On this day, November 9, in hip-hop history…
1993: The lonely highway of musical history is littered with remnants of groups that could not keep it together. Differing visions, massive egos and different musical tastes have caused even the strongest of bonds to shatter. Even the Beatles could only last seven years. Things might fall apart but Wu-Tang is forever. Two decades after the release of their remarkable debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the mighty Wu-Tang Clan still ain’t nothing to f— with.
It can be difficult to describe to newcomers how unlikely the Wu’s massive success was when they debuted in November 1993. Wu-Tang was a group of nine wildly different rappers making defiantly hardcore, New York rap music in an era in which hip-hop was starting to move toward the center of the pop spectrum. How was that going to work? Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) succeeded in ways that few could expect, bringing a stripped-down and rugged aesthetic back to the forefront of hip-hop. Led by The RZA’s prescient, overarching vision, the Wu-Tang assaulted pop culture with a Kung fu grip and razor sharp lyricism. It turned each member a star and launched one of hip-hop’s most enduring and popular brands.
The RZA, The GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Masta Killa delivered one of the most famous albums in hip-hop history on 36 Chambers. “Protect Ya Neck” was the statement of purpose. “C.R.E.A.M.” was the anthem. Songs such as “Can’t It Be All So Simple” and “Tearz” showcased a gift for humanistic storytelling. There were 12 songs and they were practically all classics.
20 years later, Wu-Tang Clan is still going strong, touring the nation with plans on releasing their sixth official album next year. The legacy of the Wu-Tang can be seen not only in their music and the group’s success as solo artists but their influence on the business side of hip-hop as they reinvented the concept of record deals, launched clothing lands and expanded their brand in ways that hip-hop had not seen to date. Regardless of their innovation, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) goes down as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever and the group’s crowning achievement.