MNR: Silver Anniversary
This entire blog is dedicated to the year 1993 in rap music. It isn’t about #45, Yeezy/Kim, Bitcoin, the Gay Rapper, Jason Witten’s hair piece, the fact that Philly outscored the entire rest of the NFC yesterday, Elian Gonzalez, Flip Wilson, Barry Goldwater, the lil sister who just disappeared on Family Matters, the fact that I’ll never again eat at Yankee Stadium for the rest of my life (eh...), the “Gaesha” that used to creep me & Cuervo out on our 3 am Eastside Harlem dirt missions ‘07 era, the way Cash App never allows you to deposit your bread without taking their cut even though it’s an option, Marlon or Randy Jackson, the lil African American midget that’s nice with the nun chucks, Mr. Regalado’s short, punk ass, Lil Mama, Lil B, Lil Cease, Lil Fame, Sonny Carson, or Bleeding Gums Murphy. It’s about 1993 in rap music, dammit.
Having said that, I’d like to shout out Doggystyle, Enta Da Stage, 93 ‘til Infinity, Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z., Black Reign
(u-n-i-t-y), Represent (Don Cartegena aka Joey Crack), Lethal Injection, and Bacdafucup. All are classic albums in their own right, some outright. But I’m concentrating on two albums in particular, who ironically share the same birth (release) date of 11.9.93— Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers) and Midnight Marauders. Let’s start by taking the Staten Island Ferry to Shaolin.
Picture it...Staten Island, 1992. Mega-talented MC/Producer Prince Rakeem (RZA), jaded by his underwhelming solo debut (bad promo), got squad up with his cousins and collaborators Ason Unique (Dirty) and The Genius (GZA). He met a kid from the 1-6 Ooh by the name of the Method Man. He scooped five more kids from ‘round way (Deck, U-God, Rae, Ghost, Masta Killa), brought that ‘80s Saturday afternoon Kung Fu Theater on WPIX Channel 11 and Forty Deuce Kung Foo movies energy to the music, and...the Wu Tang Clan was born.
Understand this, no one had ever seen a group this deep and this talented. EVERY nigga was nice. “Protect Your Neck” hit radio air waves early to mid ‘93 (pre-internet). No one I knew knew anything about this record or this squad. It was crazy. I spent that summer in VA Beach at my cousin DJ Green crib. The local radio station used to play it late night. No mention of the group name or the song’s name. That’s what made the aura so crazy. There was nary a face or personality to attach to any of these bars and verses. Just absolute mystique. And pure fury. By that fall, we knew exactly who the Clan was. Kind of. “Method Man” was the first group (video) single by the man we initially saw as the group’s front man, Mr. Meth (move it on your left!!!). I mean, he had the first single. To his lonely. We loved it. And then the showstopper(s) came...
It’s crazy that I would even attempt to push the idea of plural showstopper on youse. I mean, by definition it’s the ultimate track on a classic album. TLC’s CrazySexyCool remains iconic. It went diamond, for heaven’s sake. But the consensus showstopper is “Red Light Special.” It’s not even up for debate. But with the Wu, it actually exists. “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Can It Be All So Simple” share this rare distinction. They both put you in the exact same mood with their gritty RZA sound. They are both soulful, reflective, nostalgic, and venomous. And both feature my favorite sword from the Clan, Shallah Raekwon the Chef, later of Purple Tape fame. You coulda been from Sri Lanka. Both those tracks put you dead in the B-Stairs of every building In either Park Hill or Stapleton projects. And the videos were visual masterpieces. Grimy yet necessary. And that Snow Beach Polo Sport pullover Rae rocked in the “Can It Be” video...Iconic. Add “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” and “Wu Tang Clan Aint Nuthing ta F’ Wit” and you’ve got six solid classic cuts on one project. Add the interludes and the other tracks (no filler), and you’ve got one of rap’s greatest pieces of work. Everything about this album was iconic, the lyrics, the production, the visuals, the style, and...THE PERSONALITIES. There will NEVER be another ODB (unless you count his son but even then). There was no father to his style. That’s why he was the Old Dirty Bastard. Then there was Meth with the XXXL fro. The toothbrush. The cigars. The eye. He was literally the coolest nigga on planet fucking earth. They were bigger than life. RIP Russel Ason Jones. Boy, I miss you. Forever Wu Tang.
“Honey check it out, you’ve got me mesmerized. With your black hair and your fat ass thighs...”
Q-Tip, “Electric Relaxation”
Wanna know how to accurately predict a classic album off the jump ball? Well, I’ll tell you. You look for the artist(s) who release a lead single titled “Award Tour.” Maybe there was something in the water round ‘bout Linden Blvd in Queens near the 192. By the cleaners. Cuz they were right on with it. Two years removed from their ground breaking iconic sophomore release Low End Theory (their magnum opus, don’t fuck with me on this one), the Tribe reloaded with perhaps the last iconic non-“gangster” or mafioso branded east coast release of the period. If Low End Theory was a 99, Midnight was a 98.5. “Electric Relaxation” is probably their signature song. I still get those same feelings i had as a fifteen year old in tenth grade whenever I play it. “Sucka Nigga” is so fucking slum beautiful, and the #3 defense why I’ll NEVER stop using the word nigga (#1 Amendment 1, #2 my grandparents and parents used nigga around me my entire life). Just for the record, #4 is...fuck you. But Tip defended us to perfection. And that Jack Wilkins “Red Clay” sample Tip procured was soooooooo funky (shouts to Rep & the Vvillain for playing it that night). “Lyrics To Go” is amongst my personal favs on the project. Yet again, Tip’s production is legendary amongst legends. He took the breakdown of Minnie Ripperton’s “Inside My Love” and freaked it. “Oh My God” featured baby dragon Native Tongue Busta Bus growling on the hook. I could go on and on, track by track. They were all amazing. But the project’s final track, “God Lives Through” leaves the ultimate lasting impression on me, even 25 calendars later. And my key sentiment is because without a doubt, it solidifies Phife’s position in the lyrical driver’s seat on the project. I’m forever a Quester. I bear the logo on my left shoulder blade. Tip was my fav of the squad. He always will be. But Phife couldn’t be denied on Midnight. He was shy and humble on People’s Instinctive Travels... He stepped it up big time on Low End Theory. But he took the gold on Midnight.
“Now if my partners don’t look good, Malik won’t look good. If Malik don’t look good, the Quest won’t look good. If the Quest don’t look good, then Queens won’t look good. But since the sounds are universal, New York won’t look good...”
Classic. Through and through. Rest peacefully Phife. Lord knows we miss you. And oh yeah. By the way...ATCQ won the Source Award for Best Group. And with that they became prophets.
Midnight saw the Tribe at its absolute popularity height. No other act could touch em. Their aura was so amazing that the young Brooklynite Mos Def trooped all the way to Manhattan to be one of the faces in the studio during the sessions. Years before Black Star. Years before Black On Both Sides. So did a young kid from Virginia Beach. Yes, all the way from 757. You may have heard of him. His name is Pharrell Williams. Years before the Neptunes. Years before The Clipse. Aura.
“While my Nikes match my Lo hat...” Tip did it to me y’all. He’s the reason my style is so amazing. My Nikes gotta match my Lo hat. Even to this day.
11.9.93...one heaven of a day in Black culture.