun watching those teams lose than I do watching them dismantle their competition.  It’s like, my brain knows I should be excited, and I try Calvin, I really do. I try to fit in whenever I find myself in one of those best rappers alive convos, but I’m tired of the lies Calvin, they’re weighing heavy on my soul.  So there you go, the cat’s out the bag, I find Nas boring.  I said it.  This is why I never really appreciated this song.  Mind you, Rae dropped his usual bars filled with cool words, and the way Ghost broke down prison life in a few short bars was better than some dudes that dedicate whole albums to it.  But unfortunately, this track does not rank as one of my favorites on the album. I hope we can still be friends Cee.

Cee: I…….. I don’t even know what to say. Actually, what did you say??? Seeing that 2015 is drawing to a close, I’ll express myself the way pop culture dictates me to: Through gifs & memes….

I feel so disillusioned, so misled, so hoodwinked by what you just said. I feel like Steve Austin after he teamed up with The Rock to beat up the villain wrestlers together, and while raising my fists & middle fingers in the air towards the crowd in my trademark fashion, you hit me across the back of my head with a 2 X 4, leaving me unconscious in a fake pool of blood. I don’t even know if I should sever our friendship, or if I should just pay some goons to run at your house Sosa-style, crash through your kitchen, tie you down & force you to listen to all 10 of Nas’ albums. Even the Lost Tapes. You bastard.

If there’s a lasting memory regarding this album, it was the hype leading up to it. I’ve discussed the theory before of the pre-promotion of albums in the 90s that made each major album release from your favorite artists feel like it descended down from the skies. The example I have of this theory and how well it works is almost specific to this album. Prior to its ’95 summer release, with some of the songs that we heard from the album, it was getting major, major buzz, “5 Mics in The Source” buzz. Hip hop fans were foaming at the mouth for this album, myself and my crew of friends included. The day the album was released, was an event. My friends and I headed downtown about ten deep to the one record store that were selling copies of the album. Of course, out of the ten, only about 3-4 of us bought it, and the rest was armed with blank 90 min Maxwell tapes ready to dub the albums off. If you’re wondering, wonder no more…….. I was in the “Blank Tape” group. You got to understand, I was fresh off of finishing high school in Montreal, with no money. Basically, I never purchased a CD unless it came with 10 more CDs for a penny, and it came from a Columbia House purchase list. I’m not ashamed…. I’m not…. I swear?

Anyway, we went back to our friend’s house & basically digested everything about the album, from the beats & lyrics, to the linear notes & thank you shout outs. It’s the only time in my life I ever went to a store with all my friends, & then bought watch them buy (& dub off) an album….but it was 110% worth it. Within a few months it was a solidified classic that you played for about a year straight before you could put it down. Looking back now, it remains the greatest solo album ever released by The Wu, one of the best Hip Hop moments ever from the Golden Era, and it’s not debatable. For you Wu heads, the only solo Wu albums that come close to it was GZA’s Liquid Swords (which was GREAT), and Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele (his greatest album personally), both classics…… and yet still, it was a tier down from Cuban Linx. It changed the game as much as the aforementioned Golden Era albums that I wrote about. It was dark, gritty, and cinematic, it changed slang vocabulary, it was completely swagged out (the makers of Clark’s Wallabee’s are forever thankful). The RZA was like a cross between Charles Barkley & Wilt Chamberlain on the boards, and it represented the absolute peak of the Wu Era musically. When Nas re-released his Illmatic album last year & celebrated the anniversary like nothing we’ve even seen, I was a little surprised Raekwon didn’t go down the same route this year. There should have been concerts across the world celebrating the anniversary of this album. Here’s to hoping Rae does a delayed go-round with this album like we did this post.

 

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

To subscribe to The Baseline Blog, click onto the Follow button. Very special thanks to Shawn Adonis for his contributions to this posting, as usual.

Golden Era: 20th Anniversary of Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

We here at South Shore Ave are gassing up the DeLorean & taking you back through to the musical Golden Era of 90’s music to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Greatest Time in Hip Hop history. Back in November 1993, three iconic albums were released within a span of fourteen days that forever changed the landscape of hip hop music. A Tribe Called Quest’s 3rd album, Midnight Marauders & Wu-Tang Clan’s debut release Enter Da Wu Tang (36 Chambers) were both released on Nov 9th to massive fanfare & acclaim. Two weeks later, they were both bested sales-wise by the release of Doggystyle, Snoop Dogg’s debut album off of Death Row Records that turned Snoop into a full-fledged mega superstar. Today on The Baseline Blog, I’ve recruited Jay F. from out of his Touched by Music Studio Lab/Cave & break down the legendary Wu-Tang debut. Get your W’s up….

