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The First Time I Heard: Wu Tang Clan

Written by Shugabooga

(Ed. Note: 4th Disciple, legendary producer for the Wu Tang Clan and their affiliates, is going to join us this week on Bubble N’ Blow Radio to discuss his new project.  In preparation for that interview, this is now “Wu-Week” here at Bubblehedz.com.  We hope you enjoy our perspectives on the legendary group!)

Source Magazine was my bible in High School.  I went out the day it was released every month and had a very specific method for reading the magazine.  I started by flipping right to the album reviews.  5 mics meant EVERYTHING, and if there was a chance that I was missing out on a classic, I wanted to know!

The very next thing I did was flip to the “Fat Tape”. This was a section devoted to the hottest unknown songs of the month- and if you could manage to put them all together on one mix, you would have the hottest mixtape out for the month.  I met so many incredible artists through this section.  It was like having the racing form at a horse track.  If they made the “Fat Tape”, chances are they were going to be hot.

The only thing is, unlike today where you can just pop online and download the selections, I was at the mercy of my local record shops.  Dolls Rapid Creation in Euclid was the hot spot to get underground music, but it was a half hour away from me and being a busy high school kid, I couldn’t always get out there.  So it was up to Camelot and Coconuts, the two big chains in our mall, to keep me plugged in.  They didn’t always live up to the task.

At 16 I actually developed a good relationship with a store manager, and if I asked, he would order some stuff for me.  So I actually had a plug for some of these unreleased acts. Most of the time I would say the name of a group and he would just write it down without even acknowledging what I had just said.  But when I mentioned one group, he stopped and looked quizzically, as if I had said something in another language.

“What in the hell is a Wu Tang Clan?”.  His exact words. Wouldn’t be the last time I heard it.

Next time I saw him he said “I got your Wu Tang Clan thing over here”.  Flippant and judgmental would be two succinct terms to describe his demeanor.

Once I saw the single, I felt the same way!

Talk about some generic marketing.  The single for “Protect Your Neck” was a black and white package with a very cheap looking logo, book and sword on the front.  It was about as homemade as you could get, and without the Loud Records looking on the side, I probably would have considered passing on it altogether.  But I reluctantly paid the man the best $1.99 of my life, because that tape changed everything for me.  EVERYTHING.

“Protect Your Neck” was dope.  No doubt.  I couldn’t really distinguish all of the MC’s at first.  It was my introduction to 9 people who would help shape my life, kind of like meeting all of your Uncles at once and then trying to keep all of their stories straight.  But then the one Uncle pulled me to the side and spent some extra time introducing himself.  His name was Uncle Meth, and his song “M.E.T.H.O.D. MAN”, the B Side record, was a turning point in my young life.

It was a freestyle.  I could hear it in how he breathed.  I could actually hear him thinking in some of the pauses from line to line.  I would hear him fall off for a bar, retreating to what MC’s call “bridge lines”- stand by’s you always have handy while you set up a punch line. It was one of the most pure things I’d ever heard and I couldn’t get enough!

Soon after this, “Enter The 36 Chambers” came out.  I couldn’t stop listening. It didn’t sound like ANYTHING before or after.  It was so gritty.  Let’s be honest, production wise, compared to “Chronic” and a lot of the slick West Coast music of the time, “36 Chambers” sounded homemade.  I’m not talking about the actual samples.  I mean the mixes and the mastering.  But that was by design.  The project was meant to be real.  It sounded like the projects.  It sounded like hunger.  It sounded like your stomach at 7:00 at night when you were so busy hustling that you didn’t have time to eat yet.  It was so different that you couldn’t help but feel like you were discovering a new world.  And you absolutely were!

Times were different.  It wasn’t like today where new artists are a click away.  I was the ONLY person at my school hip to them at one point. This was before their legendary appearance on Yo MTV Raps.  I can truly say I was a Day One Wu guy.  People actually LAUGHED at me when I told them who I was listening to.  I remember being in my truck after a football game, windows down, blaring C.R.E.A.M.

“Who is that?”

“Wu Tang Clan.”

“What in the hell is a Wu Tang Clan”.

Wouldn’t be long until the world would know.  Two decades later they have left their stamp on pop culture.  We’ll be exploring it this week.

Wu Week.  http://www.bubblehedz.com

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