1993 was an interesting year for hip hop.
With the West Coast's gangsta rap taking over the culture and the South's steady rise to dominance, the Wu-Tang Clan kept the East Coast in perspective.
The nine-person collective (RZA, GZA, O.D.B., Method Man, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Masta Killa, Reakwon and Cappadonna) dropped their Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers debut on Nov. 9, 1993, spawning hip hop classics "Protect Ya Neck," "C.R.E.A.M." and the ubiquitous "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothin' to F--- With." To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking LP, BET.com recounts the release through a collection of hip hop historians, artists and journalists for Wu-Forever Celebrating 20 Years of Wu-Tang Clan.
In our first installment of our three-part video special, Cam'ron, Jadakiss and others speak on the music climate back in 1993. "In order to stick out, you had to be nice," says journalist Alvin "Aqua" Blanco, author of The Wu-Tang Clan and RZA: A Trip through Hip Hop's 36 Chambers. "You couldn't come with a gimmick and just blow up."
Although not a commercial smash (36 Chambers peaked at No. 48 on Billboard's album charts) the Wu definitely "blew up" from a cultural standpoint with flows straight out of the "Shaolin" — a.k.a. Staten Island. "School was over, it was some other kids from my school who never [went] to class… and they was playing it [36 Chambers]," Cam remembers of first hearing the LP. "I'm outside listening, I'm like 'Yo, how many people are on this song?!'"
Strength in numbers was usually the first, but not the only, part of the Wu that stood out, notes Cheo Hodari Coker author of Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. "From the very beginning [they] got me," Coker says. "Nobody knows anything but there are some times when you see somebody special and you know immediately that it's gonna be a movement that has the potential to change hip hop."
Stay tuned for parts two and three of our Wu Forever series where we look at the creation of 36 Chambers, and the lasting impression the release left on hip hop.
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(Photo: Courtesy of Loud Records)