Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

What am I doing with a Wu-Tang Clan album? Aren't I the one who once spoke out against rap like this? It's not drugs and women this time, though, it's guns and crime, the very music parents all across the country fear. But also, I am the one who speaks out in favor of open-mindedness, and I try not to hate things I haven't even heard before. Now that I've heard this group, I'm free to hate them as much as I want. ...Or not?

The music itself is fascinating to behold: while the instrumentals are primarily made to enhance the rappers themselves (all nine of them) with beats and rhythms, the selections are deep and diverse enough to warrant the release of an instrumentals-only album. In each song is some repeating line saxophone, piano, or otherwise, each more unsettling than the last. The only exception, at least to the unsettling part, is "C.R.E.A.M.," which is somewhat relaxing. Somewhat. "Can It All Be So Simple" is also sort of a relief from the rest. Not that this is all bad, actually I find myself impressed by much of the music here.

The sampling must also be talked about. Back in the 90's, there was very little copyright protection when it came to sampling sound and music in your songs, and in many ways one could simply take the sound, put it in the music, and there was no trouble. Now, because of copyright laws, it's much harder and more expensive to sample in your music, but that doesn't really stop people from doing it. Many of the sampling pleasures in this album seem to be from one or more old martial arts movies. Lines like "I'll let you try my wu-tang style" dominate the background, as well as other martial arts sounds, like people getting punched and swords being drawn from their sheathes. This, too, is fascinating to behold, and sometimes it's hard to contain a giggle or two.

The rap itself is pretty straightforward and somewhat predictable, disappointingly. Of course, it's not hard to predict the lyrical themes of a song with a title like "Ain't Nothin' Ta Fuck Wit" or "Shame On A Nigga." Instead, the Clan makes up for it by providing a vocal diversity in that it introduces nine individual regular members of the Clan and (I think) one additional rapper on the song "Protect Ya Neck." Nine different artists in one group can be hard to contain, but it turns out really well in the end. Things start to get really groovy when Method Man gets his own song, and which is probably the best track on the album.

Overall, 36 Chambers is an album that should not be passed up, at least for the legacy it has left behind. No one was doing anything like this in 1993, from mafia lyrics to nine (nine) members in a rap group.

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