I thought I was so slick.
I could order 16 CD’s for the price of one simply by mailing my order to something called BMG. Internally, I gloated at the fact that I was smart enough to recognize an amazing deal when all the simpletons spent their hard earned money at Record Town.
Bear in mind when I made the selections I was transitioning. I was 13 years-old and obviously becoming straight gangsta. Gone were the Boyz II Men and Another Bad Creation albums as I welcomed in the Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg’s of the world.
So, I ordered an assortment of crap I’d probably never listen to after three sittings, but I also choose this Wu-Tang Clan I’d been hearing about, whose debut album turns 20 years on November 9. This was before the Internet made everything instant and an entire album could be listened to as soon as the thought entered your head. My only outlets were some Source magazines and a finicky HOT 97 signal through my ageless receiver.
“C.R.E.A.M” had recently hit the airwaves and gained some serious momentum, so I was looking forward to the CD coming arriving. Unbeknownst to me, I would not be looking forward to the conviently not spoken about BMG shipping charge (So, that’s how they got you!).
Anyways, when the day I arrived I looked at the CD cover. Men with indistinguishable masks staring at the camera in a room with broken items in the background. “I like this”, I thought.
Once, I started listening I knew it was a classic. It wasn’t you’re tired recycled rap cliches being rhymed together. It was a mix of new sounds with many influenced by South East Asian vibes stemming from old school Kung-Fu movies. This intertwined with the grittiness of New York City daily life spoke volumes to me. It seemed to define my world as a small, white kid with glasses from a diminutive town in Connecticut.
Ok. Not so much.
But, while they didn’t represent me as a whole, in a different way they changed me and my friends. Seemingly over night, their tracks had become mainstays in our daily lexicons. All of a sudden, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”, “Can It Be That It Was All So Simple”, “Bring Da Ruckus” had meanings without the mention of the Wu. And who could forget the friendly threats of sewing one’s asshole closed and continuing to feed them.
The success from the album was enormous, eventually spawning several successful solo albums. Their second album Wu-Tang Forever was stellar, but never replicated the cultural impact as Enter the 36 Chambers.
Apparently, they’re releasing a new album soon are still touring extensively. I say apparently because Ive fallen out of touch with the rap game. In fact I never knew that the “Started from the bottom” phrase was an actual song until I saw the commercial for the Assassins Creed video game last month. Usually I associate hip hop with young artists, one hit wonders, and more importantly my youth. But, the group that really birthed hip hop for me is still going strong.
Overall, I think I’ve bought the album a total of four times. Scratched CD’s, “borrowing” friends, and inexplicable disappearances caused by shady undesirables at dorm get togethers have been the main culprits for repeated buys. But, it never bothered me that much. The songs are in my head. To this day, if someone started me with a line of a song, I could probably finish it no doubt.
Maybe I’ll go buy it again just for old times sake. Still slick as shit in my 33 year-old mind.