MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND
BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA
Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Loud Records, 1993
As dense as the world they seemed to create out of old soul samples, skewed minimalist Casio keyboard lines, cracked concrete beats and Kung-fu film samples, part of the magic of Wu-Tang is there are really entrances and invitations for anybody to come in and experience their unique vision.
When I fell in love with this record it was a few years after its release, after the dissolution of the first band and musical project I’d ever been in, a kinda heavy post-hardcore band, grown disillusioned with the fashion-first vibes at punk and indie shows, and this brought me back to hip hop after having been estranged from it for a few years. I left San Diego for the first time and spent more time alone starting to understand myself better. Somehow, Wu-Tang, a nine person crew at the time, with MCs with wildly different styles, like comic-book characters come to life, who complemented each other using distinct lyrical codes and imagery, allowed me to disappear inside that world and think about my own, what my code was, what language I could wield, and who I could relate to.
Putting on headphones and listening to this record, riding public transit, observing people and the world around, while say, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” is booming in my brain, was like early VR, allowed me to see the otherworldliness around me and illuminated even the cartoonish aspects of reality that were ripe for transformation in poetry. Anybody who really listens, who can see and hear past the gritty, crude, crime-riddled brushstrokes in their storytelling and narrative vision, knows how huge and inclusive the beating hearts of Wu-Tang Clan are; knows that ‘Wu-Tang is for the seeds!’ But what I really always wanna tell people, is that Wu-Tang is for everyone: it’s about dreamers rising above, taking whatever meager resources you have at your disposal, making do, and CREATING. Make your own world, they say. After all, they made Staten Island, one of New York’s five boroughs, the one that people most wanna avoid or shit on, into “Shao-Lin.”
Not only one of my favorite hip hop records, but one of my faves of any genre, of all time.