If you missed Tribe’s Midnight Marauders album post, click here.

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Kliknij obrazek, aby zamknąć

 

PROTECT YA NECK

“The Wu is too slammin’ for these Cold Killin’ labels/Some ain’t had hits since I seen Aunt Mabel/Be doing artists in like Cain did Abel/Now they money’s getting stuck to the gum under the table” – GZA

ME: This song was the 1st official single from this groundbreaking hip hop group. Let’s just think about this for a minute. This song, this aggressive, frenetic, psychotic, record, was their 1st released single??? Are you kidding me?!?! Now before this record, we’ve heard collaboration/posse-type records before & have been wowed by the results. From Tribe’s “Scenario“, to the Self Destruction track from KRS-One, to the Juice Crew’s “The Symphony“, we’ve experienced the highs of when a collaborative effort works wonders. However, this wasn’t a one-time only posse cut, but this was a group, & it had eight different rappers each with different styles going HARD. It almost didn’t make sense at the time, hearing this type of record. Each year, hip hop continued evolving & elevating from the “Sugar Hill/Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five” beginnings, & it kept getting edgier & more creative. Even with that said, we simply had never seen anything before that could even prepare us for what Wu-Tang was offering. It’s almost like going from a rotary phone to a cordless with call display & 3-way dialing all overnight. It would take you a few minutes just to calibrate what was actually happening.

All the lyrical gems dropped in the song in itself were ridiculous, but the way RZA handled the production was like an elite-level cook. Its part Bomb Squad (Public Enemy’s production team), part martial arts, part piano loops & all chaos….with about 2 cups of street ruggedness thrown in. The beat Superman elbows you in the face John Jones style. It’s one of their best records they ever made, plain & simple.

JAY: Revolutionary is what I think of when I look back on the Wu era. A group of lyricists each with their own style and finesse that remarkably was able to complement each other without drowning each other out. For sure not an easy task, but The Wu was able to get it done for several years.

And they were smart, either smart or caught up in the rise of martial arts movie movement that practically played on every hip hop head’s televisions at one point during those times. It was wicked, the fighting, sword slashing sound effects heard throughout their songs is one of the many reason why The Wu Tang Clan was so embraced. Of course, all thanks to RZA’s production who brought all of these qualities to life.

With all that being said, looking back on their first album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, they almost had no choice but to make “Protect Ya Neck”, their 1st official single. That song to me was the only one that could convey the seriousness of this group’s intentions in entering the hip hop world. It cunningly gives you a healthy dose of what each member is capable of doing and that RZA was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the beat making world. They each represented themselves enough that you couldn’t wait to hear more of their styles as you progressed though the album.

CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE

“Started off on the island, AKA Shaolin/Ni**as wilin’, gun shots thrown, the phone dialin’/Back in the days of 8 now, making a tape now/Rae gotta get a plate now”  – Raekwon

“Kicking the fly clichés/Doing duets with Rae & A/Happens to make my day”

“Sunshine plays a major part in the daytime…” – Ghostface Killah

ME: I’m going to piggyback off on your revolutionary views on the Wu for a second Jay. Outside of the many ways this group affected the culture of our generation, an underrated fact that they did with this song: they helped usher Hype Williams into the game. Shooting his first major video, Williams’ vignettes matched the essence of the lyrics from Ghost & Raekwon. We have seen lots of videos shot in the hood from our respective rappers, but until then, we never seen it shot so cleanly. It almost looked like a mini movie, with all the slo-mo shots of the Clan shooting dice, hanging out, their crews posting up on Lexus’, Acura’s, & MPV’s, the cinematic look helped to make this song feel even bigger than it already was. After that, the who’s who of the Hip Hop & R&B industry clamoured to get that same special touch from Williams that he helped give to Wu. You don’t think this video was a factor in sculpting the way videos were shot? Look at this video & compare it to all the other videos that came from this album. All of them were cool but, Can it Be looks like it was shot by Scorcese compared to the others. Admit it Jay, you weren’t expecting me to go into that direction were you? Also, the rumors that I wrote this paragraph in a smoker’s robe while sitting in front of the fireplace with a glass of Brandy like those Turner Classic Movie intros…. are mostly false.

