The maxim of the Shaolin (Staten Island, New York) nonet is as follows:
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And if you want beef, then bring the ruckus,
Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin ta f*ck wit
Straight from the motherf*cking slums that’s busted,
Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin ta f*ck wit.
The ripened legacy of the Wu-Tang Clan continues to endure today, 21 years since their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, aka the essential hip-hop album. Even past the golden age of Wu-Tang (1993-1998), their music still remains as relevant as it was before, and still connects to a sweeping area of society, whether you’re a suburban teenager, or someone who’s pinned down under the weight of poverty and institutional racism. Like the Rock Of Gibraltar, the Wu-Tang Clan has always been a steady pillar of strength, consistently putting out great music - even albums put out by the individual members of the Clan have been considered hip-hop classics (re: Only Built For Cuban Linx..., Liquid Swords, Ironman, etc). You just can’t topple the Wu.
RZA - undoubtedly the Vito Corleone of the collective - has a lot to do with their success and their legendary status. Holding a precise, ambitious (and sometimes hardheaded) vision for the group, he produced most of the Clan’s albums as well as their solo and affiliate projects, utilizing production techniques ranging from raw to cinematic. The influences can be identified in today’s hip-hop in the aspects of sampling style, ‘gangsta’ rap personas and the concept of having tightly knit ‘crews’ - 50 Cent’s G-Unit and Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All for example.
Unfortunately, infighting is inevitable when you place several strong personalities into a cluster. As the group enjoyed increased popularity and critical acclaim, financial disputes arrived and the Clan started to grow apart. Legal suits were thrown at each other, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s increasingly erratic and criminal behaviour lead to his death in 2004, when he died of a drug overdose at Wu-Tang’s recording studio. Drifted apart they may be, but the Wu are still family - “The only way out of the Wu is death. Word up. You can quote me on that shit”, Method Man declared in 1995. Recently in 2010 the entire Wu-Tang Clan reunited for a few tour stops in the UK, and blew everyone away with an incredible performance in last year’s Coachella. A new album titled A Better Tomorrow is also coming out soon.
Out of the solo projects coming out from the Clan, Raekwon’s and Ghostface Killah’s recent music have been the more prominent ones - 2007‘s Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang and 2013‘s Twelve Reasons To Die was met with solid critical acclaim. It was to no surprise really that they were chosen for the FMFA 2014 lineup, but it was a pleasant surprise to see that Red Bull Music Academy were bringing them here to Zouk for a debut concert.
Right before the mighty Ghostface Killah and Raekwon took on the stage, we had the likes of Kevin Lester and ShiGGa Shay to warm up the crowd. It was a breeze for Kevin Lester as he got the crowd tuned in to his riveting storytelling rap. Easy to get into, Kevin Lester with MC Boo got the crowd to sway, clap, and even singalong to their songs with 'JAMA' and the Lions XII song 'P.Y.C.O.' Why Kevin Lester is a good performer: besides keeping the everyone in that club in good spirits, and even participating, there are no airs and graces with him. While hip-hop these days can get bad flak for having misogynistic content or contain negative messages, the songs and stories Kevin Lester weave together are of realtime topics close to home and close to the heart, and that seemed to connect with the crowd.
There was a sort of void after he took leave from the stage for ShiGGa Shay to come on. Emerging with an entrance full of swagger, he dove in straight into his performance. Following the energy that Kevin Lester had worked up earlier, it was quite a weak set for ShiGGa Shay and some members of the audience sniffed this out, evoking Wu-Tang to come out already. At first glance ShiGGa looks the part, but lyrically and wordplay-wise he lacks the raw intensity that warrants his music to come off as sincere. Still, starting out as young as 15, ShiGGa still has the time to level up. Save for a few fans up in the front, this crowd was now impatient for the Wu-Tang.
When Ghostface Killah and Raekwon arrived, there was no grand entrance, no big fuss, no confetti - just a lot of people shouting, whooping and Wu-Tang symbols thrown in the air. Two burly guys in plain white tees, rubber shoes, jeans, and over two decades of formidable old school hip-hop history. Remarked the promoters Felix Huang and KoFlow: "We want to bring the sound from the golden era of Hip Hop music to Singapore. Our mission is to offer solid gold music to the real audiences." There was no doubt about that tiger style. While earlier in the night we got a showcase of the shifting terrain of hip-hop music, it was still lightweight stuff. The heavyweights have arrived and it's a motherf*ckin ruckus.