PopMatters | 20 Years After ‘Enter The Wu-Tang’ Ghostface Killah Leads The Swarm
The year is 1993. A cassette is placed into a tape deck and played. After a series of beeps, a kung-fu sample plays, followed by a war cry of “Bring the muthafuckin’ ruckus, bring the muthafuckin’ ruckus”, repeated over and over. A man begins to rap — “Ghostface, catch the blast of a hype verse/My Glock burst, leavin a hearse/I did worse.”
And thus begins the Wu-Tang Clan’s landmark debut album Enter The Wu-Tang, which turned 20 this year. At times it’s hard to fathom that this group of nine men left such an indelible mark on hip-hop. Enter The Wu-Tang was released on the same day as A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders and just two weeks before Snoop Doggy Dogg’s blockbuster debut album, Doggystyle. All three albums changed the game as we know it; with Doggystyle bringing even more potent G-funk to the table than Dr. Dre’s The Chronic that preceded it, and Midnight Marauders raising the bar for production.
But Enter The Wu-Tang had lingering effects that resonated beyond hip-hop. Almost immediately, the concept of the Wu-Tang Killer Bee began to take shape on a global scale as the swarm grew larger and larger, spreading to countries all over the world. A bit of the phenomenon was captured in the 1995 hip-hop documentary, The Show.
As a group, the Wu-Tang Clan was signed to Loud/RCA Records but their deal was structured in a way that allowed each member to negotiate deals for solo albums on any label of their choosing. During the first round of solo albums, Raekwon stayed with Loud/RCA, GZA went to Geffen, Ol Dirty Bastard found a home with Elektra, Method Man signed with Def Jam and Ghostface Killah landed with Sony.
The plan was to make Method Man the first breakout star. In fact, the B-side to the group’s first single was the song that bears his own name, “Method Man”. His album Tical was released in November 1994 and months later, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s severely underrated Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version was released in March of 1995. Later in the year, Raekwon’s seminal classic, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx made its debut with Ghostface Killah as a featured guest. GZA’sLiquid Swords rounded out the list of Wu-Tang solo efforts for that calendar year.