Sunday 5th July is the birthday of Wu-Tang Clan founding father RZA, and to celebrate we've got a special Check the Rhime show going live from General Jimmy dedicated to his five year plan. Ahead of that, we asked five of Liverpool’s music industry figures for various Wu related top fives.
Paddy Quinn of No Fakin DJs - Top 5 Wu-Tang Experiences
Paddy is a long-standing DJ and promoter within Liverpool, running seminal hip-hop clubnight No Fakin in the late 90s early 00s. Here are his five top Wu-Tang experiences.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH: Size?Sessions Instore. Glasgow (2018).
I booked Ghostface for an instore at Size? Glasgow. I met him, Killah Priest and their entourage at their hotel. Ghost wasn't happy. He wanted more dough; he was hustling, he's a hustler, he wanted to kill me, I think. It was a chess game, a real stalemate. He told me I'd have to speak to his driver and called him down.
His driver turned out to be a Scouser, the best Scouser, my old mate Matt Robinson. We went way back to The Zanzibar early days, he hugged me, 'fuckin' ell Paddy how are ya mate, long time'...
Long story short we were back on, Ghost said the clock was ticking so we bounced into the store, he killed it. Then on some planetary alignment, rap bucket list shit, Souls of Mischief and BreakBeat Lou (from ultimate breaks and beats) rocked up. They had been playing the night before, but it meant way too much hip hop heritage in one shop. Mind-Blowing!
WU-TANG CLAN: Manchester Academy (2011).
There wasn't much particularly remarkable about this as a show other than it was the first time I'd seen Method Man live. Pretty sure RZA wasn't there, and there was some sort of tension amongst the Clan. Everybody seemed pretty flat except for Method Man who had boundless energy, stage presence and charisma.
Maybe he was compensating for the others, but you could sense the tension rising. At the end of the show, Meth grabbed a full case of water, launched it into the crowd and said something along the lines of 'Fuck this shit, next time I'm coming out here with Redman'. And so on to…
METHOD MAN AND REDMAN: O2 Academy Liverpool (2014).
This was a big one for Liverpool, amongst a bit of a rap renaissance in the city, a purple patch of sorts. The likes of Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, De La Soul, Mobb Deep all performed around this time. And I was working with DJ 2Kind on his L100 Cypher concept, so the calibre of homegrown and international hip hop talent was super intense.
Meth and Red were insanely high and insanely live, as was the room. The show culminated in Redman stage diving off the speaker stack where a friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, attempted to catch him and tore his bicep off. Have you ever seen a bicep tear off? If not I hope you never have occasion to.
WU-TANG CLAN: Gods of Rap I Tour (2019).
Again another life-affirming rap moment for me. I was fortunate to 'work' behind the scenes on this tour (big ups Chris Wareing) which also featured Public Enemy, De La Soul, and DJ Premier. It felt like a real hip hop moment not only for the UK fans but for the artists themselves.
Method Man was the only absentee from the Clan, a proper headcount really, they embraced this moment as did PE, De La and Preemo. It was pretty emotional watching Young Dirty Bastard do his Ol' man's verses alongside the rest of the Clan, and being surrounded by tens of thousands of adoring fans on the other side of the world. It felt like he was connecting with his pops right then and there.
RZA: The Picket / District Liverpool (2008).
Not sure what to say about Bobby Digital's first and only Liverpool performance. I'll let the bare facts tell it; a RZA WuChess Tournament in Django's Riff (concert square essentially), followed by a full live show in a pre-development 250 cap Baltic Triangle warehouse. It was precisely as mind-blowing as you could imagine it to be. I have no idea how Shinobi pulled that one off but, again, a real Liverpool moment.
Revo’s Five Favourite Wu Solo Albums
Revo has promoted shows and clubnights in Liverpool for close to twenty years, under the legendary brand Evol.
Raekwon The Chef – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995, Loud/RCA Records)
This is my personal favourite solo album from the Wu and in my top 5 hip hop albums of all time. It was a revelation when it came out, everything we wanted from the Chef and more. The intro from John Woo’s ‘The Killer’ set the theme and it introduced the strongest vocal partnership with next level interplay between Rae and Ghostface Killah.
