The obvious choice is the only choice. The spirit of regional greats like Kool G Rap loom over their shoulders, but the Clan pull you into their own forbidding image of the city, built from components of gangster rap, Five-Percenter ideology and hours of kung-fu movies. With the chemistry of a group of spiritually connected Shaolin monks, the Clan pass the mic like a hot potato, each outlandish personality already feeling fully formed as they veer from solemn street revelations to goofy wisecracks to send-you-crying-to-your-momma threats.
No syllable seems arbitrary. The Clan entered the new millennium with cracks in their armour. Recorded after a self-imposed exile in Benin — where he sought relief from diabetes outside of western medicine — Ghost gave a clinic in outlandish rapping that plays like an abstract art piece swaddled in street scripture and comic-book lore. The narratives around 8 Diagrams have to an extent overwhelmed the music.
That members of the Clan were unhappy with the direction RZA pulled the album in is part of the unvarnished Wu-Tang history. Building a collection of songs when a group is not united is hardly optimum, so that a classic record emerged feels even more extraordinary. But by retaining the kung-fu mysticism, and with no member slouching in the recording booth, 8 Diagrams always feels like a Wu release.
Almost every experiment hits: Campfire is built around what sounds like soldiers humming as they march off to battle, a heavy drumbeat that could have been excavated from an ancient tomb, and a heavy splash of martial-arts movie dialogue.
The first Only Built 4 Cuban Linx saw Raekwon, heavily supported by Ghostface Killah, write and star in a gripping drama swathed in the myth of the American gangster.
Young men at the time, they never sounded all that youthful, their voices rippling with ruin, as if they had already seen too much. Released 14 years later, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt II sees the duo cast as grizzled street veterans, older and wiser but no less willing to drop their enemies on their heads.
The album follows a similarly cinematic outline to the original — Black Mozart is bold enough to reinterpret the Godfather theme tune. As the s stretched on and Clan members became caught up in other interests, relationships strained and comedy sketches threatened to demystify the music , Raekwon and Ghost continued to make great albums.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt II reasserted what everyone paying attention knew: Wu-Tang is for ever. For Spotify users, listen below or click on the Spotify icon in the top right of the playlist; for Apple Music users, click here.
The story is detailed in this book by Cyrus Bozorgmehr, who served as a senior adviser on the enterprise. Supreme Clientele , by Jeff Weiss. This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase.
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