JAY: Check point for you Cal. I had no idea Hype did this video, or that you sip brandy naked sitting in front of a fireplace (I assume wearing the robe was the “mostly false” part…you friggin weirdo). I can see why other artists lined up for him to shoot their video. It’s amazing how a video can play an important role in capturing the essence of a song. Wu chilling in the streets, black hoodies, talking, cracking jokes. We’ve all done it at some point, hanging out later at night with your peeps, those were at times the best moments, when you can laugh and be real. Then the video cuts to day time shots, simple and focused on the two lyricists doing their thing.

A few things that become apparent while listening to this song (or watching this video) is the connection that Raekwon & Ghostface Killah had. There’s always inner bonds in a clique where individuals see eye to eye more than others (not in a bad way at all), But if you think about it in regards to this song, which other Wu members could have pulled it off as smooth as those guys? Once again RZA’s production was tight and works really well with Hype’s vision of the video. Not to mention Wu Tang was brave to make a song of this tempo on this album, especially when you listen to their other songs, but they were able to pull it off. They showed people that “Yes, we can get you all riled up with songs like Protect Ya Neck, but we can also cool it down, still stay tight lyrically, & keep it laid back enough for slow head bob”. Funny how the Range Rover even back then was the bomb SUV…

ME: Nah man, you got that wrong. You can never do that in front of a fireplace. One of the flames flickers & sparks out of the pit towards you….yeah, you really can’t come back from that. To jump back on the video for a second, can you imagine in 2013 if a group were to come out in a video posing in front of Acuras TLs & Mazda 3s? You’d know for sure their budget is extremely tight right off the bat, and most likely it would be 3-4 of their friends shooting the video off their iPhones & Galaxys from various angles. What would happen faster: Us changing the channel or the strippers video chicks walking off the set? Crazy. Funny how much things have changed since then.

C.R.E.A.M.

“The courts played me short, now I face incarceration/Pacin’, going upstate’s my destination/Handcuffed in back of the bus, forty of us/Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough.” – Inspectah Deck

ME: Let’s just get this out of the way right now, this is easily one of the greatest songs, not hip hop songs, but songs that’s ever been made. Put this in the same category with any song the Beatles, Elvis, Elton John & any other legendary artists or group did that affected the society that they lived in. I’m not saying this with hyperbole here. Think for a second of the cultural impact this song still has. That term C.R.E.A.M. is probably the most used word that affected pop culture in the last 25+ years. Cash Rules Everything Around Me. It fits in every structure of life, from the most determined stockbroker on Wall Street, to the shadiest drug dealer, & everyone in between & to the side. It’s how our society is built. We do everything that we can to stack that paper, whether it’s to be responsible for the future or to floss & pop bottles at the club today, we may not admit it, but it is our life’s mantra. We all want to touch the good life in some way, so this was part of the genius of this song that they touched on this topic. A slang acronym made by them that’s timeless today as it was back in 1993. It’s an incredibly creative move that makes them relevant being that you always think about them when this word is mentioned, or when you grinding hard to make that money.

We haven’t even gotten to the lyrics dropped by Raekwon & Inspectah Deck, touching on their hard lives growing up & the decisions that they’ve made to make a better one. It’s done in a gritty way, but it’s actually a positive song when you break it down. Two things I’ll mention here: 1) Deck’s verse in this song is very underrated. Rae’s verse is sweet, but why I say this is that from looking through the DJ/Producer glasses here, the amount of songs that sampled Deck’s lines in this song is ridiculous. 2) No one in this group could have pulled off the hook better than Method Man. This dude was a true superstar back then & his flow, his voice (sounding different than anything we heard before or since he entered the game), & the way he carried himself on any song he did, I mean, he stands out. He could be rapping out the words to the Marine Land song & you’re already nodding your head. His voice is magnetizing & you can’t help but listen to what he’s saying at all times. While I won’t say the song wouldn’t be as popular if someone else did the chorus, Meth on the hook just brings the record up to a higher level. I just can’t imagine anyone else in the group drawing you in like that.

JAY: Well said Cal! “C.R.E.A.M.” was indeed one of Wu’s tightest tracks of all time. Method Man kills on this track “Cream get tha money, dollar dollar bills ya’ll“. Every so often you’d like to be a fly on the wall when certain tracks are materialized, like what came first? Would it be the chorus, the lyrics, or the beat? RZA’s production on the track is tight; he can really do no wrong when it comes to his beat making technique, the art of sampling at its very best. Even though this song isn’t as hard hitting as others on the album, you can’t help but wild out when you hear the beat drop in the first few bars. Then off the bat Method Man comes in with the legendary chorus for a quick hit, followed by Rae and Deck.