It was a complete record, fully rounded with a beginning, middle and an end alongside classic storytelling. Every song was dynamite and the lyrics were flawless. The big tracks were ‘Criminology’, that was out there on its own, ‘Glaciers of Ice’ and ‘Ice Cream’, but everything was rock solid. The perfect album. Special mention to him calling his weed pipe Sandra.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (1995, Electra)
No master to his style, from the Wu collective of 9 unique rappers it was Russell Tyrone Jones that was the crazy one with an incomparable flow. We simply hadn’t heard anyone like him before, his vocal style was cutting edge borderline maniac padded cell battle rhymes, if you could stand next to him in the heat you were a real MC, the clown prince.
But strangely he also had a pop edge which later transcended hardcore rap with Mariah Carey. I remember hearing ‘Brooklyn Zoo’ on Westwood and it was simply mind-blowing, completely different but still unmistakably Wu-Tang Clan, a real WTF moment. The record is filth but lovable and veered between the humour of ‘Drunk Game’ to the absolute darkness of ‘Snakes’, one of the all-time hardcore tracks. Plus the cover art was off the scale, simplicity at its best, it spoke volumes.
Method Man – Tical – (1994, Def Jam Recordings)
This was the first solo record from the Clan and appeared through a cloud of thick Ganja smoke. It almost sounds like it was recorded underwater, submersed in a U-Boat of green. Method Man was arguably the stand out rapper with the instant star quality, it felt like he was their leader on Enter The Wu-Tang and now it was his time to showcase his flow in the limelight.
His lyrics were raw street game with an occasional deliberate lisp adding edge to his rap persona, always chewing on a toothpick. ‘Bring The Pain’ was the hardcore single dovetailed with the more commercial ‘All I Need’ if you could call it commercial. It had an R&B chorus and it was a love song, an ode to his girl, a real departure but remained on point and I think only Meth could carry it off, the ladies man of the Clan. My favourite however was ‘Meth Vs Chef’, a heavyweight boxing match set in the ring, two of the finest swordsmen sparring for dominance but ending on an equal footing.
GZA the Genius – Liquid Swords – (1995, Geffen)
The only member of the Clan who’d had any real success before the Clan in 1991 a year or so before they formed with ‘Words From The Genius’ featuring the single ‘Pass The Bone’ but it was Liquid Swords that placed him high on the rap pedestal. Samples of the Kung-Fu movie Shogun Assassin were used throughout and set the dark cinematic tone from the intro.
He was the intellectual MC with the degree level vocal finesse and razor sharp dexterity that was the perfect foil to the RZA who partnered him on the album whilst recording it together in a Staten Island basement studio. It was a self-indulgent record but it was brilliant and flowed beautifully from start to finish.
I’ve seen GZA perform twice, once in Austin, Texas at the Mohawk, it was a midnight show and he was so drunk he had to get pulled back from the front of the stage by his boys for offering a girl $1000 to see her ‘titties’. I also saw him when he played Liverpool at the Kazimier. It was one of those legendary nights, a venue filled with pure hip hop heads and thick with weed smoke. As shows go it was perfection and remembered with a haze like glow. Unbelievable.
Ghostface Killah feat Raekwon and Cappadonna – Ironman – (1996, Epic Records)
The most prolific solo artist from the Clan dropping an album a year and touring incessantly around Europe, most memorably tearing the Kazimier to pieces 6 years ago with his blaxploitation organised crime rhyme styles and rap battle sensibilities. Ironman went platinum and was the fifth solo outing hot on the heels of the four before and following the duets with Raekwon we’d been waiting for Tony Starks to come out on his own.
It was almost a sequel to Cuban Linx and continued their partnership which was my favourite since Eazy-E and MC Ren sidestepped NWA for their own action. ‘Assassination Day’ used samples of Gabriel Byrne from The Usual Suspects movie and gave the record a crime anthology feel. ‘Fish’ was the toast to their success after finally making the money to eat well and ‘Motherless Child’ was the genius heartbreaker, an empathic song that drew you close to the realities of growing up on Staten Island and gave you a sense of bonding with Ghostface.
It put the cap on the fast growing Wu dynasty and cemented their reputation as the illest emcees on the planet, two years, 6 albums, all different labels and deals. The Clan were achieving their aim of domination.
