Much of the East Coast spent last week huddled beneath an onslaught of wintry mix — but down in balmy South Beach, the glaciers of ice were embedded in the lyrics of Raekwon the Chef. See, at Art Basel, the annual art festival that has rippled outward to become a monsoon, the stout Wu-Tang swordsman was omnipresent. It was unclear if gallery-scene Illuminati Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian had blessed him with an elaborate induction ceremony, but the Chef was reveling in the moment.
On Thursday night, Raekwon was poolside at the ritzy Delano Hotel, attending a fundraising event for an organization that uses proceeds from art auctions to provide dental care for kids. When bidding for an album cover signed by Jean-Michel Basquiat petered out in the mid-thousands, he barked on the microphone to encourage big spenders. “Put your hands together for this fly, international, luxurious art,” he said. Not coincidentally, Fly International Luxurious Art — or F.I.L.A. — is the title of his forthcoming album. (As an aside, it still sounds amazing when he just talks, like the dude is simultaneously eating Legos and commanding a platoon to flank its enemy.)
Twenty years after releasing Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Method Man returns to Staten Island's Park Hill Projects to detail how he became known as a rapper, the recording of the legendary album, and his special technique of serving drugs to customers in automobiles.
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.
Twenty years ago this Saturday, an atomic bomb was dropped. The Wu-Tang Clan released Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), launching one of the greatest empires in the history of music and forever pushing the axis of hip-hop toward a stranger, darker, and indubitably better place. To commemorate the occasion, we called up RZA to briefly talk about the past, the future, and just what the hell is going on with the new Wu album.
Last year you told the New York Times there's "one last job Wu-Tang Clan must do. The 20th anniversary is next year. And we need to, one time, completely, efficiently, properly represent our brand." So how's it going?
A lot of us are picking up on it, but there are a few of us who are late to the table. I'm still pushing forward full-strength, till my energy run out. The dream was to have it come out this week. It should have came out on our anniversary date. But what I feel spiritually is that that day is gonna trigger a change. I don't know if it's gonna trigger a change in everybody but it's definitely gonna trigger a change in me. I've been really refocusing the last few days, refocusing my energy on the legacy of what we created, and what's gonna come in the future, [in order] to uphold what we said, to uphold what it meant to us and to uphold what it meant to the fans. Is that gonna be in the format of making albums and songs? Is that gonna be in the format of writing books or performing on TV or film? And whatever the format that it leads to, I'm gonna live out the legacy of Wu-Tang forever.
Wu-Tang again? Again and again! On this week's podcast, Andy and I dug in the crates to appreciate one of the great, formative albums of our lifetime. Yes, mf'ers, it's torture. Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) turns 20 on November 9, and to celebrate, we talked about the lasting impact, our favorite members (Cappadonna definitely gets mentioned), and whether something as seismic as the Wu-Tang Clan could ever happen in today's culture. We also chatted briefly about the raw, wonderful rap of the mid-'90s that you could hear on Cassingles and 12-inch records. You're going to want to check out this Spotify playlist Andy dialed up to complement it all.
Welcome to our newish series, Rembert Explains the '90s. Unlike the source material for our previous, '80s-themed series, these videos have been seen countless times, with the result being an unparalleled, almost embarrassing level of expertise. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he's watching the video, then we'll post those thoughts here. This week's installment is a rare non-video, the inaugural issue of Blaze Magazine (1998), temporarily on loan from Friend of Grantland Brian Nolan. If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the '90s, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was an important magazine issue for four main reasons. One, it was the inaugural issue of Blaze Magazine, a 1998 Vibe/Spin Ventures production. Two, Method Man is on the cover, which is never bad. Three, the editor-in-chief's opening letter detailed a story of Wyclef Jean pointing a shotgun at him and threatening to kill him if he got a negative album review, which is very casual. And four, the issue had 120 pages of advertising, which is 53.1 percent of the magazine, which is a ton of ads.
Luckily, 120 pages of 1998 ads, most of which are clothing, is the opposite experience of sitting through a 30-second YouTube ad in 2013.
