My 5 favorite weird Wu-Tang songs
Showtime dropped a four part documentary series about the Wu-Tang Clan that is everything to anyone who has a place in their heart for the Staten Island pioneers. I am doing promo for it right now because it’s the last I can do for the MC’s who raised my hip hop mind. In salute to the sharpest swords of Shaolin I wanted to give you five songs from The Wu that are gloriously weird. The point of this grouping is that it is a mix of songs you likely know and ones you likely don’t.
Raekwon featuring 2 Chainz-F.I.L.A. World from Fly International Luxurious Art
When Wu dropped we stared at the cover and listened to the interlude where RZA explained each member like a superhero. Pretty quickly my pick was Raekwon. He wasn’t as bombastic as other options but I love how smooth he is and the weird ways his mind works. F.I.L.A. World is a great example. The first Wu member to rap with Outkast teams up with 2 Chainz on a KILLER Scram Jones beat that feels like it was made for Rick Ross. Everything fits because The Chef fits anywhere a mic plugs in.
Method Man featuring Raekwon-Meth vs. Chef from Tical
Never heard nothing like it. Track is set up like a street MC battle where we are the audience. Method Man spits fire directly against Raekwon verses. The fans always isolate who beat who on what track but no one ever sets it up as a direct contest on wax. The Wu-Tang are all swordsman convinced they can slice through anything so neither had any fear of losing. It’s my favorite Wu member (Rae) vs. the one I give the most guff to (Meth). That is a conversation for another time. This track is not just bonkers it is a necessary listen for anyone getting into The Wu. It shows you how different their talents are and how seriously they take it.
Old Dirty Bastard-Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie) from Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
Old Dirty was not a clown. Funny how the same kids that watch Heath Ledger as the Joker wax poetic on the brilliant madness of that character but can’t see the genius of ODB. He specifically set out to damage the basic structure of the hip hop album. In 1995, when Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version was released the format for a hip hop song was rigid. R & B was considered soft and you could get called weak for having an R & B hook. It was a reputational battle to be the hardest and that had a lot of cats pretending their way to the finish line. Dirty declares his love of sweet soul music by singing his off beat love song in the most carefree yet sincere way he can. Yes he does a lot of laughing and yelling and making noises you’ll never hear anyone else make but he loves this genre and understands its relationship to Rap. This is the music his mom played for him and my Dad played for me. We can never lose this soul. Listening to Dirty fake orgasm and turn his grunting into an ad-lib was truly mind blowing for high school Dan. It was like the Joker setting mob money on fire.
Ghostface Killah featuring Jadakiss-Run from The Pretty Toney Album
The Pretty Toney album is a disturbingly overlooked classic. An important landmark in Def Jam’s shift to an R & B-first operation. They put it out with no publicity. Ghost was mad but Ghost is always mad, his focus draws from it. As a storyteller Run is a perfect illustration of his powers. Most rappers would never write a song where they are running. They only paint pictures of themselves in positions of power. Not only does Ghost charge into the songs concept, he drills down into the details from the opening seconds. His opening bars on this are ” A Yo I jumped from the 8th floor step, hit the ground. The pound fell, cops is coming. Running through the pissy stairwells I ain’t hear nothing, buggin’, ” You interested in this story? Heck yeah. He’s not just scared and admitting it he’s frantic and builds the entire story in 19 seconds. Don’t get so wrapped up in the personalities the Clan has that you forget these are all genius level artistic talents. All time stuff. I didn’t even get a chance to talk about Jadakiss(‘I learned from the OG’s to save everything’ #classic) . That’s how good Ghost is.
Wu-Tang Clan -Hollow Bones from The W
RZA’s genius production is on full display here as he pulls and tugs at a Syl Johnson sample until it screams for mercy. The pain it emits gives Rae, Deck, and Ghost the perfect backdrop to stew in paranoia, threaten, and take drugs to numb the pain. I always love the Wu songs that are tortured and pained like this one. So few 90’s rappers were willing to explain their hood PTSD as in depth as the Clan (I love you Scarface). I wonder how many upper middle class white kids learned empathy for the economically disadvantaged from them? That isn’t a shot. I am so grateful hip hop was there for the Wu to bring them out of the situations they rapped about and even more grateful they could spend these decades teaching us what it was like and how they’ve grown.
Fame by U-God featuring Styles P from The Keynote Speaker
Wu fans made fun of U-God. I am guilty. If you listen to Keynote Speaker from 2013…he’s not bad. We probably gave him too much hassle the way we did Sheek Louch for not being as good as Styles or Jada. He’s solid and grounded and has had some not good but GREAT verses. Every legendary crew has someone who became the “least favorite” and if you look at them individually, everything looks totally different. This is all to say I am sorry U-God.