Both Rae and Deck come off great in this song. However to me, with how the track is laid out, Rae gets the most props off the track while Deck bringing up the rear kind of gets left behind. No disrespect to Deck because his lyrics are tight as well. But Rae coming in after the chorus as the primary beat drops makes his verse even better. True story telling indeed, we get a little glimpse in to the beginnings of two of Wu’s best lyricists. I like how they both come off on this track, it’s simple, and for the lack of better words “not noisy”….you get the story straight up with no chaser. The beat is clean, not distracting and the lyrics are crisp, and you right Cal, another collabo where only those two guys can bring life to this track. They both have a kind off lazy lyrical style which plays to the laid back flow of this track even though the message is no joke. C.R.E.A.M. is definitely one of the classic Wu tracks, which even though it might not be played as often as it should be nowadays, it still feels good to hear. I think I still got some Wu Wear jeans in my closet, gotta represent at the next old skool jam.

SHAME ON A N****

“Shame on a Nuh! Who tried to run game on a Nuh!” 

Yo hut one hut two hut three hut!/Ol’ Dirty Bastard live & uncut”

– Do I really have to tell you here?

ME: We can’t get away with talking about this album without mentioning Dirty. Has there ever been a character like this in hip hop before? He was like the crazy drunk uncle out of the group, always sounded like he was 3 drinks over his personal limit. As wild as he was, he still put it together in a creative manner that somehow made sense at the end. He was the other side of the spectrum to Method Man just in the sense that what Meth brought to the table in terms of his smooth flow & husky voice, Dirty brought the crazy, almost nonsensical style that had no origin to it whatsoever. To flip it in martial arts terms, he really was the verbal drunken master if there ever was one. I always loved him the most on his song, it’s like RZA decided that this beat was too smooth for his liking & just threw him in there to see what would happen next.

Also, he had the most creative radio edit for the N-word. Usually any curse word either gets blanked out, has a ding or some crazy sound effect, or it gets played in reverse so that it can be playable for radio mix shows. Usually that’s the responsibility of the producer or sound engineers to deal with that. I would love to know who decided for him to do that, be it him or RZA to come up with “Nuh!” to replace the N-word, but it added a funny element to any record he was on. To be honest, it’s one of the reasons why I love listening to the radio edited version over the original, just to hear “Nuh!” That, and my one quick childhood story regarding this record. One day I was listening to this song on the radio & the chorus was coming in as my Father walked into my room to hear what I was listening to. When he asked what that “Nuh” sound was, I explained to him what it meant, while nodding my head to the beat. He took one looong look at me….held that look for an extra second…..& then just walked out of the room. Just that priceless, “My son is a dumbass” look on his face alone will never make me forget this song, and it’s all due to ODB.

JAY: Ahhh Ol’ Dirty Bastard. I can’t even say he was revolutionary, because no one has ever been able to duplicate or even imitate his lyrical style. He was indeed a “one of a kind” rapper that will go down in history as the best there ever was (more like the best creativity-wise there ever was). “Got burnt once but that was only gonorrhea”, Oh Dirty, the ladies won’t care. They would still want a piece of you.

Cal you had right it, listening to the clean version is much more memorable that the original. Method Man’s verse is a prime example of how sick he was lyrically. His style was unmatched back then and I would still think this now. His flow was tight, quick witted and clever. Shoot, while writing this response to you, I’ve listened to Meth’s verse 10 times already, I can’t get enough of it. Ol’ Dirty’s verses are imaginable as ever, that 3 drinks over his personal limit might be an understatement.  He might have also been under that “Oooh Weee” when dropping his verses. You almost don’t know what to expect when ODB touches a track, but you always know that it will be crazy, and like me, you’ll wait for someone to post the lyrics online so you can rap along. Oh yeah, Raekwon’s on this track as well. He actually didn’t really need to be, but who am I to tell them what to do??? Once again RZA does his magic on the beats, but honestly I don’t even really care about it as much as I would on other tracks, its ODB and Method Man’s verses that make this track great.

Shame on a “Nuh!” to anyone who didn’t like this track.

ME: A perfect example of the levels of crazy that ODB can reach? That Woo-Haa remix he did with Busta Rhymes. I know, I know, it has absolutely nothing to do with this album….I honestly just wanted an excuse to show this video.

METHOD MAN

“From the slums of Shaolin/Wu-Tang Clan strikes again/The RZA, the GZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghost Face Killer AND/M-E-T-H-O-D MAN!”

