ENTER THE WU-TANG (36 CHAMBERS)
Very few records, consistantly among circle to circle, will remain atop the lists as those serious, classic, (Abbey Road--classic, folks) life-changing and, most importantly, ageless records. Maybe only a few on my list would fit that criteria, but most certainly, Enter the Wu-Tang would be there. It has almost become the rite of passage. Some like to still think it's Illmatic or Ready to Die, but I'm confident it's this record.
It hit the shelves with a whisper--at least in Leatherface, Tejas it did. No one knew what the hell Wu-Tang was. I remember, I was 16 years old watching BET (like all well-adjusted white kids) and the video for "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man" came on and I was completely open. Like a zombie, I walked to the local record store, wandered in the door and began barking the words "Wu Tang" over and over until someone looked it up in the computer (I'm convinced that's the first day anyone in the entire company searched those two words in their system).
"Shaolin shadowboxing, in the Wu-Tang swordstyle. If what you say is true, the Shaolin and Wu-Tang could be dangerous. Do you think you Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?"
"On guard! I'll let you try my Wu-Tang style."
Those very words pulled from an old Kung Fu flick began the revolution. In those very words that eerily creep in from the silence, Wu-Tang Clan sank their iron flag deep into the world of hip hop. You gotta remember, when the Wu broke through with this, their debut record, they're an unprecedented eight-piece hip hop group with the ultimate of gimmicks amongst a world of gimmicked hip hop acts: eight lyrical swordsman with a fascination for weed, old Kung-Fu flicks, dusty soul records and cash money. Destined for doom yet driven to perfection, Wu-Tang persevered and because of this relentless and tireless promotion, Wu-Tang finally broke through. Ghostface Killah, RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon and U-God--it was the beginning--the genesis, so to speak.
When the tape was finally stocked at the record store, I bought it without hesitation. I would've bled eleven bucks to buy that cassette that day. Hell, I would've bled thirty. That's how hungry I was. I remember checking out the cover art and wondering, "What in the world is this?"--six hooded swordsmen with blank white faces crouched for attack. Bizarre. Compelling. I opened it up and unfolded the eight panels of the artwork revealing a huge Wu-Tang symbol--now possibly the most recognizable logo in hip hop. It was time to listen.
What fell upon me in that earliest listen was a discomfort--a darkness. It was an onslaught and no one was coming to your aid. You just sat there and endured the beating. The verses were absolute fire exhibiting the skill of veterans and ushered in, both individually and, more amazingly, collectively, a new sound, new concepts, new perspectives--forever altering how was hip hop was viewed from 1993 moving forward.
RZA's production from the very introduction to the last moments is a dusty, unrefined, grimey experience that beholds the quality of an old jazz record dusted off in the attic and played on the family's best hi-fi. Piano loops, hand claps, finger snaps and the hardest bass lines in the game--RZA's techniques screamed loudly of a kid who had his plan together years earlier. As a newcomer, he was already a veteran and has remained highly respected even to this day, some 13 years later.
And if you ever hear the sub-genre "horrorcore" discussed, this album is the original "horrorcore" record. It's the record that beckons, "They just don't make 'em like they used to." If you put this on tomorrow (or as soon as you can find it), it is just a flat-out hip hop record and perhaps the best. It wasn't on this list, but then again, it just depends on who you ask.
You have no excuse to not buy at least the Top 5. We'll strike up a Wu-Tang conversation later.
"Bring Da Ruckus"
"Clan In Da Front"
"Da Mystery of Chessboxin'"
"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing to F' Wit"