Release Date: November 9, 1993
Shame on a Nigga
Can It Be All So Simple
Protect Ya Neck
★★★★★ Tracks:Bring Da Ruckus
Shame on a Nigga
Can It Be All So Simple
Protect Ya Neck
"Bring da mothafuckin' ruckus! Brind da motha, bring da mothafuckin' ruckus!" Damn, that shit is so awesome. From twenty seconds in, all the way until the end, 36 Chambers has me banging my head. My friend and I we're just talking about the Wu the other night, in knowing I was writing about them for my upcoming post I asked him, "How the hell did they come up with this?" We couldn't say for sure, but the genius (not to be confused with the GZA) behind most of 36 Chambers' themes and production is the RZA. By combining his love for kung-fu movies, his influences of soul and hip-hop, and getting "with a sick ass click and goin' all out," the RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan created one of my favorite albums of all time.
36 Chambers was the soundtrack to my sophomore year in high school -- a time when I began to run with the wrong kids, and do some things I could no longer tell my parents about. I'd grow out of it pretty quickly, but this album would always stick with me. Previous to being introduced to the Wu-Tang Clan, all I was listening to was power-chord punk rock; I was immature and wanted nothing to do with any music loved by the masses. But meanwhile, the only records my new buddies would be blasting in their cars, on their porches and in their garages were from the Wu-Tang Clan. Damn was I annoyed hearing this shit over and over and over again. I mean, I didn't even like hip hop. Why couldn't I sneak a NOFX or Screeching Weasel record in to the rotation every once in a while? And what made it all the more irritating is they thought they were living it. Sure, they were dealing and doing some drugs, siphoning gas (they couldn't afford to fill their tanks), tagging buildings...but they weren't initiating drive-bys or stealing wallets!
Still, the more I hung with my pals, the more I was force-fed 36 Chambers, and the more I realized how amazing it was. The first thing I warmed up to were the beats: they're heavy, raw, minimal, and dark, giving the listener a sonic visualization of the New York streets of which most the lyrics revolve around. Mixed with the strange kung fu sound effects, and awesome soul samples, I realized I was listening to something completely unique. With my ears now opened up to the sound, I began nodding my head in unison with my friends, and I began to pay closer attention to the lyrics: often a socio-history to the rough side of New York City in the 80's and 90's.
"I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side.
Staying alive was no jive.
At second hands, moms bounced on old men.
So then we moved to Shaolin land.
A young youth, yo rockin the gold tooth, 'Lo goose.
Only way, I begin to gee off was drug loot.
And let's start it like this son, rollin with this one.
And that one, pullin out gats for fun.
But it was just a dream for the teen, who was a fiend.
Started smokin woolies at sixteen.
And running up in gates, and doing hits for high stakes.
Making my way on fire escapes.
No question I would speed, for cracks and weed.
The combination made my eyes bleed.
No question I would flow off, and try to get the dough all.
Sticking up white boys in ball courts.
My life got no better, same damn 'Lo sweater.
Times is ruff and tuff like leather.
Figured out I went the wrong route.
So I got with a sick ass click and went all out.
Catchin keys from across seas.
Rollin in MPV's, every week we made forty G's.
Yo nigga respect mine, or anger the tech nine.
Ch-chick-POW! Move from the gate now."
Sure, 36 Chambers has it's fair share of "you can't even touch my skills" moments, which has always been emphasized throughout the genre's history, but the Wu-Tang do it with a style unmatched by others:
"The Wu is comin thru, the outcome is critical.
Fuckin wit my style, is sort of like a Miracle.
on 34th Street, in the Square of Herald.
I gamed Ella, the bitch caught a Fitz like Gerald --
-- ine Ferraro, who's full of sorrow.
Cuz the ho didn't win but the sun will still come out tomorrow.
and shine shine shine like gold mine.
Here comes the drunk monk, with a quart of Ballentine.
Pass the bone, kid pass the bone.
Let's get on this mission like Indiana Jones, the GZA.
One who just represent the Wu-Tang click.
With the game and soul, of an old school flick."
And the humor is something completely unique up to that point, most often delivered in the form of Ol' Dirty Bastard:
I come with that ol' loco.
Style from my vocal.
Couldn't peep it with a pair of bi-focals.
I'm no joker! Play me as a joker.
Be on you like a house on fire, smoke ya!
Crews be actin like they gangs, anyway.
Be like, 'Warriors! Come out and play-yay!'
Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea.
Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea.
Dirty, I keep shit stinks in my drawers.
So I can get fzza-funky for yah.
Murder, taste the flame of the Wu-Tang RAHH!
Here comes the Tiger verse Crane!
Ow, be like wild with my style.
Punk! You playing me, chump, you get dumped!
WU! Is comin' through! At a theatre near you!
And get funk like a shoe!
Sometimes an album transcends genre. At a time when I wouldn't even consider anything other than rock'n'roll, Wu-Tang Clan opened my ears to a world of music. Not only did I begin listening to a lot of hip hop, but I began seeking out all that great soul music the Wu, and other rap groups I was listening to, we're sampling. There are a couple of current hip hop artists I like, but nothing compares to the the golden age of the 90's. And for my money, no one compares to the Wu-Tang Clan. Easily my favorite rap group, 36 Chambers just misses first place as my favorite hip hop album of all time, being edged out by one of the member's solo records. It turns out my pot-smoking pals we're on to something, and while most of the punk rock I was listening to from the 90's fell to the wayside, Wu-Tang's 36 Chambers remains timeless.
Here's a great review of Wu's newest release, Wu-Massacre. By M.W. Holden.