20 years ago today, Hip Hop came of age and it was largely in part due to a sick ass click of guys who were determined to teach the Hip Hop masses about both the celebration and the plight of the lives that they were living. While a certain generation of Hip Hop head was coming into adulthood their voices were not yet repped in a deeper more profound way…but then Enter the Wu.
Upon first glimpse of this crew the question that most found themselves asking was “What The Hell Is That?” As something this unique had simply not been seen in such mass force within the culture prior to that. But these guys; The RZA, The GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard,Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, U-God, Raekwon the Chef, and The Method Man would change not only the way that music was played and listened to but the way deals were done within the industry across the board.
They seemed to come out of no where but in fact several of them came from a place that many outside of the NYC Metro area had never even dreamed of. However once Wu dropped and became a household name… just like that, everyone was walking around with Shaolin Land and gold fronts coming in and out of their mouths.
Their grimey truth was nothing that had been rhymed quite this way before. This music wasn’t just for the party or for the soul or to be used as anthems in drive by shootings like some of what was heard prior…this music was a call to battle against an unjust system and toward understanding of those who did what they had to do just to survive. The Wu had recruits of all ages, nationalities, gender and bias. The heads that were growing in numbers out in suburbia were getting a first hand lesson that “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough” and they wanted to hear more. The group appealed not just to one city or region or even country. They took over the world in a way that has never been seen since by a group of their size. They were ready to change not just the industry but a generation.
Later taking on a new member Cappadonna the Wu reigned over a world full of rabid fans who became the beta test for an idea of branding that would stick and eventually take over Hip Hop as a whole. Fans wore their Wu-Wear clothes, took on their trends, played their video games, collected their albums. walked, talked, spit, performed and emulated them to the fullest.
Never had you seen a stage with 500 guys all with mics prior to this era. They had signature moves that only they could perfect and whether you’re speaking of Method’s classic spit slurp and dead eye or RZA’s production ear, Rae’s quotables, Ghost being able to display emotion, Dirty’s Dirty, U-God’s jokes, Masta Killa’s seriousness in delivery, The GZA’s wordplay, Inspect Deck’s severity or the group bringing the game of chess and the sport kung fu into the Hip Hop conscience…you are talking about things that may have been seen in part before but never in a group setting and never with a group of this size. We learned that with them life was hectic.
While they burst on to the scene 20 years ago today in what was dubbed an overnight thing, true Hip Hop historians know they got their Iyanla on and did their work. They traveled to HBCU’s around the nation and sold their music to their demographic in a way that many had never thought of before. This was sheer genius and they were some of the first artists to truly utilize college radio and what it could do to put their names in rotation and on charts. As a result of this they were able to walk into record labels and make demands as their fan base already existed and was solid. They were smart enough to realize what they didn’t know and took the time to learn the business of the business…once they got inside of office doors they knew what they needed to know to be successful and by keeping a collective community within their group and never allowing ego’s to become bigger than the group, they were able to secure a deal that would change the way deals were done forever. The negotiation of each group member being able to record solo music without being attached to the groups label was unheard of till then. But the Wu was in demand and they held all the cards so they eventually got what they wanted and now the Wu clause exists as a result.
So you see kids, there is good reason to celebrate these men today. Not only have they made music that Artists, DJ’s and fans have flocked to for 20 years but, they changed the game as a whole in ways that we may never see again. So we don’t just salute their music today we salute the men themselves for their contributions to the culture at large.
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