General Jimmy's Top 5 Wu Guest Appearances
General Jimmy is a music journalist and DJ, and the host of our Check the Rhime show. Here he picks his favourite appearances by Wu-Tang members on other songs.
Raekwon on Tash's 'Rap Life'
There have been so many memorable Rae moments. Outkast's 'Skew it on the Bar-B', Mobb Deep's 'Eye for an Eye', Fat Joe's 'John Blaze'. This cut from Alkaholik emcee Tash though is a personal favourite, an obscenely infectious beat sees him laying the slang and rhymes so thick at some points it's easier counting the syllables that don't rhyme than the ones that do. The line "High powered hydraulic Eddie Bauer rockwilder" being a case in point.
Ol Dirty Bastard on Pras' 'Ghetto Supastar'
The Wu are primarily about metaphor shattering lyricism and underground street credentials. Still, they needed a bigger audience to appreciate it. Part of RZA's original plan was allowing the rappers to utilise other outlets to spread their message, but this one was a complete accident. ODB just turned up in the studio unannounced, and former Fugee Pras just let him have a go anyway.
The result was pop gold. The song actually does more than your usual R&B jam lyrically, but Dirty screaming "it's all together now in the hood" is by far the best bit. It dominated the charts across the world in 1998, and it would still get a reaction at a wedding now. Probably the most played song featuring any Wu-Tang member ever.
Ghostface on Kanye West's 'New God Flow'
2012 was a near twenty years after Wu's debut 36 Chambers, so Ghostface is clearly in the legend/veteran status with his final verse for West's 'New God Flow'. Nevertheless, he holds his own with Ye and Pusha T, referencing the amount of meat he needs to feed his lion, soccer mums paying for sexual favours and "soap suds on the Mac-11" in a brilliant braggadocio tour de force.
Method Man on Notorious BIG's 'The What'
Meth's lyricism and solo albums can't compare to loftier offerings from his fellow clansmen, but as a guest rapper, he's continuously killed it. He featured on arguably the biggest hip-hop album of all time in 2Pac's All Eyez on Me, made Fred Durst look good alongside DJ Premier on Limp Bizkit's 'All N2Gther now', and stood out on posse cuts with the likes of A$AP Rocky, LL Cool J, Nas and Eminem.
It's his duet with Biggie on 'The What' which is the most memorable though, going toe for toe with the best rapper alive at the time. Biggie even admitted Meth bested him on this, the highlight referring to his penis as his Charles Dickens. It's an obvious pick, but an obvious one for a reason.
Inspektah Deck on Gang Starr’s ‘Above the Clouds’
People gush (justifiably) about Deck's verse on Triumph, but while there's a lot to love about it when you break it down, it's kind of just gibberish. Beautifully constructed and densely woven gibberish, but it doesn't make much sense.
His verse on 'CREAM' is much more aligned to reality, in every sense, but this offering for Gang Starr kind of sits between the two. Beautifully abstract concepts, paradoxical combinations of supreme confidence and humility, but resting on the idea that he's an emcee that sits well above the parapet. When it was released, he still hadn't had a solo album out, but he was always well beyond the comprehension of 99% of any other rappers out there.
Burgundy Blood - Top 5 Fashion Items
One person hip-hop supergroup Burgundy Blood delivers his top 5 fashion items from Wu over the years.
The Clarks Wallabee
Ghostface Killah! The Wally Don. The shoe was already well-established in the culture from back in Jamaica, where raggamuffin's and rude boys would sport these iconic shoes in a way only they could.
But the Wu, in particular Ghostface, took it to a new level. On the cover of his debut album Ironman, Ghost is pictured surrounded by piles of his personally customised Wallabee's, whilst one of his many monikers is the Wally Champ.
The Polo Ralph Lauren "SNOW BEACH" jacket.
In 1994 Raekwon the Chef wore this soon to be iconic gem in the video for "Can It Be All So Simple" and the rest is history. Easily one of the most coveted pieces by any real Lo life (Polo enthusiast), an original can fetch up to a couple of grand if you want to spend it. Polo even re-launched a full Snow Beach Range in 2018, 100% due to the popularity caused by Rae wearing it in that video.
