Much digital ink has been spilled on the Wu-Tang Clan over the years. You know the drill: they’re the most influential hip-hop group of all time, boasting the rap game’s best producer and multiple contenders for best MC. The massive influence and sheer excellence of the Clan can hardly be overstated. They were omnipresent in the mid-90’s, a cultural phenomenon that brought grimy New York hip-hop to the forefront of music, where even this geeky New England white boy got to experience the best the genre had to offer; a complete musical sea change. RZA, Ol’ Dirty, the Genius, Method Man, Raekwon and Big Ghost became household names, and the Wu-Tang symbol was everywhere.
This unprecedented level of success combined with the canny branding strategies of the RZA to found a hip-hop empire that expanded to ridiculous proportions. It was simply impossible for the core Wu members to produce enough material to satisfy their voracious audience, not without watering down the product, something the RZA, with full creative control, wouldn’t allow. Thus, to feed the public the disposable “W”-branded output they desired, the first Wu-affiliates started popping up.
A trickle that started with Wu-stalwarts like Killarmy and Sunz of Man turned into a flood, as various weed carriers, relatives, 2nd- and 3rd-string producers and hangers-on began churning out Wu-branded albums and guesting on the real Clan’s tracks. The Clan members founded their own vanity posses, with Ghost’s Theodore Unit being the most prominent (the Chef went through a couple; he must have strict standards when it comes to who gets to carry his shit).
This blog is about them, the Hell Razahs and Cilvaringz, the Bronze Nazareths and various Killa Beez. Why? I’m unsure at this point. There are a lot of them, and most of them suck pretty badly, I’m sorry to say. I’m setting myself the unenviable task of tracking down and listening to some really shitty albums and then trying to find something worthwhile to say about them. I’ve committed myself to listening to the entire oeuvre of Buddha Monk, for crying out loud. I may be ill. At the same time, there are some real gems in there that deserve a little more respect than to be tossed aside as a shitty Wu cash grab. I like Killah Priest. 12 O’Clock has a great flow. 4th Disciple, Mathematics and True Master made some really good beats, whether they were aping RZA’s sound or not.
There’s just something oddly charming about all the Wu also-rans and weed carriers, with their terrible album covers (all with some variation on the classic “W”), awkward rhymes and uninspired U-God guest verses. I’m a hopeless Wu-stan (big surprise, I know), and even I have no idea who a lot of these guys are. Just check the wikipedia page. Who the fuck is King Just? I haven’t the faintest, but I’ll be listening to his album all the same.
This is going to be interesting.