Taylor’s Turntable: ‘Bring da Ruckus’ of Wu-Tang for the first-time listener

Columnist Taylor Ysteboe gave hip hop a serious chance for the first time with the Wu-Tang Clan.

By Taylor Ysteboe | March 10, 2015

Tags: Music Reviews


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Based on my short, dirty blonde hair, my small 5-foot-3-inch frame and my general pixie-like appearance, I don’t look like I would listen to rap. And, big surprise, I don’t.

But according to my research as an eavesdropper and by scanning the covers of magazines, I have inferred that rap is a popular genre. I investigated some more and discovered that the Wu-Tang Clan is a well-liked and admired hip-hop group from New York. From my in-depth Google searches and general Internet tomfoolery, I found out that their 1993 debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” is a widely respected work, and it is even considered one of the best hip-hop albums of, wait for it, all time.

So, I decided to give it a spin. Because why not?

As a non-rap listener, here are some of my initial thoughts.

1.: I really like the phrase “Do you think your Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?” The term “Wu-Tang” just makes me giggle in general, and all of the samplings from the ’80s martial-arts film “Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang” are gold, pure gold. Additionally, the cheesy clips pair well against the harsher lyrics.

2.: There seem to be a lot of curse words. I am not used to so much profanity, but I’ll just leave it at that.

3.: I appreciate the wide variety of the rappers in the Wu-Tang Clan. Even more so, I like their names. Like RZA and Ghostface Killah. Come on, those are some impressive names. On a side note, I noticed that when I Googled Wu-Tang Clan, one of the first results is a Wu-Tang Name Generator. So, from now on, I request to go by B-Loved Dreamer. Please and thank you.

4.: Like the movie sampling, the addition of keys and drums juxtaposed against the gruff rap gives the tracks that little extra oomph. Take “Clan in da Front.” The piano is simple and repetitive, almost trance-like, so we can focus on the gritty lyrics.

5.: To my surprise, upon further inspection, the lyrics are rather clever, full of historical, pop culture and biblical references. In “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’,” U-God raps, “My hip hop will rock and shock the nation like the Emancipation Proclamation.” The same song contains references to Mariah Carey, Jacques Cousteau and Beetle Bailey. Each allusion is witty and fits in the lines, so bravo to you guys.

Overall, I found “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” a cohesive and well-produced album. It came from a raw, throbbing state, and the group was able to channel their excitement and aggression into a rumbling album. It’s gritty. It’s fresh. It’s hardcore. And I like it.

The purpose of this little experiment was to prove a point. I know I’m one to talk because I like to stick within my comfort zone, but I challenge you to venture away from your go-to tunes. If you listen to folk, try out metal. If rap is your cup of tea, give bedroom pop a go.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Music is universal. We slapped on the word “genre” just to make sales easier. So you can cross genre lines and discover that music is still music. Music still carries emotion behind its lyrics, and its beats still resonate within our hearts.

So, while “Wu-Tang slang’ll leave your headpiece hangin’,” you should experiment around, because there is always more to discover in the realm of music.

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