Saturday, January 19, 2008

"So I got with a sick ass clique and went all out"

My parents had Motown and Parliament Funkadelic

A lot of people had the Beatles

The Wu-Tang Clan might have saved my hip-hop life. The early 90's saw the dominance of gangster rap from the West Coast and while Nas and others were doing their thing in New York, it took 9 guys from Staten Island to bring me back from the dark pits of metal I was trapped in. Not to say I didn't enjoy the West Coast sound, I practically abused my collection of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog tapes. However, when I first heard Enter the 36 chambers I became a man...or it may have been matter. My voice cracked while singing "Method Man", "Can it Be All So Simple" became my anthem for an entire summer of raging hormones...and when Shymeek from 212 got bust in the head the "Tearz" came...but only after the laughter. The string of solo releases and the release of their second collective effort carried me throughout the 90's.

I've seen bits and pieces of the clan throughout my life (including an impromptu set by Raekwon and Ghostface at a Redman/ Method Man show in Radford V.A) , but last night was the first time I saw the entire group together. Well not the entire group. RZA dropped out of the tour due to money issues early on and Method Man had a family emergency. O.D.B was there in spirit, as Chuck and I acted a fool the entire show. The members that showed up, clearly came to make a point though: Wu-tang may truly be forever. The show can be summed up in one word "rejuvenating" .

The opening act was The Foot Soliders from VA and not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though if they used the projection screen above the stage to play TMNT 2: The Secrect of the Ooze I would have been a lot happier.

Much like their animated namesakes, they clearly believe in strength in numbers. They tested the weight limit of the stage as about 10 different emcees (mostly Asian, except for two black guys) threatened to "throw slugs" at those who wished them ill will. I think Marshall said it best "It reminds me of an Asian game show, but no one knows the rules" My favorite part is that the entire set was basically one guy rapping and 9 hype men. Really? Who needs that much hype for songs that no one knows? My second favorite part was near the end when several of the less conditioned members started to get tired and faded towards the back. My third favorite part was when they got off the stage, so I Chuck and I could hear one another's jokes at their expense.

Wu ended up being about 45 minutes late, so during the intermission I refilled my 6 DOLLAR PBR! I didn't think kegs of Pabst Blue Ribbon cost 5 bucks. That's like paying 2 bucks for a pack of Ramen Noodles. Toad's Place is an awesome venue nevertheless. Two huge levels, very nice sound system and here comes the kicker....NO SMOKING! A non smoking venue in the heart of Tobacco City, U.S.A? There is a god. My eyeballs didn't melt down my face and I would actually leave a show smelling the same way as when I entered. They gotta get rid of the no cameras rule though, I missed out on some great shots.

Despite the no smoking rule, about 15 seconds after Wu-Tang took the stage and overpowering aroma swarmed the crowd. Yep, obviously Wu found a loop hole in the no smoking clause of the club and that was the queue for everyone one else who had smuggled in the hippie lettuce to spark up as well. Now that the crowd was fully ready to rock...let's get the show on the road.

I was concerned that they would try to push their new CD 8-Diagrams hard, but to my surprise they didn't play anything off the album (which is actually a very impressive effort). The next hour and a half was a time warp. They took us back to the 36 chambers, playing hits like "Bring the Ruckus", "CREAM" and "Can it all be So Simple". GZA, Raekwon, and Ghostface all played several of their solo hits. I went absolutely nuts. I lost my voice screaming the words to "Incarcerated Scarfaces" and it didn't even matter when I couldn't hear myself reciting "Liquid Swords" and "Mighty Healthy". In the words of Inspectah Deck "Yo, we got a lot of mutha fucking songs yo! Just when I thought they were gonna cut 4th Chamber short, out nowhere emerged Killah Priest to deliver his verse. A sold out crowd was left with nothing to complain about as the surviving members of the clan sent the audience in to a fit of hedonistic rage when they played some O.D.B songs in remembrance of Big Baby Jesus.

The same force that rejuvenated my love of hip-hop back in the 90's, delivered a performance that made Richmond remember what hip-hop shows used to be like before the scene all but died in the Fist City. Last night Wu-tang cemented their presence in my personal hall of fame. I lost my voice screaming lyrics and demanding that Papa Wu himself be brought on stage. Thanks to Chuck also, cause it would have been a lot harder to rock out without him going ape shit next to me.

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