Ask any rapper who their musical influences are, and nine times out of 10, you’re guaranteed one legendary group is going to be in the mix. Here are five ways the Wu-Tang Clan changed the music industry forever.
1. They showed it was possible to create life through alchemy: The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was written immediately after using cursed chemical experiments to create a living, breathing humanoid in 1993. Since then, basically every hip-hop group has tried to create similar potions capable of harnessing the power of alchemy, but only to varying levels of success.
2. They used their microphones to make their voices louder instead of to crush bugs: Hip-hop artists had been using microphones on stage for many years, but the Wu-Tang Clan was the first to use them to amplify the sound of their voices, rather than to squish any insects that accidentally crawled onto the stage. Now whenever you see artists rapping straight into the microphone instead of smashing a huge beetle, you know why!
3. Their albums were only sold at Arco gas station convenience stores: Almost every successful hip-hop artist does this now, but it’s hard to believe that the Wu-Tang Clan originated this distribution method at gas stations nationwide.
4. They showed East Coast pride by including recordings of the Atlantic Ocean in all their songs: A soft ocean breeze blowing swiftly across the sands? The gentle crashing of waves against costal rocks? These are the unmistakable sounds of the Wu-Tang Clan throwing some serious shade at L.A. rappers, who were otherwise helpless to respond. While the East Coast/West Coast rivalry had other negative ramifications, such as the deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang’s recordings on beaches from Maine to Florida are still used widely in rap music today.
5. Wu-Tang Forever ended the format war with the group’s legendary endorsement of VHS tapes over LaserDisc: At the peak of their popularity, eight out of nine members of the Wu-Tang Clan publicly backed VHS tapes, while Ghostface Killah, a staunch holdout, continued to endorse LaserDiscs. LaserDiscs, as a result, plummeted in popularity, and in fact, many rappers today have never even seen one.
On this day in music history: November 9, 1993 - “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, the debut album by the Wu-Tang Clan is released. Produced by RZA, it is recorded at Firehouse Studios in New York City from Late 1992 - Mid 1993. Formed in the New York City borough of Staten Island in 1992, the group is put together by RZA (birth name Robert Diggs) and GZA (birth name Gary Grice), after both have recorded unsuccessful solo efforts (as Prince Rakeem and The Genius respectively) for Tommy Boy and Cold Chillin’ Records. The nine member group also features Method Man (Clifford Smith), Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Russell Jones), Raekwon (Corey Woods), Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles), Inspectah Deck (Jason Hunter), U-God (Lamont Hawkins), and Masta Killa (born Elgin Turner name changed to Jamal Arief). The group record and release the single “Protect Ya Neck” on their own Wu-Tang Records label before signing with Steve Rifkind’s Loud Records (distributed by RCA/BMG). United by their mutual love of martial arts movies, their debut album’s title is inspired by the title of the kung fu film “The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin”, and that the nine members “each having four chambers of the heart”, equaling (9 x 4 = ) 36. The finished album is unlike anything that has come before it, marking the resurgence of East Coast Rap in popularity and influence, after West Coast Rap has dominated the genre for much of the past several years. Though raw and underground in its sound, it breaks through to a mainstream audience to become a commercial success. It spins off four singles including “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” (#8 Rap, #32 R&B, #60 Pop), “Method Man” (#17 Rap, #40 R&B, #69 Pop), and “Can It All Be So Simple” (#24 Rap, #82 R&B, #116 Pop Bubbling Under).
Issued on vinyl on a limited basis in 1993, it is reissued in 2000 by both Loud Records and Music On Vinyl. A limited edition pressing on yellow and black swirled vinyl is issued as an exclusive through Newbury Comics in 2014. The album is also released as a limited edition box set, pressed on six 7" vinyl discs with a 56 page book by Get On Down Records in 2016.
The set also comes with a bonus 7" featuring a remix of “Protect Ya Neck”.
“Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty one on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.