The Dickies Navy Blue Quilted Nylon Gilet
Wu-Tang were always in workwear, and I think I ended up
working on building sites because I could wear my baggy jeans and boots to work. I will always associate this jacket with Method Man because he rocked it a lot. The most prominent is in the 'METHOD Man' video with a blunt tucked into his visor! Meth was incredibly fly. I recently acquired one just this February from Daves in Manhattan - shout to Madnice Macca for the wisdom.
The M65 Field Jacket
As well as workwear the Wu rocked a lot of army gear. I think probably all of them have worn and own this piece in particular. It was pretty much the go-to mid 90's underground hip hop head jacket.
Inspectah Deck wore a navy blue one in Jan '94 in the first big three-page feature piece they had in the legendary source magazine. On the cover of their album Iron flag the whole crew dressed in American army uniforms and M65 jackets to make a visual reference to the iconic photo of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.
The Stocking /Ladies Tights (Worn Over The Head and Face)
Burgundy Blood, the name of my group, is taken from a line in Ghostface Killah's verse on the remix of 'Can It Be All So Simple' where he also mentions Guess clothing, baggy jeans and Clarks' Wallabees.
I wanted to be a 1 Man Wu-Tang with all these different styles I had, wearing different coloured stockings over my face as a way of playing these different characters on screen. That ideas comes straight from Ghostface but more precisely the front cover of "Enter the Wu-Tang "(36 chambers), where the whole crew have stockings over their faces. For that reason, the stocking covering the face will also be the quintessential Wu item of clothing.
The Mighty Mojo - Top 5 Best Wu Verses
Mo Stewart is a journalist and broadcaster with The Anfield Wrap, Premier League Productions and many others. He also DJs in and around Liverpool under the name Mighty Mojo, and runs the View from the Booth blog.
U-God - Protect ya Neck (The Jump Off)
There are more celebrated contributions by U-God – he has the best verse on Gravel Pit for example, but as a DJ this is one the best Wu tracks to drop. That searing blues guitar sample defines the beat, and I've always been a sucker for a verse that jumps up and slaps you from the opening line. The jump-off is a song where no MC stays very long, but I love the way U-God's cadence rides the beat, particularly the shit/sniff/spliff endings.
Method Man – Shame On A Ni**a
In my opinion Method Man is the best Wu MC to call for a feature verse, and he proves it here alongside his Clan. He adds to what is primarily an ODB vehicle with a verse that bounces in and drops some multi-layered rhyme schemes. Then there's a bit of deadly imagery and even a deliberate mistake just to make it sound better before he swaggers out.
ODB – DA Mystery of Chessboxin'
ODB has so many great lines, verses, and songs that it is hard to pick. I went for a verse that gives you everything that you want from Ol Dirty. Cartoon energy, quotable lines, even a half mistake(?) that still causes debates nearly 30 years later.
Even the end - where he becomes the Hip Hop PT Barnum while introducing the whole crew – has some substance to it. If you see me jumping around and think "I can do that", you best bring the rhymes too.
Inspectah Deck – Triumph
Is this the definitive Wu track? Another song in which everyone brought fire to the table and every fan has their favourite verse. Deck is STILL the most underrated MC in the group, partly due to not having had a stone-cold solo hit, but it's notable how often he's asked to open or close a song.
In my view, a great verse can be appreciated on many levels. The flow, and how it rides the beat. The energy with which it's delivered and how it propels the song. The depth of the wordplay within. This verse gets a 10 on all metrics. What I also love about this verse is the words sound great together, even before you delve into the meaning of it.
GZA – PROTECT YA NECK
If it's isn't 'Triumph' then this is the definite Wu Track, and it also has the definitive verse. I think it's fair to say most of them killed it. If I wasn't so anal about these things, I could have picked Deck's opener or ODB's mini career highlights package, but there's a reason why they call him the genius.
By the end of the song, every label/A&R man is salivating, and he then lets anyone who wants to sign them know that they will do so on THEIR terms. He won't let anyone "misuse what I invent". After four minutes of savagery, GZA shows the savvy. Brutal, intelligent, real, and funny as hell. That's Wu-Tang.