Because there's nothing more fun than looking back on 1998 ads in the present day.
We're now waist-deep in awards season, and the Grantland staff would like to take this opportunity to remind all the Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Collar nominees out there that should they have to step up to that podium and take that mic on national television, they owe it to themselves to study up beforehand and see how the pros handle it. Here are our favorite awards show acceptance (and unacceptance) speeches from all corners of the entertainment world.
"Our crew had lots of meanings for the words Wu-Tang — ‘Witty, Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game,’ ‘We Usually Take Another N****’s Garments’ — in China, I learned another, the original one: ‘Man who is deserving of God.’ So in that sense, we are all Wu-Tang. You are Wu-Tang." RZA writes those words in The Tao of the Wu, his stew of memoir and spiritual philosophy, penned with Chris Norris and released in 2010. It’s one part 150-page koan, one part gripping reflection on almost dying every day in Brooklyn. Fun book, you should read it. It’s an unlikely dichotomy. But then, RZA’s had an unlikely life.
Yesterday, with minimal advance warning ("NEW SHIT IN 5 MINUTES"), the first single from Rocky's upcoming major-label debut, LongLiveASAP, was sprung. And while not everyone was a fan, at least not right away — Tyler the Creator tweeted "So Funny When Someone Releases A new Song With The Same 4 People That We Expected To Be On It With The Same Shitty 'Trap' Beat Hahaha," and I don't think he meant those "ha"s genuinely — this thing's got major radio potential. Of course, there are some built-in encumbrances to that end: When you do hear it on the radio, it'll sound like everyone's taking an awkwardly long breath before saying "problem."
While profiling RZA ahead of his directorial debut The Man With the Iron Fists, the New York Times asked the dude to speak on the perpetual swirl of Wu-Tang reunion chatter. And instead of handing back a canned, generic answer about how everyone really wants to do it but everyone's really busy, Bobby Digital got nice and blunt and honest. Basically: With the first few Wu-Tang classics (and that includes the first few rounds of Wu-Tang solo albums), everyone listened to me. If we want to make more classics, everyone has to listen to me again.
Back in July, Grantland Trailerologists Dan Silver and Rembert Browne broke down RZA's Russell Crowe–starring kung fu opus The Man With the Iron Fists: "There have been rumors of RZA's directorial debut for years, but I never believed this film was real. Well, consider me a believer if the blood splatter on the lens wasn't enough, then the eyeball flying toward the camera [see here, but only after you've had your breakfast] should be." So that's what we're dealing with here: At one point, just the fact it actually came to fruition would have been enough; now, though, this thing is barreling into theaters (it's out November 2) with some steam. Now here's some more good news for Bobby Digital's first flick: The track list for the soundtrack has been released, and it pretty much slays.
RZA, a man with such a long history of accomplishments and occupations that it's almost embarrassing to list them, came through Paris this weekend to launch his latest endeavor — a new pair of headphones in collaboration with WeSC. If one had only seen glimpses of him at the launch party, surrounded by admirers and an entourage, one might be tricked into assuming that he is a standard-issue celebrity who just slapped his name on a semi-decent product and called it a day. In fact, in person, RZA is almost disarmingly down-to-earth and sincere about everything he's doing — no matter how many things that may be. This year, aside from his many music projects, he's also wrapping up his first directorial feature, The Man With the Iron Fists, starring Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu — which he also cowrote. Between producing, recording, directing, and designing, he found some time to sit down with us and talk about what he's been up to.
Full disclosure: I hate live music. Too loud, too crowded, too hard to have a conversation, and just generally too much yelling for my taste. However, my love of all things Wu-Tang so surpasses my distaste for live music that when I heard that the Clan was bringing their Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game to a venue mere yards from Grantland HQ, I had to attend. OK, fine, I didn’t have to. I planned on attending, then didn’t feel like it, then only came around when I considered how livid 17-Year-Old Me would be if he knew that he would grow up to be Now Me.