So, we’re a few days late, but this post can be viewed as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). It was unleashed on the earholes of the world November 9th, 1993. In some senses, it remains an enigma, an album that contains an iconic single, “C.R.E.A.M.”, that is almost a slow-jam R&B beat. It’s also an album that is one hour’s worth of massive posse cuts.
From around the time of the release of 36 Chambers until a few years into the new millennium, I worked in record stores. First I did a bid at Tower Records and then I spent a real stretch of time at a small Seattle chain called Cellophane Square. Cellophane made its fame on being a groundbreaking new-and-used shop where you could hawk your old CDs to help pay for new ones (if that’s how you lived your life). At least, it was groundbreaking when it first opened in the late 70s.
I was and still remain more of an East Coast head, if that distinction is even relevant anymore, but I’m f*****’ old, so there you go. It’s not that I don’t appreciate West Coast G Funk type s*** or the Bay Area weirdos and the crazy early 90s LA scene. I’ve just always felt that East Coast vibe. Despite all of that, you could find a 20-year-old version of me talkin’ s*** about how Wu-Tang was some ‘frontin’ a** fake Gangsta Rap s***.’ Hindsight is 20/20 and I know that was some super naïve stuff to say, but hey, we’re all young once, right?
My good buddy and co-worker Jake was tired of my junk and decided to take matters into his own hands. Towards the end of our shift one day, Jake turned to me and said, “When we get off work, you’re coming with me to my house and learning a lesson.”
We plopped down onto his couch and took some very large bong rips, fully prepared to listen to records. Jake was very aware of how much I love De La Soul, so he had a very tactical approach.
“Alright, you love De La, right? And that means you love everything that Prince Paul touches, yes?” I nodded in stoned agreement. So he pulls out his original pressing of Gravediggaz 6 Feet Deep. He drops the needle and I was mystified for 52 minutes. It was so dope.
The record ends and I’m just taken aback; I’m in shock.
“Prince Paul is half of the production team on that record,” Jake states, “and the other half is the RZA, from the Wu-Tang Clan.”
Then he looks me dead in the eye while putting on Side A of 36 Chambers, “You ready?” He has that grin of illuminated anticipation at bathing an initiate in the glow of new knowledge.
BRING THE MUTHAFUCKIN RUCKUS, BRING THE MUTHAFUCKIN RUCKUS!!!
The beat lands so hard and dirty. Every line spit is up in your face, aggressive, but not Gangsta Rap and clearly legit and unique. The production is basement and moldy, it’s full of tension, but well crafted.
And by the time Ol’ Dirty Bastard inquires, “Do you wanna get your teeth knocked the f*** out?!” I was hooked like a tuna on a long line. I wasn’t going anywhere. Jake and I nodding our heads, me looking to him for forgiveness for my ignorance. The whole thing felt like an aural a**-beating I was happy to take, just so I could be in the club. Just so I didn’t have to be that ignorant punk anymore. “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” followed immediately by “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F*** Wit” were like a deadly combo jab and uppercut from prime Mike Tyson; I was dazed and stumbling.
“Protect Ya Neck” sounds exactly like how I imagine the tense atmosphere in Stretch & Bobbito’s studio was that one mythical night. Then they have the balls to end the album on a Blues-on-steroids type ragged beat in “7th Chamber.”
All this to say, I don’t regret my initial ignorance, but I’m a little bummed I wasn’t in on the secret of how amazing this album was from the start. I was late to the party. I slept on that s*** and I was dumb to have. I am extremely lucky to have a friend like Jake to catch me up.
Happy 25th birthday to 36 Chambers!!