How the Wu-Tang Clan Made History with Their Debut Album

The Wu-Tang Clans debut album.

The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album.

30 years ago, at the height of the West Coast’s domination in rap, a group of nine elite emcees emerged from Staten Island’s underground to bring rap back to the east. Founded by cousins RZA, GZA, and O.D.B., with a love of comic books and eastern martial arts as the foundation, the Wu-Tang Clan brought a raw and unfiltered sound unlike any other to the world of rap. The album that introduced the clan to the world, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), is not only lauded as the greatest group album of all time but one of the best rap albums ever. 

At only nine songs across 45 minutes, the clan has little time to introduce all of themselves at once. Instead, only a few members are present on any given track. What sounds like a detriment on paper is instead one of the album’s greatest strengths, giving each member their own space to rap. Produced entirely by RZA, the album sounds dusty and dirty, almost lo-fi by today’s standards. This lo-fi sound is a stark contrast to the g-funk of the era and helped forge a unique sound that could only be found on the East Coast. On highlights like “C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me),” the Wu-Tang sound is at its best, with eerie pianos serving as the perfect backdrop for Raekwon to rap about his financial struggles.

After the success of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the group split up to release solo albums for the rest of the decade, all of which are now in the conversation for being the greatest rap album. On these solo albums, the talents of each emcee are on full display, from O.D.B.’s unfiltered bars to GZA’s razor-sharp wit. The group would reunite in 1997 to release Wu-Tang Forever, their last group album of the decade. In the late 90s, more members such as RZA and Ghostface Killah would release solo projects. Projects like O.D.B’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version and Wu-Tang Forever would be nominated for Grammy Awards in 1996 and 1998. In the early 2000s, the clan released two albums, The W and Wu-Tang Iron Flag, both of which did not make a large impact on release. In 2004, O.D.B. would pass away from an accidental overdose. This loss greatly impacted the artistry of the clan and halted releases for the next decade and a half. 

Over the years, the Wu-Tang clan has inspired dozens of artists, from legends like Nas and Jay-Z to new-school rappers like Logic and Denzel Curry. Since 1993, they have released a solid discography, with one of the greatest debut records of all time. The Wu-Tang Clan will go down in history as one of the best groups to ever rap, inspiring millions and shifting hip-hop culture as a whole.