Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most important cultural documents of a generation: the Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The album was crafted in a dojo in Staten Island, New York — better known as Shaolin — by a nine-man collective (sorry, Cappadonna) with a staggering amount of talent, and it was released into the world on November 9, 1993. Mystical, lyrical, fantastical, aerobic, hysterical: They were an evolutionary flock of young guns with old souls. To celebrate the group's debut — which launched a swarm of solo careers, a hive of affiliated artists, a clothing line, a loose philosophy of life, and a few terrible movies — we asked nine Grantland staffers to represent for their favorite member of the Wu, just as they did back in '93.
It was a brief bit of dialogue in the first five minutes of the movie, but it represented the difficulty of making a biopic about TLC in 2013.
Friend: Well, Pebbles is starting her own label here in Atlanta. T-Boz: You talking about Pebbles as in "Don't You Want to Ride in My Mercedes Boy" Pebbles. Friend: You know I can hook it up. You know I do Pebbles's hair right? Pebbles is married to L.A. Reid of LaFace Records. They're killing it in Atlanta.
All of the statements delivered in this conversation were true. Pebbles was starting a label called Pebbitone; she is the Pebbles of '80s hit "Mercedes Boy"; she is married to L.A. Reid, the cofounder of LaFace Records; and all of this took place in Atlanta, Georgia.
Every fall, New York City is bombarded with a number of things, from fallen leaves to bed bugs and rent hikes. Another mainstay is the CMJ Music Marathon, which began on October 15 and officially wraps on the 19th.
In the landscape of festivals, it's closer to a SXSW than a Coachella, as events occur in venues throughout the boroughs. There's no way to see everything, or even most things, so it becomes a week of stumbling upon shows, missing others, and actually attending pre-planned events. Or avoiding the behemoth altogether. I did not avoid the behemoth.
This week's Songs of the Week is dedicated to CMJ: the best from the sets I made, those I missed, those I'm planning on seeing, and those I ultimately will never see.
Origin: Los Angeles via Washington, D.C.
140 Characters on Ideal Setting for Listening to This Song in Your Normal Life:
Where music can be blasted, preferably when you have a task that must be completed, like intense dusting --> rest of album is evolved Zhané.
The eighth-annual BET Hip-Hop Awards took place on September 28 in Atlanta and aired last night. Not to be confused with the BET Awards, an event where performances take place and awards are handed out, the BET Hip-Hop Awards is the event where performances allegedly take place and awards may or may not be handed out, all as a backdrop for the ever-important "cyphers."
These cyphers, like many a televised rap, were once thought to be freestyles, but now are fully understood to be written verses. Even still, they have been integral parts of the year in rap since the inaugural show in 2006. Since then, bubbling stars have made names for themselves, non-English verses have earned golf claps for their subtitled chutzpah, and bona fide cultural moments have taken place that have lived on until the following year's show.
The kids are back in school, so it's time to wrap this up. Instead of the original plan of writing a sixth grade–style manifesto titled "This Is What I Learned This Summer," here are five stories that happened along the way. Think of it as a Captain's Log for someone with zero nautical knowledge and a penchant for injecting himself into stories. That's it. Thanks for reading all summer.
A Based Breakfast in Berkeley
My friend Jesse was going on and on about this place called Ann's Kitchen. I really wanted to get on the road, but a good meal before a ride up the California coast from Berkeley to Oregon sounded perfect.
We were greeted by a standard breakfast spot with long-table cafeteria seating lining most of the restaurant. Standing in line, I glanced to the right and froze.
I froze because all I could see was the back of a man's head, and I knew exactly who that man was, but it didn't seem like anyone else did.
This week, Grantland's Rembert Browne dropped by the Hoodie Clubhouse to recap his actually-pretty-fun-sounding adventures at Burning Man, the famed festival/temporary city/art space that sets up shop every summer in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. $400 for a week without money or cell phones and 8 a.m. dubstep alarms? Sign us up! We also assess the legacy of True Blood in light of the announcement of its final season, and our conflicting feelings about the often funny, frequently grating roast of James Franco on Comedy Central. How many ironic gay/racist jokes does it take to make an actual gay/racist joke? We don't have an answer to this question, but that won't stop us from talking about it.
The morning trip to Monowi, Nebraska, was long overdue. Twice I'd driven through the Midwest knowing that this small town existed and twice I'd passed up the opportunity to visit. But finally, after waking up only a few hours away in Sioux City, Iowa, and headed west, I knew this was my last opportunity.
Two hours into the drive, with only a few minutes remaining until I reached my destination, a wave of nervous energy rushed through my body. I wasn't just rolling into a town, unannounced. I was rolling into her town, unannounced. I wondered how long it's been since she's seen someone? Or talked to someone?
As a series of Gran Torino–fueled front porch thoughts rushed through my brain, I drove by a sign.
That isn't "Monowi, one mile." It's "Monowi: one resident."
Setting sail on this trip in early June, I had a plan. In addition to writing and scavenging, I would use this time on the road as an opportunity to finally get back in shape. And in order to do this properly, I was going to develop a schedule, one revolving around fitness. Stretching in the morning, playing some sport every day, post-work runs — they were all part of the plan. I was even set on purchasing a fold-up bike to have in the trunk as a nice way to see places while getting a workout.
Operation Spring Break '05 Bod was also bleeding into my editorial plans. One of my ideas was to accomplish the annual bike ride across Iowa, RAGBRAI, and if that didn't work out, to perhaps do a Tough Mudder and write about it.
The man shook his head and angrily gestured to the wall, so disgusted he could do nothing but violently sip from his 100-ounce travel mug like it was a drag from a cigarette.
He said it to a room of seven, but no one responded.
To my far left, a man sat leaning against the wall with his legs propped up on the neighboring seat. His hat covered his eyes but was slowly slipping off his face. He never slept for more than two consecutive minutes, because a loud snore would rattle his calm, but he was never awake in these brief intermissions for more than 10 seconds.
As I crumpled up the chicken scratch–filled first draft and found a new piece of paper, I realized I didn't know what to say. Arriving 10 minutes earlier at the house only to be greeted by barks from the home's dogs, I was ready to chalk up this two-hour detour through the middle of Iowa as a failure. I hadn't gotten a response to my e-mail, and now I was leaving a note on a door — a note with an unknown recipient because I didn't even know who lived here — in the hopes someone would see the note and track me down before I left the state.
But I had no interest in the house. It was what sat next door that I cared about.
This sounds like a criticism, but really it's more of an assault on my decision-making abilities.
Entering the Wisconsin Dells city limits, you may initially be puzzled as to where the theme-park-related attractions are hiding, the ones you've been told about and seen advertised for miles. As I neared a big intersection, all I saw was a Walgreens. And a Starbucks. And a Jimmy John's. And a Dunkin' Donuts. This could have been any town in America.