These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
Let’s get one thing straight: there will never be another crew like the Wu. Forget any over-sized imitation that came after them, no group ripped it harder like porno flick bitches and challenged you to protect ya neck like those wilin’ from Shaolin Island. Nowhere is this more evident than on Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers.
What’s most remarkable about this album is how the Wu-Tang is as fun as they are hardcore without ever detracting from either element. “Turn the other cheek and I’ll break your fuckin’ chin!” RZA spits on “Protect Ya Neck.” That line, like so many others on 36 Chambers, is equal parts eye-popping and laugh-inducing. Some of the album’s boasts do not have the impact I suspect they had in ’93, but more often than not the Wu only sounds harder and more entertaining in comparison to the candy-coated lyrics dominating a sizable chunk of hip-hop today.
The Wu also balances flying fantasy and concrete realism like no others I’ve heard. On the one hand, “Bring Da Ruckus” and “7th Chamber” are action-packed rides which make Staten Island sound more like a Bruce Lee flick than New Jack City. On the other, “Can It All Be So Simple,” “Tearz” and the awesome “C.R.E.A.M.” are telling of harsh upbringings members of the Wu faced. Peep Raekwon’s verse on “Can It All Be So Simple”:
On the mic, there are so many voices to hear it is hard for everyone to get ample face time. Because of this, the album sounds almost like it was a free-for-all on the mic. This is not a bad thing; it adds to the feeling of fun-filled chaos that permeates throughout 36 Chambers. Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Ghostface Killah in particular bring the most memorable lyrical moments of any of the crew, which has no weak link.
Production-wise, I see why RZA is hailed as he is. Those too young to remember him for anything other than “New Day” fame need to check themselves on his razor-sharp sound skills. Sometimes, the production is extremely raw, and the emcees’ rugged voices work well with the music to enhance the overall listening experience. A master of samples, RZA infuses soul with grime to give an epic feel to “Tearz” and “C.R.E.A.M.”
At the end of the day, there are many reasons why Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers still matters. For one, it is one of the greatest hardcore hip-hop albums ever. For another, its effect is still being heard today, and many of its members are still pushing dope music. More than any other reason, though, 36 Chambers lasts because it is one of the most unique hip-hop albums out there. Often imitated, never duplicated, the Wu brings the ruckus like no other on 36 Chambers.
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