How Classic Is Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers? | Album Review



Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (Nov.9, 1993)

The year is 1992, the place is Staten Island, and a 23-year-old RZA is in the process of masterminding a Hip-Hop collective that will revolutionize both the sound and the business of Hip-Hop forever. The idea was to make a huge crew consisting of razor-sharp MC's who were all capable of being amazing solo artists in their own right, and by having them on separate labels they could diversify their assets so to speak. But they weren't simply going to be artists, they were going to be entrepreneurs all investing in a new brand called: Wu-Tang. This particular brand came from the rugged streets of Shaolin and was paving its own sound and style and creating a worldwide audience that would stretch from the slums of Shaolin to all corners of the globe. And despite being a massively popular movement in the Hip-Hop world, the sound was decidedly rugged, ruff, creative and original to a tee. All of the marks of their unique style are present on '36 Chambers' although they would only continue to develop and mature in all aspects on their subsequent releases.  

Lyrically this is a masterful battle rap album, with hundreds of ferocious bars delivered by some of the hungriest, most talented and creative MC's to ever grab the mic. Drawing on their many inspirations these talented young MC's never cease to entertain with their pop culture references, humor, and raw energy. While the majority of the album's lyrics have the vibe of a cipher on the corner, there are three tracks that stand out lyrically with more of a storytelling style. The first track that uses this approach is the soulful and chilled out track 'Can't It All Be So Simple' which is the first time we get to hear Raekwon and Ghostface team up with their complementary styles. The second track in this mold is the classic C.R.E.A.M. with its famous acronym (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) with its memorable piano loop coupled with 'growing up hard' lyrics by Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, the track is topped off with the classic chorus by Method Man. The last storytelling track is the highly dramatic, and visual 'Tearz' where RZA paints a picture of a traumatic and violent experience on streets, while Ghostface chimes in with a story about HIV/AIDS.

Observing the Wu-Tang Clan and the solo projects that followed there is one thing that is blatantly apparent, and that's how the Clan delivered a sound and style that was amazingly original and unorthodox not only lyrically, but certainly on the production side also, where RZA created soundscapes that were catchy, atmospheric, and rugged all while being decidedly non-commercial. That's a mighty hard combination to pull off but the RZA did it with flying colors by creating a style all his own yet still accessible enough to capture audiences across the globe and inspire an entire planet of upcoming Hip-Hop artists to follow his lead. Most of the tracks on '36 Chambers' have a funky and hardcore vibe (something that would be less present on their next album: 1997's 'Wu-Tang Forever'), on this album the strength of the beats is an undeniable catchiness and funky rhythmic quality that suits the high energy rapping perfectly. On the other side of the spectrum the inclusion, 'Can It All Be So Simple", 'C.R.E.A.M.', 'Tearz' add a melodic and relaxed element that rounds out the album's hardcore street battle atmosphere.

Adding to the charm of the album are the skits, the most famous one being the 'Torture Skit' where Raekwon and Method Man try to out-do each other in creating the most excruciating torture scenarios. They do a great job at this and the skit is both horrific and hilarious to listen to, undoubtedly making it one of Hip-Hop's classic skits. The album actually has several smaller skits scattered throughout the tracklist making this a very good skit album also.

After it's release late in 1993, the album peaked at 41 on the Billboard charts and wasn't certified platinum until May 15, 1995. So it was game-changer despite being a slow burner saleswise. Nonetheless, it was the firecracker that set off a stream of rapid releases from '94-'97, which were all produced by RZA and each with their unique sounds. An amazing start for Hip-Hop's most exciting, memorable and beloved crew. 

How Classic Is Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers?

CLASSIC: Shame On a Nigga, Wu-Tang Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit, C.R.E.A.M., Method Man, Protect Ya Neck | GREAT: Da Mystery of Chessboxin', Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber - Part II - Conclusion | SOLID: Bring Da Ruckus, Can It All Be So Simple, Tearz | OKAY: Clan In Da Front, Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber

How do the ratings work? 

  • Each track receives a score from 1-6

  • A classic song = 6 pts - A dope song = 5 pts - A solid song = 4 pts etc.

  • The points are added up and divided by the number of songs

  • The score is then rounded to the nearest whole number

  • The most classic rating for an album is 6 and the most dog shit rating is 1