Time Span Between First Five Albums: Fourteen Years.
Powered by the RZA's production, the nine-man set that comprimised Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the scene in the early '90s as larger-than-life rap characters. Buyoed by dusty recordings and Kung-Fu movie samples, their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was a musical tour-de-force. The street single, "Protect Ya Neck" was a buzzsaw effort, rumbling and tumbling, as each MC got a turn to weave their menancng lines through the layered production. The following singles, "Method Man," "C.R.E.A.M." and "Can It Be All So Simple" backed with strong album cuts like "Da Mystery of Chessboxin" and "Bring da Ruckus" equally showcased the Clan's deep bench. Their sophomore set, Wu-Tang Forever cemented their legacy, debuting atop the charts and selling over 600,00 copies in its frist week. The RZA slyly introduced new producers on this project and cut back on the samples, but the impact was the same; "Triumph," itself along was one, a lenghty number with no chorus that managed to be a hit. The W and Iron Flag, released only a year apart from each other, continued the group's influencial run, though in different ways; and with varying sounds. Their last effort, 8 Diagrams made headlines for the collective's disagreement over direction, however, despite RZA's introduction of live instrumentation, the key players still delievered lyrically and in the years since, the final album has earned an appreciate from fans that it lacked during its onset.
_________________________With apologies to De La Soul, five is the magic number. It’s usually the amount of albums in a standard record deal, but few MCs ever fulfill their contractual obligations with as much aplomb as they started. Whether an artist peaks early or late, staying consistent over the duration of five albums has proven challenging no matter the era in hip-hop. XXLmag.com decided to rank the best first-five album runs in hip-hop history (First 5). A new act and their ranking will be revealed each day of the week throughout the month of October and the Top 5 will be revealed on November 5th. Get in on the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #XXLFirst5.
1. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
Release Date: November 9, 1993
Gritty, uncompromising and full of unbridled outsider-ness, the Wu's debut put hip-hop on notice. The project help to shift the balance of power back to the East Coast following The Chronic's release. With an emphasis on lyricism, straight-forward choruses and dark themes set the stage for works by Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas. Although each MC in the Clan was able to shine at various times across the LP, the RZA served as the star, with each intricate Kung-Fu sample, loop and snare particularly placed to created a masterpiece that served as the first stone in the nine-man set's legacy.
2. Wu-Tang Forever (1997)
3. The W (2000)
Release Date: November 20, 2000
After a round of of Wu solo albums and the masterpiece effort of Wu Forever, RZA regrouped with the crew in a California Wu Mansion and the wily collection of MCs put forth some of their best material yet. Twin singles "Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)" and "Gravel Pit" were solid offerings, but the thrilling Masta Killa powered "One Blood Under W" featuring Junior Reid and "Let My Niggas Live" featuring Nas showed that the Clan could play nice with collaborators.
4. Iron Flag (2001)
Release Date: December 18, 2001
Just a year after their last release, the Wu returned and although RZA dominated the production once again, this effort featured more outside producers than the norm. The project was highly praised, though under promoted, but some criticized the the sound, complaining that overall the LP lacked cohesion. But standouts like "Uzi (Pinky Ring)" and "Y'all Been warned" was enough to underscore the basic point: when the Clan crew up on tracks the results don't vary, the product delivers.
5. 8 Diagrams (2007)
The last Wu album was marred by infighting and public disputes between the RZA and the group over the direction of the production. Live instrumentation was incorporated more and despite the protests and die-hards tepid response, in retrospect, the Clan continued to do what they do best. "The Heart Gently Weeps" is among the best songs ever to appear on a Wu LP.
Release Date: December 11, 2007