“Enter The Wu-Tang” in my B100 favourite songs list now, courtesy of “C.R.E.A.M.” from the fantastic first Wu-Tang Clan album.
It’s pretty tough to pick a top track from the brilliant Wu-Tang Clan debut “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” – one of my two favourite ever hip hop albums alongside Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” – but after due consideration “C.R.E.A.M.” “get the money (dollar dollar bill y’all)”. Built around a lush sample from the Charmels’ 1967 Isaac Hayes produced tune “As Long As I’ve Got You“, “C.R.E.A.M.” (an acronym for Cash Rules Everything Around Me) is a more relaxed, storytelling song than much of “Enter The Wu-Tang”, featuring verses from Raekwon and Inspectah Deck plus a naggingly insistent chorus by Method Man.
Originally released in November 1993, “Enter The Wu-Tang” is a supremely exciting mix of kung fu indebted hardcore hip hop tunes including “Bring Da Ruckus”, “Protect Ya Neck” and “Clan In Da Front” together with calmer cuts such as “Tearz”, “Can It All Be So Simple” and “C.R.E.A.M.”. Centred around leader and production genius the RZA (Robert Diggs), the Wu-Tang Clan also featured seven other MCs, which can make the Wu-Tang back story a little unwieldy – however the excellent recent four part docuseries “Of Mics And Men” superbly untangles this and is highly recommended viewing whether a Wu-Tang fan or not.
One unique aspect to the early Wu-Tang story was their record contract with Loud/RCA, which gave each member the ability to also sign individual deals with other labels. This led to one of the most productive splurges of musical creativity ever seen, with six Wu-Tang associated albums surfacing in just two years as listed below – all produced by the RZA, and with Wu-Tang frontmen guesting on each other’s records…
- August 1994: “6 Feet Deep” by Gravediggaz (RZA with Prince Paul, Frukwan, Poetic) (Gee Street/Island)
- November 1994: “Tical” by Method Man (Def Jam)
- March 1995: “Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Elektra)
- August 1995: “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” by Raekwon (Loud/RCA)
- November 1995: “Liquid Swords” by GZA (Geffen)
- October 1996: “Ironman” by Ghostface Killah (Epic)
All six are great records in their own right, with noticeably individual flavours – especially the singular Gravediggaz and Ol’ Dirty Bastard albums – but are also recognisably part of the “Wu Tang Universe”, very appropriately as each MC claimed superhero monikers amongst their many many aliases. After these solo efforts, the second Wu-Tang Clan album proper “Wu-Tang Forever” arrived in October 1997 as a nearly two hour long quadruple LP. Although it has its moments, “Wu-Tang Forever” is a bit of a sprawling mess, but after having changed the face of hip hop with seven classic Wu-Tang albums in just three years beforehand, it’s not surprising that the creative juices may have been running dry at this stage.
The Wu-Empire then expanded further, promoting affiliated artists such as Killah Priest and Capadonna who guested on subsequent solo releases as well as releasing their own albums, making it difficult for fans to keep up and also contributing to an understandable dip in overall quality. 2000’s third Wu-Tang Clan album “The W” was a partial return to form and included arguably their best known song, the fairly poppy “Gravel Pit” – but as “Of Mics And Men” documents it all gets even more chaotic from there on in many ways, most tragically with the 2004 death of the troubled Ol’ Dirty Bastard. But during their imperial mid 90s peak, Wu-Tang Clan really were the cream, producing arguably the greatest run of hip hop records in history – and certainly one of the hardest hitting debuts ever with “Enter The Wu-Tang”.
VIDEOS AND OTHER STUFF
- Other great Wu-Tang Clan songs include: Protect Ya Neck, Tearz, Clan In Da Front, Method Man, Can It All Be So Simple, Bring Da Ruckus, Reunited, Gravel Pit.
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