Classic Albums: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Marc HenshallClassic AlbumsLeave a Comment

Every so often, an album comes along that changes everything. Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is one of those albums and a classic landmark body of work within the hip-hop and rap genre.

When VMP (Vinyl Me Please) announced the album as their September Essentials Record of the Month, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate another classic album.

Watch the full unboxing and album review below, or scroll down to read our summary of this 90s classic.

Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) Review

As a landmark album in the so-called East Coast renaissance, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is widely regarded as one of the most influential albums of the 90s.

Its raw sound, combined with humorous lyrics was contagious and helped pave the way for future East Coast stars, such as The Notorious B.I.G and Jay Z.

Enter The Wu-Tang undoubtedly changed the game. When hip hop music was dominated by Jazz inspiration, Afrocentric viewpoints, and the rise of West Coast gangster rap, Wu-Tang ushered in a far grittier sound that suited their experiences of New York street life perfectly.

Often in music, the most creative results come from limited access to equipment. The group’s foremost member, Prince Rakeem (known as RZA – pronounced “rizza”) produced the music for 36 Chambers with rudimentary equipment while also utilizing a plethora of audio samples from classic soul tracks and clips from martial arts movies (namely 1981’s Shaolin and Wu-Tang). It’s a loose and gritty collage style that was unprecedented at the time.

A highlight for me personally is the snare sound on the opening track “Bring Da Ruckus” which features a snare sample that’s actually a microphone placed under a paint bucket. 

As the Rapper A$AP Ferg puts it in the 2018 documentary For The Children: 25 Years of Enter The Wu-Tang: 

“That just sounds fresh as fuck still. Those drums… it just sounded like they were making that shit in the sewer”.

Martial Arts & New York Street Life

The Eastern philosophies borrowed from martial arts movies represented the group’s sense of brotherhood, a sentiment best relayed by RZA during their first appearance on Yo! MTV Raps: 

“We’re living a revolution. You watch those old martial arts movies or whatever, it’s always one kid or five against a hundred — that’s how it is with us,” he said. “We’re the eight brothers who rode in thick and we’re fighting the whole world, man. We’re at war, and with ‘war’ backwards, we’re giving it to you raw, uncut, no lies told.”

The sense of brotherhood through the hardship and reality of black life in 1980s/90s New York runs through the album despite the diversity of lyrical contributions from each member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Consistent themes occur throughout, namely urban life, martial arts movies, and comic book references. 

Each member’s approach and delivery are different, but they clearly retain a deep sense of unity and togetherness that helps gel the entire album together as a finished work of art. Most tracks feature more than one rapper, often in battle rhyme style with unmistakable chemistry between each vocal – this is a distinctly tricky thing to achieve when so many personalities and deliveries come together on one production.

Enter The Wu-Tang 36 Chambers review. VMP Essentials Album of the Month for September.

The Radio Breakthrough – “Protect Ya Neck”

“Protect Ya Neck” was among the first tracks recorded and would help elevate them to stardom. It was a Radio hit across New York, which they released on Wu-Tang Records, and it featured an early version of the track “Tearz” as the B-side. 

The success led to their eventual signing with Loud Records, and the eventual success of 36 Chambers.

The album’s success didn’t happen overnight, which is often the case with genre-shifting, landmark albums. It took until 1995 to certify as Platinum, but it had already solidified its influential place in rap history. 

Wu-Tang Clan revolutionized ’90s rap and received critical acclaim in the process. Its rough and ready rawness has a timeless quality that still turns heads nearly 30 years later. It helped shape the future direction of East Coast hip hop, and for that alone, so many greats that would follow in their footsteps owe them a debt of gratitude.

Rarely these days does an album come along that completely changes the direction of popular music. Like Nirvana’s Nevermind in the rock world, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is an album that defined a generation. 

Hip Hop might not be my musical home, but I know an influential album when I hear one. It seems, since the 90s, they just don’t make them quite like they used to.

Check out the VMP Exclusive Release of Enter The Wu-Tang