Sort of hard to believe that it has been over 10 years since they struck with “36 Chambers” or even 7 years since they hit us with “Wu-Tang Forever.” Almost silently (and amid hosts of solo rumors, group reunion rumors, etc.), Wu-Tang Clan became one of the biggest phenomenons of hip-hop music before dissipating into nothing more than a group of has-beens or already-tried (as in, “Didn’t they already try “Iron Flag” when they made “The W?”)
Still, it is quite hard to envision the world of hip-hop without the RZA, the GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Masta Killa, Ghostface, and Method Man (whew, did I get all 9?!). And, if “Legend of the Wu-Tang: Wu-Tang’s Greatest Hits” provides anything, it offers up the question: “Did these guys really have the ability to produce a greatest hits album based mainly around only 2 albums?”
From their smash-through single “C.R.E.A.M.” to the more recent clubbish-sounding “Protect Ya Neck (The Jump-Off),” Wu-Tang established themselves as one of the few groups to combine 9 separate personalities and successfully have fans skipping from one verse to the next with ease.
Whether it was ODB opining on his next dirty, doggish deed or GZA closing out a track from the anchor position and taking the baton across the finish line, Wu-Tang Clan embraced the culture and embodied the group cipher that so many other hip-hop groups have notably failed out at. Quite frankly, nine emcees within any one group is bound to have problems sooner or later – luckily, the Wu delivered four albums before facing the harsh reality of disagreements and group disharmony.
“Legend of the Wu-Tang Clan” serves as the culmination of the success of the Wu-Tang Clan with their original debut track, “Protect Ya Neck,” sounding just as dirty as ever. “Can It All Be So Simple,” “Shame On A N---a,” and “Triumph,” the ultimate posse cut, all appear in their original formats as well.
And while the “rare” cuts (“Sucker M.C.’s,” “Diesel”) add little to enrich the mystique and aura that surrounds the tradition of the Wu-Tang Clan, they certainly make the disc more appeasing to the middle-ground Wu fan that may not have caught wind of either yet.
More anthologies and series of greatest hit albums are sure to follow in the steps of the Wu-Tang Clan (solo cuts, soundtrack songs, etc.), but for now, “Legend of the Wu-Tang” stands alone as the definition of what made the Clan so effective and popular throughout both hip-hop and the popular music culture. Specially tailored to play as an introduction to the younger hip-hop fans or an accurate tracklisting of great Wu hits for the diehards, “Legend” serves a purpose aside from just keeping the Wu-Tang name alive.
12 years ago, previous to “36 Chambers” dropping, few hip-hop heads or musical heads overall thought of a “band” or group as consisting of 9 equal and talented members. But, 1993 and the Wu-Tang Clan changed all of that. Over 10 years later, that thought is alive again: no hip-hop group will ever exist again with this amount of numbers. And even if they try, Wu-Tang is a hard act to follow – or so the “Legend” says.