30 years ago today two seminal Hip-Hop albums came out and changed music forever: 'Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers' and 'Midnight Marauders'. Quite a few times great records were released simultaneously, but it's not very often that two landmark albums see light on the very same day. 9th of November 1993, to be exact. A Tribe Called Quest's 3rd project “Midnight Marauders” & Wu-Tang Clan‘s seminal debut “Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers”.
Tribe already came off releasing two classic albums in a row, so to materialize that a 3rd time is nothing short of amazing. The chemistry between Phife & Q-Tip is -as expected- still on point, both lyrically inventive and seamlessly flowing throughout the whole album, aided on the mic by Busta Rhymes on "Oh My God", the late Dave from De La Soul on "Award Tour" & Large Professor, who, besides a verse, also is responsible for the instrumental of "Keep It Rollin'".
Peripheral fam member Skeff Anselm takes over the other 'outside' production credit on the album, in the form of Phife's solo joint "8 Million Stories", the rest of the 14-track-deep-album is crafted by the vastly underrated Q-Tip himself and he picks up here where he left off on "The Low End Theory".
However, while that album has a minimal & dark, yet warm feel to it, The Abstract turns it all inside out on "Midnight Marauders", the layers more dense and employing the same type of drum patterns (bass heavy too ;), but with a sheen over it, all maximized to great effect, pointing the way in the ever-changing musical landscape of Hip Hop.
For example, Easy Mo Bee‘s terrific production for Notorious B.I.G.'s classic “Ready To Die” has a lot of sonic resemblances to the smackin’ beats of “Award Tour” “Clap Your Hands” & “We Can Get Down”, DJ Scratch's work for Busta's 1st two solo endeavors also recall Tip's stellar beatwork here, The Beatnuts took cues too for their sophomore '94 project "Street Level", as well as a young beatmaker from Detroit named J Dilla, while The Mobb's Havoc drafted in the man himself on both beats, mixing and a verse for their infamous breakthrough in '95. Such was the widespread influence of The Abstract on the game at that time.
RZA, on the other hand, took the hip hop world in one swoop from ‘93 til ‘97 with wall-to-wall classics for all his Wu brethren, giving every of its 9 members his own sound, colour and direction, while still sounding undeniably Wu. No one could escape the W in those years, nor did anybody want to, as some of the most timeless pieces of hip hop came from Shaolin.
And it all started with “36 Chambers”: raw, relentless, confrontational and incredibly hungry, The Clan literally pouring everything they had in some of the most dark, dusty & menacing beats ever committed to wax, stomping their way out of Park Hill & Stapleton projects, to become Number One for the next few years to come.
RZA's work on "36 Chambers" sort of keeps as a balance between the density of Tribe's "Midnight Marauders" and the deep & muddled approach of "The Low End Theory", but is best described as truly original in its own kind, cause nothing ever sounded remotely like that up 'til that point: deep bass & crunchy lo-fi drums rub elbows with off-kiltered sample choices, poignant keys, inserts from 70's Kung Fu movies or the theme of 60's cartoon "Underdog".
In the meantime, The Clan's 9 members demolish the mic any chance they get: Method Man obviously was the break-out star from the get-go, Ol' Dirty Bastard's antics & presence was instantly felt as well, Raekwon & Ghostface established themselves as the tag team of the future, GZA the sharp scientist with the witty wordplay, Inspechtah Deck the street reporting lyricist, RZA rocking beats, but no slouch on the mic either and the same go for Masta Killa & U-God. Everybody in the Wu is a lethal MC in his own right.
Both Tribe's project and Wu's album went platinum, though ironically -and all the more regarding its now-legendary status-, Wu's debut was a slow-burner and it took all of 2 years to finally reach that point, while Tribe's album 'only' took one year to reach that coveted status.. But even so, upon release, both albums were well-received critically, unanimously praised, and turned out to be highly influential.
And polar opposites both sonically and demographically, these are two cornerstones in the history of Hip Hop, not losing one ounce of their appealing power, now 30 years later.
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