This November will mark the 30th anniversary of one of the most innovative and influential hip-hop records of all time: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). First and foremost, why “36 chambers”? The album is titled as such because the human heart has four chambers, and there were nine original members of the Wu-Tang Clan, for a total of 36 chambers. In addition, the GZA, the man who brought together cousins and friends to form the Wu-Tang Clan in 1992 in Staten Island, claims, “There are thirty-six fatal points on the body, and that times ten degrees of separation between each point equals 360 degrees. Therefore, the Wu-Tang Clan is a perfect circle, a cipher”. The clan itself was quite revolutionary for its time, bringing together some of the sharpest MCs of all time to form a game-changing collective, while also allowing each artist to maintain respective solo careers and sign to their own record labels. Diversification of assets at its finest.
Now, into the music. Lyrically, this is already one of the greatest rap albums in history, with an abundance of ferocious bars on each and every song. Tracks are riddled with pop culture references, humor, and raw energy. Most of the songs on the album give the vibe of a freestyle cypher on the street, but three stand out with more of a lyrical storytelling style. First, the relaxed and soulful “Can It Be All So Simple”, where we get the first glimpse of the complimentary styles of Raekwon the Chef and Ghosteface Killah. Next, arguably the most famous song ever put out by the clan, “C.R.E.A.M.” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me). The unforgettable piano loop, combined with lyrics about rough upbringings by Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, and the classic chorus by Method Man; this legendary song is truly a masterpiece. The third “storytelling” track is the rugged, dramatic, and highly visual “Tearz”, where the RZA and Raekwon both paint pictures of typical deviant activities and behaviors. Rather than endorsing these behaviors, like many other rap songs, they make that life out to be gruesome and unforgiving, and tell a tale of caution.
As for the rest of the tracks on the album, you will just have to hear them for yourself. The album includes “Protect Ya Neck”, the clan’s first ever single, and “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber”, the first song containing verses from all nine members of the clan.