Updated: Jan 9
Today's throwback review is of 1993's unarguable classic 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' by Wu-Tang clan. The legendary groups debut album is considrered one of the finest pieces of art the genre has produced - but the question is just how good is it?
For its time period - the production is immaculate - it doesn't hold up against more modern albums now in my opinion but RZA was ahead of his time. The boom bap instrumentals weren't just the usual formula, he messed around with the bass and instruments used and came up with a more entertaining than norm style for the time, such as on 'Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber' which has this eerie, flickering piano showcasing what sets RZA apart from the rest at the time, as the track see's them all go off and is enjoyable to follow with that grittiness and rawness. Everyone does well, Raekwon has some mean punchlines that hit hard and complex lyricism, "Check the method from Bedrock, 'cause I rock your head to bed // Just like rockin' what? Twin Glocks!", Method Man has nice wordplay, bars and punchlines, RZA had a solid verse as did Ol' Dirty Bastard while GZA goes hard with a great rhyme scheme and Inspectah Deck has so many good lines here which all give you the stank face, "Armed and geared 'cause I just broke out the prison // Charged by the system for murderin' the rhythm". The beats are very catchy, produced to a high quality and one of the best produced 90's albums there is. 'Clan in Da Front' has this unique buzzing effect from these plucky guitar strings as we then get a beat switch to a more gentle piano from the chaotic first half as the track boasts on how you shouldn't fuck with GZA or Wu-Tang - both musically and in the streets as they'll beat you, this is done with great wordplay and punchlines from GZA as well as aggressive, dark and mean bars that hit hard, "So stop, the life you save may be your motherfuckin' own // I'll hang your ass with this microphone". That beat is just so good, GZA brings a great energy as it keeps up this very good start to the album. 'Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber - Pt. II' is the same as part 1 lyrically, but instead we have this harsh bass, jazzy percussion and it gives us a more banger, in your face style compared to the eeriness of part 1 and I prefer this one, I think it's the perfect way to end one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.
All the members bring something different throughout this, but the common style of lyrics are aggressive and bring gritty bars, such as on 'Bring Da Ruckus' as Inspectah Deck boasts hard lines that get you so pumped up and graphic imagery as well as a great rhyme scheme, "Set it on the microphone, and competition get blown // By this nasty-ass n**** with my n****, the RZA // Charged like a bull and got pulled like a trigga // So bad, stabbin' up the pad with the vocab, crab", as GZA has an incredibly dark and evil verse which hits hard, "Creepin' up on site, now it's Fright Night // My Wu-Tang slang is mad fuckin' dangerous // And more deadly than the stroke of an axe // Choppin' through your back *swish* // Givin' bystanders heart attacks". RZA has hard hitting bars, Ghostface Killah is great and Raekwon has double and even triple entendres as the track proclaims how dangerous and good Wu-Tang are - and no one wants trouble with them. The groovy bass, heavy boom bap pattern and menacing bass gives a great beat as the track is just a raw, gritty banger and they all bring a mean style with them and it reflects in the output - the track is a sign of what's to come. There's also examples of good storytelling at times, such as on 'Tearz', as RZA gives us a vivid and heart wrenching story of his brother going out to get bread and getting killed in a robbery as Ghostface Killah talks about his friend who has unprotected sex with loads of girls and contracted HIV, doing this with great storytelling. The point of the stories are talking on how happy memories can be followed by some kind of tragedy, and it's done over this great beat with head bobbing drums and these electric keys which are definitely a nice edition. The stories are gripping from start to finish, the sample fits perfectly and it's another 10/10 song on here. 'Can It Be All So Simple / Intermission' is great lyrically, as shown by Ghostface Killah who has a hard hitting verse, "I want to lamp, I want to be in the shade // Plus the spotlight, gettin' my dick rode all night // I want to have me a phat yacht // And enough land to go and plant my own sess crops // But for now it's just a big dream // 'Cause I find myself in a place where I'm last seen", as the track reminisces on their childhood and the life they lived and wanting to make it out over this very gentle bass with a harsh instrument I can't identify in there - even so it feels relaxed and laid back. The rapping is just so enjoyable and inviting, it’s a perfect song with both rappers providing great verses over this amazing RZA beat. They all show off what they've got, and they're a group of highly skilled individuals with classic, smooth 90's flows and mean, angry and gritty deliveries which emits the feeling that they are not to be messed with which is the main theme of the album.
The main message of the album demonstrated by the majority of tracks is simply do not mess with Wu-Tang because they will destroy you, as shown on 'Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit' as the rappers all go hard and as the title suggests - they're saying they're not to be fucked with. The beat is amazing, the drums are perfect and the fuzz baseline adds great effect and this is such an energetic banger and one of my favourite songs ever - the hook gets you so hyped and everything is just so disgustingly good - a classic track. There are other focuses at times during this album, such as on 'C.R.E.A.M.' which focuses on how cash rules everything and the streets are hard to survive. Method Man, Raekwon and Inspectah Deck all provide slick lyricism and detailed lyrics over this elegant piano, great drum pattern and classic instrumental. This is a hip hop anthem, it's an iconic track with an iconic hook and acronym - an amazing song which is the definition of legendary. The track 'Method Man' is an introduction to Method Man - the weed smoking rapper who claims he's better and the rest and will prove it as time progresses. He has a few good lines but lyrically overall isn't too interesting - but - he provides the most fun song on the album as his charisma and energy carries this track along and it's very enjoyable. The content makes for a mean album, it isn't anything ground breaking or packed with content but it's in your face.
Other tracks to look at include 'Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, as we get verses from nearly everyone as Masta Killa has the lyrical showpiece with very graphic, vivid descriptions and some great punchlines to give us the best verse of the track, "This technique attacks the immune system // Disguised like a lie, paralyzin' the victim // You scream as it enters your bloodstream // Erupts your brain from the pain these thoughts contain". The stretchy piano keys, menacing bass and catchy drum pattern are great as the track focuses on familiar themes and again that chanting hook is so energetic as they all get involved and it's such a banger as everyone turns up and brings their own unique qualities - which is exactly what makes Wu-Tang so legendary. 'Shame On A N****' is another don't mess with Wu-Tang track over this subtle but effective bass guitar melody, boom bap drums and jazzy piano style beat which makes this a very enjoyable beat. Ol' Dirty Bastard brings his wild style, as his bars compliment that, Raekwon's verse is great and Method Man's small verse is packed with great bars and wordplay, "First I'm gonna get ya, once I got ya, I gat ya". Everyone's verse is great, the whole cartoonish feel of the track is entertaining and bouncy - and it's a more light hearted track from the album and a really good song. Finally, 'Protect Ya Neck' is, as the title suggests, Wu-Tang telling you to protect your neck because they'll chop it off should you mess with them. Nearly all the members are on here and provide great bars throughout, especially GZA who disses his old label claiming they don't know what they're doing over this deep bass guitar, quick tempo'd drums and overall entertaining beat. They all do so well, with great rapping and enjoyable verses to follow.
To conclude, this is a near perfect album - what can I say - impeccable production, great energy, great rapping and a mash of unique styles where they all bring their own qualities. The skits on here are very engaging and entertaining, giving you an insight to Wu-Tang's life as the chanting hooks are so hype, raw and energetic - they all sound great. Every song is great, almost perfect in fact and it's a classic for a reason. One of the most influential and best rap albums to have ever been made.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Bring Da Ruckus, Shame On A N****, Clan in Da Front, Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit, C.R.E.A.M., Method Man, Protect Ya Neck, Tearz, Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber - Pt. II
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber
OVERALL RATING: Solid 10/10