As Raekwon puts the finishing touches on his upcoming release Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, we asked the lyrical Chef to break down the Staten Island crews’ catalogue as well as his own solo works. Protect your neck, indeed. —Keith Murphy
Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
There was always something to prove. When you think of us coming out with our first album we represented Staten Island, which is a combination of every borough that just happened to be across the waters. But we were always the borough that wasn’t really spoken about. That’s why representation was an important thing for us. We wanted to let brothers know it’s real over here. We know how to get down on the mic and we have our own style. To tell you the truth, we didn’t think we were doing anything groundbreaking at that time. We only knew that we believed in ourselves. I remember there were radio stations fronting on [our first single] “Protect Ya Neck.” It didn’t fit their program at that time because it sounded like a loud interruption [laughs]. When you think of hip-hop you think of a culture that’s uncontrollable.
RZA had come with a musical chemistry that was good for us. But looking back, do you know how hard it was to get 9 brothers on a song? You would hear three or four MC’s and you would hear a posse cut here and there, but you were not hearing 9 MC’s throughout a whole album. We knew 36 Chambers was an experiment. But we already had it strategically mapped out. I made sure I was on the majority of the songs because I felt like this was the opportunity to express myself as an artist. You can hear it in my voice. I was thirsty. I felt like, “Oh, you haven’t heard shit yet. Wait til’ you hear our solo albums. You haven’t even heard Method Man’s album yet!” I was fighting for my dudes to win. It was about giving the next Wu-Tang Clan project value.