Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

The Wu-Tang Clan

album cover

The First Salvo from a Crew That Changed the Hip-Hop Game

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once defined prose as "words in their best order," and poetry as "the best words in their best order." Following that thought, hip-hop might be described as "the best words in their best order over the best beat."

The debut of the Wu-Tang Clan, a nine-member collective from Staten Island, ranks among the most creative examples of this, an exhibition of word-slinging that moves with snapping, karate-chopping efficiency—and, no accident, was largely inspired by the elaborate rituals and mythology of martial arts films.

First assembled by the DJ and MC known as RZA (Robert Diggs) at a time when the locus of hip-hop creativity had shifted to the West Coast, the Wu developed tracks with a brutally lean backbeat crunch. Incorporating samples from martial arts films as well as jazz and old R&B records, RZA created dark, lurking-in-the-shadows vibes, and then let his super-imaginative supporting cast build on the menace. Though this is a debut record made by largely unknown talents, each MC hits the microphone with a distinct sound and approach—Ol' Dirty Bastard raps in a nasal singsong, Raekwon delivers his thoughts in a rat-a-tatting stutter, Method Man deploys a stoner mumble, Ghostface Killah affects a tone of almost overwhelmed grimness. That's one remarkable thing about Enter: There are enough rappers involved to field a baseball team, and most tracks are done in a fresh, freewheeling round-robin style involving several of them, yet somehow the individual voices are highly differentiated. By the time this engrossing set of battle rhymes ends, you know these characters.

And after this album hit, the world got to know them much better. As Enter the Wu-Tang was embraced by the hip-hop nation, the collective became a dynasty of sorts, with various MCs embarking on solo careers. Some released albums that are hip-hop classics in their own right. Still, to fully appreciate the collective it's necessary to start here, at the beginning, when its members were concerned with choosing words carefully, putting them in the best order, and delivering them with thrilling rhythmic exactitude.

Genre: Hip-Hop
Released: 1993, Loud
Key Tracks: "Method Man," "Clan in da Front," "Protect Ya Neck," "C.R.E.A.M."
Catalog Choice: The W. Method Man: Tical. Ol' Dirty Bastard: Best of.
Next Stop: Mobb Deep: Infamous
After That: A Tribe Called Quest: Midnight Marauders
Book Pages: 873–874

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#1 from Brent Carter, chilltown Va - 12/11/2008 9:43


ah yes “enter the Wu Tang936 chambers)” is one of my all time favorite rap cd’s. I was finishing Elementary school when it released and each member had their own style and they brought it all together perfectly. Each member shines through and one doesnt overpower the other. I dont think this cd will ever be matched by The Wu Tang clan or any individual album from the artist’s (although they have some good ones..Bobby digital & Supreme Clientale FTW). Songs like “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Protect ya neck” so grimey and real, well never lose its influence.

RIP Ol dirty bastard

#2 from Craig, The 508 - 02/13/2009 11:07

One of the best hip hop albums for sure. Beginning to end, possibly the best. Look at it like this, RZA’s creative mind brought a new era of music with his dark, grimey, and yet simple melodies, which also consisted of 9 varying, and yet deadly verbal assassins rhyming. Mainstream media understands that this album helped launch members like Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard to the limelight, but most fail to recognize the talent that the lesser known clansmen bring to the mic. GZA’s “Liquid Swords”, and Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”, 2 of the genre’s classic solo albums, both stemmed from “Enter the Wu-Tang”; not to mention the already noted 1st LP’s from Johnny Blaze and Ason Unique themselves. With this said, don’t take my word for it, if you look across the hip hop nation, it’s quick to see the influence this album had on notable artists such as Nas, Mobb Deep, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, Pharcyde, and Jedi Mind Tricks to name a few. Please do youself a favor, get a hold of this album, close your eyes and drift away to Shaolin.

#3 from tom moon - 02/13/2009 6:10


Thanks for that great post. Your point about the influence of 36 Chambers is so right, especially concerning Kanye and Nas and one of my favorite underloved acts, Jedi Mind Tricks!
(Those guys are wicked smart…)

That made my day…


#4 from 3freester - 02/28/2009 4:10

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once defined prose as “words in their best order,” and poetry as “the best words in their best order.” Following that thought, hip-hop might be described as “the best words in their best order over the best beat.”


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