I decided to go through all five Wu-Tang Clan studio albums and make a supercut of every time they say either “Wu-Tang” or one of the nine member’s names. I’ll pause for you to question every decision I’ve ever made in my life.
First of all, yes, this took a few hours. But it was a pleasant journey, like spending time with old friends you never get to see any more. In my life I’ve seen The Wu in concert at Nation in DC, took the Staten Island Ferry to visit the Wu-Wear shop on Victory Blvd and argued with friends over which Wu-Tang member best represented which of our friends (this last one is absolutely quite embarassing, especially when you revisit some of the content of the songs. Did RZA’s hard line five-percenter ideology best define me, or perhaps Ghostface’s rampant, unprintable misogyny on “Wildflower”?)
A few things you learn when you listen to every Wu-Tang album to try to isolate “Wu-Tangs” and their names (note: this only covers the five studio albums: 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Forever, The W, Iron Flag and 8 Diagrams.)
- They say Wu-Tang a lot. It peaks with 36 Chambers, still gets brought up a lot on Forever, and sort of trickles out by the last two. I guess they really wanted to establish who they were. Note that I tried not to include repeated hooks like on “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing to F With” or “High as Wu-Tang Get” just because they sounded repetitive, and their were still plenty without them
- I enjoy thinking about what it would be like if other bands did this, if Led Zeppelin I was just full of lyrics about Led Zeppelin, or if Please Please Me mentioned The Beatles 48 times in its 33 minutes.
- No solo albums, though I imagine the early ones have just as much.
- They also say just plain “Wu” a lot, but this is too difficult to isolate in a listenable form.
- They introduce everybody every chance they get on the first album. By the second album, people knew who they were so they adopted the “refer to yourself by your nickname for your nickname” technique that is so rarely pulled off. Meth becomes Hot Nickels, Raekwon is Chef, RZA unfortunately becomes Bobby Digital.
- RZA has by far the most mentions. Maybe he had a clause where if they didn’t keep talking about him, he’d put out another Bobby Digital album
- Iron Flag and 8 Diagrams are not as forgettable as I had thought. By the time both came out, I wasn’t going to obsess over them the way I did the other two. But it sounds like there’s some solid cuts on them. It’s telling, though, that the absolute standout is this bonus track from 8 Diagrams that sounds like a demo from 36 Chambers.
- Conversely, Wu-Tang Forever is just as full of filler as I remember. I had not re- listened to the “Papa Wu” intro since the day the album came out, and it is just a bizarre way to launch your second album. A 7 minute sermon decrying everything they’re about to extoll the virtues of on the album. A big “emperors new clothes” moment for everyone who had just cut school to buy it and had to pretend to like it. There are just as many songs that don’t seem to go anywhere, the unfortunate Black Shampoo and a bizarre female vocal interpolation of “MacArthur Park” that doesn’t feature a single rapper. Good thing Reunited and Triumph were so sweet.