– GZA….then Method Man

JAY: Thank you sir, for giving me the pleasure to start this convo off talking about one of my favorite Wu Tang tracks ever “Method Man”. This track brings back great memories, but most notably though were the times when I would listen to this track on my way to school early morning before home period for basketball practice. There was an energy in this track that got me pumped before, after and throughout my day. Needless to say, this track was in heavy rotation on my Walkman (Sheesh! A Walkman, how far we have come).

There were several elements in this track that made it special for me. From the mentioning of the other group members in the intro, to when Meth first comes in with the chorus, to the RZA’s production. All of which made this track a highlight on the album. Once again, Meth shows you that his lyrical style is unmatched, and more so his capability of holding down a track with little help from the others. So it was no surprise when Wu started releasing solo artists, the debut started off with Method Man’s “Tical” album.

Method Man was clever in how he linked his versus together, catchy, and at times a little silly.

“Patty cake patty cake, hey! The Method Man/Don’t eat Skippy, Jif or Peter Pan/Peanut butter, Cause I’m not butter/In fact I snap back like a rubber/band, I be Sam, Sam I am/And I don’t eat green eggs and ham/Style will hit ya, wham!, then goddamn/You be like ‘oh shit that’s the jam’…”

But that’s what made it so great to listen and rap along too. There aren’t many tracks out there that I can really enjoy listening to, and I’m glad that this one is by far one of the best.

ME: Silly? A little silly?? Jay, this man in a song — representing one of the most rugged groups of all time – mentions in order:

  • Patty Cake(s)
  • Skippy
  • Jif
  • Peter Pan
  • Peanut Butter (what, no mention of jam??)
  • Sam I am
  • Green Eggs AND…… Ham.

Take a look at that list again. He actually spent time name-dropping different brands of Peanut Butter & Dr. Seuss in his rhymes. He then goes on to quote Tweety Bird & Fat Albert 25 seconds later. Can you imagine what was going on in the mind of the sound engineer when he was mixing down the record? The poor bastard probably picked up the phone multiple times to call RZA & Meth to ask if they’re absolutely sure they don’t want to redo the first half of the verse, thought better of it, hung up & then just continued on with the song with a perplexed look on his face. Considering how the rest of his career turned out though, I’m willing to let this slide. I almost feel like he knew he was so hot back then that he wanted to test the limits of how far he can push us by sliding that in his lyrics. As a teenager, I would play this song relentlessly but always pause slightly at the Green Eggs part like, “really?” I think though that in a funny way, it actually speaks to how great Meth was & is as a rapper & musician. I won’t even get into the fact that he’s by far the only rapper in this group that pulls it off (seriously, I’m not even touching that), by having an authentic voice & delivery, it can really take you far with your audience. I’m not just talking rappers, but singers too.

Whenever someone like Marvin Gaye or Al Green, or even a Ron Isley starts to sing a song, you don’t even need to hear what they’re actually even singing about, they’ve already roped you in with their voice and delivery. The charisma, smoothness, swagger, however you want to describe it, sounds so natural that it comes off as another instrument woven into the music. It’s an extremely powerful quality to have if you’re blessed to even have the quality. In hip hop, rappers like Method Man, Snoop Dogg, & Notorious B.I.G. are examples of this. As soon as they start rapping, you’re pulled in until they’re finish. Didn’t matter what they said, they had you. On top of that, they all had the lyrics & wordplay to match that natural gift they possessed & that’s what made them superstars. This is the greatest trick that Meth shows you in his song, he was magnetic & you couldn’t help but stop what you were doing to hear him speak…..even if he was jacking the words off of Dr. Seuss.

To take it a bit further, it’s that magnetizing spirit that Wu Tang had on our generation. Once they had us, we were taken in by everything they said & did. They changed the game in ways we didn’t even fathom. They affected everything & everyone, from the hood to the suburbs, the streets to the boardroom. They were the first group to sign a record deal that allowed ALL of the members to sign their own individual deals. They were one of the first set of artists to have their own clothing line, setting the path for guys like Diddy & Jay-Z to be wildly rich from this business. They affected our slang, our footwear, shiiit, we even watched more Kung-Fu flicks because of them.  Most importantly, they released large amounts of classic material for almost 7 years straight right up until Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele album…..but 36 Chambers was the foundation where the house was built on. Twenty years after their legendary debut, their influence is still felt & for that we are all still very thankful.

Cal Cee // South Shore Ave

Follow me on Twitter or email me at southshoreave@gmail.com

To catch up my previous posts, click here.

Very special thanks to Jay F. for his contributions to this article/blog posting. His radio show The Limelight airs every Saturday from 6 – 8PM on CJLO. You can catch the podcast versions of his show at http://www.podomatic.com/limelight