36 Chambers of Midnight Marauding Day: 20 Year Anniversary of Artistic Dopeness
Today is a day we should be celebrating like a combo of 4th of July/Thanksgiving/New Years: a spectacular festival of celebration with countdowns, fireworks, bbq’s, and reflections on gratitude. If you are wondering what the hell I am talking about, today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of ‘Midnight Marauders’ by A Tribe Called Quest and ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ by Wu-Tang Clan.If that fact doesn’t make you wanna fire off a Roman Candle, smoke an entire side of beef, or sit around a table to share “Today I am thankful for Ol Dirty Bastard;” then perhaps you have not reflected on how much these two albums contributed to this beautiful thing we call hip-hop.
‘Enter the Wu-Tang’ couldn’t be a more appropriate title for this piece of hip-hop history. When taking your first step into the Wu-Tang, you knew there was nothing like this ever before. While lifting soul samples, including interludes, and gritty violent content wasn’t new. These cats replaced James Brown-like break heavy beats with moody downtempo pieces of Memphis soul, random skits with thematic clips of 30 year old Kung Fu movies, and gangsta gun talk with ninja sword play on par with chess skills. It took all the creativity of the late 80’s, early 90’s and brought a whole other level of innovation to create a hardass, grimy, dusty piece of street art. Dubbing their hood as Shaolin, the Clan from Staten was clearly overflowing with talent and charisma. “M-E-T-H-O-D MAN” made us all instant fans of Mr Meth, Ol Dirty Bastard was clearly a nasty, maniacal genius, you didn’t even know who Ghostface was because he was mysteriously rocking a stocking mask at the start of the Wu, the lyrical prowess of Raekwon, GZA, Inspecktah Deck & U-God never failed, and then you had “The Abbot” RZA pulling all the strings with the most unique, grimy beat tapestries. The album managed to maintain through the wear and tear of being ground down by thousands of listens in your disc man. It kept every kid in your middle school memorizing EVERY single lyric, committing to memory every Clan members’ aliases, as well as perfecting the drawing of the Wu symbol on every bookcover, notebook, desk, and wall within reach. If you told us then that the Wu would go on to sell tens of millions units worldwide, star in over 80 movies & tv show’s, compose a dozen soundtracks, win numerous awards, direct their own Kung-fu movies, formulate a clothing line, and have Wu-disciples in every single corner of the globe, NO ONE would have been surprised. That’s how good that shit was! 20 years and counting: “Wu-Tang is here forever motherfucker!”
On that very same day Q-Tip, Phif Dawg’ and Ali Shaheed Muhammed released their 3rd LP “Midnight Marauders.” While not able to blow minds with a premier, Tribe inspired us all with what was the absolute perfection of their craft. Every and I mean EVERY track was amazing, the beats immaculately laid down with Phife & Tip’s lyricism striking that perfect balance of fun & consciousness. That kind where it makes you wanna have all kinds of sex…but with protection and full, proper respect for your partner in smashing. They were the front runners of The Native Tongues helping to the swell the ranks of the like-minded network to include De La Soul, Common, Queen Latifah, Busta Rhymes/Leaders of the New School, Black Sheep, Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, and more. It was their brand of youthful, but realistic consciousness that made us think things could be different and that it could all go on for forever. While it didn’t last forever and it didn’t cure the societal woes of city youth, Tribe continues to inspire. Their albums taught us the hip-hop values we aspire to and created a strain of hip-hop that is now it’s own community. Throw on ‘Award Tour’ in a crowded place, watch the heads emerge and you’ll realize that with Tribe you will never be alone.
Take some time and listen to both these albums in full today to celebrate “36 Chambers of Midnight Marauding Day.”