The Wu-Tang Clan

If what you say is true, the Wu-Tang and the Shao Lin … could be dangerous.

I’m not going to try to convince you that the Wu-Tang Clan are one of the greatest hip-hop forces ever. Though nothing could hope to outdo the conceptual tour de force that is Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), even a Wu project, the Clan launched more solo careers than really can be imagined. They’re the real deal and there’s nothing you can do about it once Ghostface starts emoting over ODB opera, Method Man hooks and RZA’s chopped up piano and soul samples. What I will try to do is convince you not to buy their disappointing music video cash-in.

The reality, though, is that I have to report that the videos aren’t visually stimulating or original, no matter how impressive and diverse the source material is. If anything, it’s worse–what could be harder to do than making a dull video for a song featuring a half-dozen loquacious poets spitting ellipitically about gatts and kung-fu? Perhaps because it leaves so little to the imagination, the directors have limited themselves to two equally-unamusing categories, one lacking character, another too fanciful and not even tenuously tied to the source material.

Many of the videos, including all those for…36 Chambers, are essentially just stark collages of footage of charismatically-gesturing MCs performing their rhymes before green screens and cobbled-together sets resembling city streets hardly worth observing. The first video, for “Method Man’s” showcase single, is the prime example, and while it’s entertaining by itself, a half-hour of such material quickly begins to grate. Only a grainy “remix” of “Method Man” succeeds in capturing any of the intentional old-school vibe, recalling A Tribe Called Quest’s far-superior “Scenario”. Even Method Man, the most charismatic member of the Clan and perhaps the most successful rapper in the group, sounds and looks very alone backed by the silent clan members.

Far worse, though, are the fanciful videos which show, for example, the clan time-traveling to a time where cave-hos grind in cages and ODB wears a bone barette in his ropy hair. Another excursion in time to 1988 ends in a gratuitous, unmotivated shootout. And yes, the Wu also turn into poorly-animated (killah) bees to swarm Queens and Staten Island. The bonus material, mostly consisting of a few dated interviews and live performance clips, adds little to the legacy, other than the demonstrate the obvious: the Wu-tangers are self-conscious, self-aware showmen.

If you need to see the Wu-Tang on video, do yourself a favor and rent Jim Jarmusch’s masterpiece, Coffee & Cigarettes (available at That’s Rentertainment!), which features, for no particular reason, the RZA and GZA shooting the shit with Bill Murray while remaining completely in character. Or, if you need an audio Wu-fix, make sure to cop Ghostface’s Fishscale, for my money the best hip-hop record this year. But stay away from this disappointing retrospective.

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