Review Summary: Can we smoke a blunt up in here?
The 90s are over, but the eras musical prowess is as influential in present times as the sperm cell is in homo-sapien creation. For hip-hop the Wu-Tang Clan is an iconic statement as well as a rap group; its rappers and their lyrical prose embodies the essential East Coast style and they continue to musically evolve as rap itself does. On their initial release Enter the Wu-Tang,
the group fortified their position in the rap world with a unique poetic take on dreary situations growing up on the streets of New York:
I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side
Staying alive was no jive
At second hands, moms bounced on old men
So then we moved to Shaolin land
A young youth, yo rockin the gold tooth, 'Lo goose
Only way, I begin to gee off was drug loot
With slightly psychopathic notions and a knack for drug dealing and robbery, this group of nine sensational MCs debilitated the mainstreams idea of hip-hop music and held the creative doors open for countless rappers - the influential magnitude of 36 Chambers
is doubtless; however, as a work of art the album slumbers while potential greatness soars over its head, getting situated to explode in the future on other albums with the Wu-Tang label adorning them.
The atmosphere of Enter The Wu-Tang
is conclusive evidence to be found throughout this rap groups discography, evidence of a desire to cling to the roots of the music and still be able to lyrically and instrumentally deviate from the initial format without letting us forget the blueprints. In other words, what is heard on 36 Chambers
can be heard on the following works of the Wu-Tang - I refer to this album as 'blueprints' because of its intriguing drug-like effect on other Wu music, as on future albums the monotonous style varies very little from the style on Chambers.
Of course musically this album isn't mediocre in a singular sense - if you need to crown a king of East Coast underground; gritty, eerie rap tunes, then that crown belongs on the heads of the nine original MCs of the Wu. This album is a great example as to why that is. With highlights such as 'Shame On A Nigga', 'Da Mystery of Chessboxin', and 'Protect Ya Neck', the album is quite a valiant eruption of street poetry. The chanting accompanied by a horror-movie worthy piano line on 'Chessboxin' is enveloping and gets you into the music just as much as the witty lyrics do. 'Shame on a Nigga' is ODB's finest work on Chambers
and sports and addictive optimistic beat. And the infectious bass on 'Protect Ya Neck' is brought to life with some of the albums most well flowing raps.
Production on 36 Chambers
isn't in tip-top shape even for its time, and even though its a signature aspect of the Wu the foggy, echoing monotone of this album doesn't do much to keep the listener interested on its own. If it weren't for the insightful lyrical work I'd be able to fall asleep to an instrumental version of this. RZA does a good job producing and can make a sick beat but when it comes to consistency perhaps the RZA is a little too keen. Without 'Method Man', 'C.R.E.A.M.', and '7th Chamber pt. II' the beats would lack any commotion, any soulful skill to really get you hippin' and hoppin'. Even on those three aforementioned tracks the dull atmosphere of Chambers
can be pointed out by any casual music listener.
In conclusion, this album is a fine companion to a little haze smoking and is very enjoyable for what it is. Wu has professionally evolved into what it is today and I believe it was for the better. Even on 8 Diagrams,
a very recent Wu release, the underground trend continues to be a common motif in the group's raps and yet, ever since the monumental songwriting shift of The W
the Wu ascertains their music is reminiscent yet existential at the same time. While the simplistic nature of 36 Chambers
is a downside, it leaves so much room for new art.