On this day in Hip-Hop history, the prolific Wu-Tang Clan took the first steps of one the most powerful careers to date by releasing their debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) LP. With a martial arts title and righteously murderous lyrics, this may be one of the most ferocious and raw debuts Hip Hop has ever seen. RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and Method Man were all in rare form, rapping with chips on their shoulders and something to prove.
Recorded, mixed, mastered, and arranged exclusively by RZA at Firehouse Studios in New York, the album totes a very unique and rugged sound. Each track was recorded with all eight active members simultaneously in the studio. To decide which of the eight would appear on a track, RZA would have group members battle rap against each other to ensure that the best man capable would get the job. The result of one of the battles was the track “Meth VS Chef” which was a sparring match between the two for the prize of an RZA beat. The song later surfaced on Method Man’s solo debut Tical. Other premiere tracks from the album include the street anthem “C.R.E.A.M.”, which gave a new euphemism to money, the two solo tracks (“Method Man”, “Clan In Da Front”) and of course, the leading single, the infectious “Protect Ya Neck”.
This album brought cultural reform to Hip Hop. With its conception, New York’s hardcore movement was at its apex. Wu-Tang did not focus on the glitz and glamour that came along with Hip Hop status. Much like the kung-fu movies they emulated, the Wu had a preoccupation with being the most righteous and skillful MC’s on the scene. This attitude toward their craft tempered the collective into Killa Bees, lyrical warriors who were constantly sharpening their swords for war. Their 10,000 hours of training opened the door for artists ranging from The Notorious B.I.G. to Jay-Z to Mobb Deep. They were the voice of the slums and popularized retaining one’s rough edges among a more polished musical aristocracy.
Commercially, this album was a surprise hit. Although the group had already become popular in New York through their sheer presence and ability, it was up-in-the-air whether or not the group was going to appeal to the general public. Fortunately, their change to the game was embraced and the album peaked at #41 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart.