The beginning of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) leads us into 80s martial arts movies. Before any music can be heard, dialogue from Shaolin & Wu-Tang and Ten Tigers from Kwangtung reverberates through the speakers. “On guard, I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style.”
From here, “Bring Da Ruckus” slashes aggressively with chorus shouts from Prince Rakeem aka RZA himself, and as he literally “brings the motherfucking ruckus,” 36 Chambers introduces its gritty, manic and in-your-face hip-hop that inspired thousands and set forth one of the biggest hip-hop branches of all time.
I don’t know what it is, but Method Man & Redman’s Blackout! will always be one of my go-to hip-hop records. In fact, it might be my favorite hip-hop record of all time. Whenever there’s an argument to be placed on “the best of the best,” I always turn to this record as an example. Maybe it’s because I’m fanatical about their ability to play off of each other as they digest each other’s bars and add with a bit of their own commentary, quickly making us think that these dudes are both smart and funny. Maybe it’s because of the production, an Eric Sermon dominated piece with tight-knit bass and percussion delivery. Or maybe it’s because Blackout! in its entirety is a playful album with some of the best creativity hip-hop can throw at you with innovative skits (some/most skits are terrible), jib-jab wordplay and intense bars that never end. I like to dissect records for the most part, but with Blackout! I’ve always accepted it just as it was presented to me. Call this pretentious or lazy or whatever, but sometimes a classic record doesn’t need to be thoroughly discussed to be enjoyed. Whatever this album means to me I know for a fact that Blackout! is Method Man & Redman at their best, and when they’re together and at their best they’re unstoppable.
Released in 1999, Blackout! by Method Man & Redman took hip-hop to new heights. This entire album is full of classic tracks such as “Cereal Killer,” “Maaad Crew,” “Dats Dat S**t” and “Cheka” that highlight the production skills of Reggie Noble (aka Redman), Erick Sermon, Gov Mattic and RZA while putting Meth and Red’s dynamic skills as MCs on full display. I will never forget the first time I was introduced to this masterpiece back in high school by my boy G-mess. There are two specific instances, the beginning sequence and a track called “Where We At (Skit),” that changed my relationship with hip-hop forever.
The first thing you hear on the hit record Blackout! is Redman asking, “Do you want to get high, man?” From there, Method Man asks, “Does Pinocchio have wooden balls, man?” The intro, A Special Joint (Intro), develops into a slow, hazy groove that makes you feel like you’re sitting on your roommate’s dingy couch, passing a blunt to the left while at the same time taking a huge hit from your favorite bong. The groove is slow and low (that is the tempo) and if you were impaired it would make your head spin, making your eyelids heavy and droopy. Just as you are becoming one with the hypnotic beat Redman exclaims, “Oh Shit! Where the keys at?!” Then a police siren sounds and tires screech as Meth and Red peel out and the noise of a raucous crowd is heard with an announcer distantly yelling, “Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Method Man and Redman!”
From this epic intro the beat is dropped in the most 1999 kind of way, making the head nod uncontrollable as Mr. Mef and Funk Doc slay the title track with lines such as, “I’m ‘Too Hot for TV,’ rap draw water / My windpipe’s attached to project ballers / you tell: ‘turn the hear down” / My voice, DVD ‘round sound, so I’m heard round town / And chances of y’all leavin? ‘Round now” and, “I spit a .41 revolver on New Year’s Eve / With the mic in my hand I mutilate MCs / The most slept on since Rip Van Wink / My shit stink with every element from A to zinc.” There are those times when an intro bleeds into the next track, perfectly setting it up and this is one of them. I could listen to this sequence all day, everyday.
About halfway through, the intensity of the song “Tear It Off” is offset by the calming sounds of chirping birds and the sound of a docile voice saying, “Hi, my name is Mark, and I’m white. I live in a predominantly white neighborhood and went to a predominantly white college, and I have predominantly all white friends. But at night, when all my white friends are asleep, I bump THIS…” As Redman concludes his spot on impersonation of a white young professional on “Where We At (Skit)”, Doc and Meth take it away with one of the heaviest, most gnarly beats that would get you ready for anything. Beyond that, this skit is an example of the brilliance of Method Man and Redman and why they are some of the best MCs in the business. They are able to shed light on the fact that the majority of hip-hop sales are contributed to white, affluent males wanting to seem “hard” or “gangsta” in a comical, yet humorless manner. The first time I heard this I was blown away at the unbelievable beat along with the inventiveness of how the subject matter was addressed.
Released in 1999, Method Man and Red Man provide insight into complex subject matter with clever lyricism that has to be processed more than once. With funky, head bangin’ production that draws people in and battle-ready lyrics, Blackout! is one of those records that changed hip-hop forever.
At the time of Liquid Swords’ release, Wu-Tang Clan had already established itself as the group that reinvented hip-hop at its very core. From 36 Chambers to Tical, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and Return to the 36 Chambers, the Wu had MCs hiding while their style continued to caress the genre like a game of chess. More importantly however, is that the Wu-Tang Clan’s versatility dominated every spectrum of the genre at the time. The group’s stories had such rhythm and flow it made the Amazon River look like a ditch, and RZA’s production varied from raw, stripped down beats (Tical, 36 Chambers) to sinuous symphonic works with a hip-hop base (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…). By the late summer of 1995, Wu-Tang Clan wasn’t only hip-hop’s best, they were becoming influential in every which way to artists around the country.
If anything, the November release of Liquid Swords only cemented this notion down further, but it also showed fans and critics that the Genius/GZA was the best pure lyricist in the group and one of the best in all of hip-hop. Masked with easy delivery and unyielding rhymes, GZA’s lines come off like free-flowing honey from a spoon, and his rich and expansive imagery paints a beautiful portrait of Wu street influence.
On “Investigative Reports,” GZA takes the second verse:
“Calling all cars, calling all cars Ghetto / Psychos, armed and dangerous, leaving mad scars on those / Who are found bound, gagged and shot when they blast the spot / Victims took off like astronauts.”
With all of the verses describing GZA’s home of Staten Island and the New York streets, the hooks on Liquid Swords are just as notable. “Gold” sees GZA taking the lead with one of the most memorable Wu choruses to date: “Fiends ain’t coming fast enough / There is no cut that’s pure enough / I can’t fold I need gold I re-up and reload / Product must be sold to you.”
The hidden gem behind Liquid Swords is that every Clan member makes an appearance and delivers, while at the same time shaping their own content and style to fit the quiet demeanor and presence of the record as a whole. This makes Liquid Swords feel consistent and eerily beautiful throughout as it rattles off track after track. Songs like “Cold World” and “Liquid Swords” hold the record together like glue and blockbuster tracks like “4th Chamber” and “Shadowboxin’” are spine tingling posse cuts that overwhelm the listener with positive sound.
RZA’s production on Liquid Swords is perfectly constructed for GZA’s calm delivery. The kung-fu samples are slimy and creepy as they muster up insane visuals; the songs are brilliantly layered and noticeably more concise than past Wu projects; and the sound of each track is fitted with unique doses of samples and sounds that compliment Liquid Swords as a whole. Like always, RZA is on top of his game.
Liquid Swords ranks with 36 Chambers and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… in terms of the best of Wu’s work, but to limit this record to just that stat is a disgrace. As a whole, Liquid Swords reinforces the fact that GZA’s meddling lyrics and unforced lines of genius are some of the best in the game. Liquid Swords also represents undisputed collaboration and cohesiveness, as RZA and the rest of the collective fit themselves to follow the record’s concept. This is undoubtedly one of the best Wu records ever, not only for its construction and content, but also for its influence on both the Wu-Tang Clan and hip-hop as a whole.
Released in 1995, Liquid Swords by GZA the Genius is arguably the best solo album from a Wu-Tang member (Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Ghostface Killah’s Ironman and Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Brooklyn Zoo are right up there). The great thing about Wu-Tang is that their sound and approach to music will always be innovative and push the limits of how hip-hop is defined. The organization of the legendary ensemble, led by the RZA, has been emulated but will never be duplicated. With its sinister interludes featuring samples of classic Kung-Fu films, trademark RZA beats and the poetic prowess of GZA, Liquid Swords is a testament to the brilliance of the Wu-Tang Clan. The hidden greatness of this record is that each Wu-Tang member featured takes on an accompanying role, adding his unique vocal style all the while making space for GZA to shine.
For instance, the second track, “Duel Of The Iron Mic,” would be nothing without the memorable hook contributions from Ol’ Dirty Bastard and verses from Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck. That being said, GZA completely takes the song with his verse with lyrics such as, “I ain’t particular, I bang like vehicular homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy / Where money don’t grow on trees / And there’s thieving MC’s who cut-throats to rake leaves.” Another example of this is in “Living In The World Today” and “Shadowboxin’” that heavily feature Method Man on hook, background vocals and some of the verses. Over the finely tuned production, Method Man doesn’t take over any of the tracks, which he would be totally capable of doing. Instead, he provides the needed backdrop for each track, making the necessary space for GZA to fully display his abilities as an MC.
This is not to say that GZA is incapable of holding his own. Following my favorite interlude of any hip-hop song, complete with the spine-chilling sample from Shogun Assassin, GZA transports the audience to another level of consciousness with, “I’m on a mission that niggas say is impossible / But when I swing my swords they all choppable / I be the body dropper, the heartbeat stopper/ Child educator, plus head amputator/ Cause niggas styles are like old Mark 5 sneakers / Lyrics are weak like clock radio speakers.” There is no better example of GZA’s dominance then with “Cold World” where he describes the hardship of the projects, brilliantly using the cadence of Twas The Night Before Christmas; “It was the night before New Year’s, and all through the fucking projects / Not a handgun was silent, not even a tec.” There is no doubt that GZA is in fact a lyrical genius. However, the accompaniment from other Wu-Tang members present the necessary support for GZA’s lyricism to soar.
There is no doubt that GZA’s Liquid Swords is one of Wu-Tang’s best solo efforts from an MC. There is an abundance of great solo works form the likes of Method Man, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. However, what stands out on Liquid Swords is GZA’s lyrical talent, the production of RZA and the complementary sounds from the other Wu-Tang members that serve to round this album into a classic that will stand the test of time.
Rappers love pretending to be somebody else. Ever since the conception of hip-hop, alter egos have been used as a tool by MCs to further their music, freeing them up conceptually and stylistically. Here at Bonus Cut we wanted to pay homage to the creativity and ingenuity of these artists, so we decided to host a tournament. 16 alter egos, 1 winner. Over the next two weeks we will introduce you to these insanely cool personas and then pit them against each other. Only the strong will survive. But first, like any sporting event, we have to lay the ground rules. Here goes:
1) The participants must be alter egos, not alternative names or nicknames. This means that the artist must rap from the alter ego’s perspective at one point or another and this perspective must be significantly different than that of the artist’s.
2) Only one alter ego per artist.
3) There were only 16 available spots (we wanted to keep the quality of the artists high).
4) Seeding was decided by the Bonus Cut Crew. We took into account creativity, cultural significance, popularity and obviously the overall quality of their music.
5) All matchups will be decided by yours truly, based purely on which alter ego I think is better (creativity, cultural significance, popularity and music). So yes, this is extremely subjective.
6) This week will only be the first round, due to the fact that I’m going to be introducing each alter ego with fun facts and a healthy dose of knowledge. Next week the tournament will be completed.
7) Feel free to let us know what you agree and/or disagree with in the comments below. We love feedback!
Now for the main event. Enjoy!
1) Slim Shady:
Eminem’s lovable homophobic, misogynistic and downright offensive alter ego was introduced to the world on his 1999 release, The Slim Shady LP. A satirical portrayal of rappers, Slim took things so far that he needed a semi-sarcastic “don’t try this at home” disclaimer to serve as the introduction to the LP. Slim was sent to the rap world with the sole intention to “piss people off,” and he accomplished his goal with hit songs such as “My Name Is” and “The Real Slim Shady.” It wasn’t all fun and games, because Slim’s jabs would always have weight behind them, especially when pointed towards popular culture. All of this, combined with the success of the 5x platinum Slim Shady LP, makes Slim one of the favorites to take home the hardware when it’s all said and done.
T.I. has had some trouble with the law in the recent past. That’s because he hasn’t been able to keep his thugged out alter ego, T.I.P., in check. T.I.P. was born on T.I.’s platinum selling T.I. vs. T.I.P. Throughout the album, T.I. is constantly talking T.I.P. down from resorting to violence or other activities that could get T.I. in trouble. T.I.P. is a thug who will get his way by any means necessary, but things are going to be tough in the first round against Slim Shady.
The Verdict: The problem with T.I.’s alter ego is that it’s not his alter ego anymore; it’s his identity. He hasn’t been able to stay out of jail due to stupid decisions. Also, T.I.P. isn’t winning any points for the fact that T.I. vs. T.I.P. signified the beginning of T.I.’s descent from the top of the commercial rap game. He simply doesn’t have enough to go against Slim Shady, who is one of the most pissed off, warped alter egos ever, and that’s saying something. This dude has a song about bringing his daughter along while getting rid of his wife’s dead body. Slim Shady, no contest.
2) Wolf Haley:
World, meet Wolf. Wolf, meet World. Wolf is Tyler, the Creator’s white alter ego. He has appeared in Tyler’s music throughout Tyler’s career, and even directed Tyler’s famous “Yonkers” video. Wolf originally started as a name that Tyler decided to use for Facebook because Tyler didn’t like his birth name, but Wolf eventually developed into his own person. Tyler describes Wolf as “the guy I want to be.” Wolf is wild, cool and gives zero fucks. Wolf often converses with Tyler within Tyler’s head, telling Tyler to do crazy shit that he wouldn’t do otherwise.
3) Humpty Hump:
Life got rough for Edward Ellington Humphrey when he burnt his nose while deep-frying some chicken. He couldn’t be the lead man of his band, Smooth Eddie and the Humpers, after the incident so he tried his hand in rapping under the name of Humpty Hump. Digital Underground member Shock G’s brilliant alter ego, back-story and all, shocked the world in the early 1990’s with his nasally flow on songs like “Doowutchyalike” and “The Humpty Dance.” He stands out from the crowd with his Groucho glasses complete with the nose and his extravagant clothes.
The Verdict: One of the toughest matchups of the first round. Humpty Hump is an epic character, especially with the detailed back-story, which is completed with the costume. Shock G sold it so well that fans, and even some in the music biz, actually thought Humpty Hump was a real person. But I have to go with Wolf, mainly because he directed that insanely awesome “Yonkers” video. Rarely does a music video captivate the entire blogosphere, but “Yonkers” did exactly that. Everyone and their mother has seen that video and will forever be terrified by Tyler wearing black contacts talking about hanging himself. Humpty, I’m sorry but you’re falling off the wall. Wolf marches onwards.
Madlib didn’t like his voice when rapping so he let Quasimoto do it instead. Created by slowing down the beat, rapping over it, and then speeding it up, Lord Quas’ helium-inflected voice has terrorized the rap game for the past decade plus. With two critically acclaimed albums to his name, The Unseen and The Further Adventures of Lord Quas, it won’t be a surprise if he makes a deep run in the tournament. Quasimoto is a self-described menace to society, and is not afraid to use violence in order to impose his will. He is well versed in microphone mathematics, and spares nobody with his effortless, slick flow. With another album due up in 2013, you better hide your kids and definitely hide your wife.
4) Roman Zolanski:
Roman is Nicki Minaj’s homosexual male alter ego from London. He has no album to his name, but appears on many of her hit songs, such as “Monster,” “Beez in the Trap,” “Bottoms Up” and “Bed Rock.” The Young Money crew member is often times aggressive and tells the harsh truth Nicki can’t do herself. He used to be violent, but has toned it down at Nicki’s request. The only thing that stops Roman is his mother, Marsha, who he constantly fights with. Unable to conform to societal norms, Roman was thrown into the nuthouse until an undisclosed date. Things don’t look too good for Roman, who was punished by the bracket gods with a tough matchup in round one.
The Verdict: Quasimoto is a brilliant conception. Anybody with a shitty microphone and voice recorder can speed up his or her voice, but Madlib took that idea and turned it into a terrific rap album. The bad news is, unfortunately, his run stops here. As much as I hate Nicki Minaj, I have to give it to Roman Zolanski, because he has too many quotable lines. Take “Bed Rock,” a song with lines like “lemme put this pussy on your sideburns.” Nobody knows what this line implies, but it’s still an awesome and aggressive bar. Roman’s entire verse on “Monster” is quotable (“Well if I’m fake, I ain’t notice cause my money ain’t!”). It’s too catchy, it’s too fun, and I hate myself for doing it, but I have to put Roman through to the next round. Ugh.
2) Bobby Digital:
If you love comic books, Bobby Digital is your man. Conceived when RZA smoked a “really good bag of weed” and introduced to the world on Bobby Digital in Stereo, this “lyrical rhyme nympho” is a martial arts master who will “Pierce through your physical faculties/With pin-point accuracy.” He is a pleasure seeker, representing RZA before the fortune and fame. His rhymes play out like that of a comic book, in which Bobby never fails to save the world and get the girl. RZA went as far as making two short movies for Bobby and even pursued a comic deal with publishers, but it didn’t pan out. Bobby Digital is definitely a dark horse, and all those who oppose him better be ready for a tough battle.
3) Sasha Fierce:
Sasha Fierce made her debut on Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce. Everybody loves Beyoncé, and everybody loved Sasha Fierce as well. With chart-topping hits like “Halo,” “Single Ladies,” “Diva” and “Sweet Dreams,” the album was a commercial success. Besides being fierce, Sasha is aggressive, sensual and sassy. Beyoncé claims that Sasha takes over every time she goes out to perform, and she performs a lot. Recently though, B claims that she and Sasha have combined, and are no longer separate entities.
The Verdict: Sasha literally, as Aubrey would say, shut it down, down, down at the Super Bowl this year with her halftime performance. She also gets a boost from the signs that she is a member of the Illuminati, which are littered throughout her music videos. It’s hard to decide against Sasha Fierce. Like, they might come to get me hard. But Bobby Digital is every kid (and therefore grown man’s) dream. You’re telling me I get to be a karate master, comic book hero AND an ill rhymesayer? Just stop. But still, I have to go with Beyoncé because “Halo” and “Single Ladies” were guilty pleasures for a majority of human beings at the time of their release. Oh yea, and because:
Sasha Fierce it is.
1) Dr. Octagon:
A shape shifting alien doctor from Jupiter with metallic green skin, a pink and white afro and yellow eyes, Kool Keith prescribed just what the rap game needed in 1996 with Dr. Octogynocologist, which put underground rap back on the map. Medically, Dr. Octagon is incompetent, as his patients usually die from malpractice and he can’t resist having sex with his nurses. Lyrically however, he dissects all opposition with his smooth flow, witty wordplay and humorous lyrics over futuristic backdrops. If you ever need him to drop knowledge from his glow-in-the-dark brain, he’ll be glad to. You might have trouble getting a hold of him though, as his office operators have a tendency to be masturbating while they’re supposed to be answering calls.
Biggie’s friend from the barbershop, Pop is always on the lookout for those plotting against Biggie. He gives Biggie the heads up whenever he sees something fishy and waits for Biggie’s word to take action. Pop represents how valuable loyal friends are to rappers who are constantly in the crosshairs of haters’ attacks. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going to be a short stay for Pop, who has a tough matchup in round one.
The Verdict: This one’s pretty easy for a bunch of reasons. First, Biggie gets punished for half-assing his alter ego. He could’ve gone with Frank White (which would’ve been awesome), but all he does is mention him here and there throughout his career and never really makes anything of it. Instead, we’re left with Pop, who’s not very creative or inspirational. On the other hand, you have Dr. Octagon, an orthopedic gynecologist (Get it? He puts bones into lady parts) from another planet that has performed with a dead Kurt Cobain and an uncircumcised Chewbacca. Doc Oc FTW.
A Mafioso style drug lord who came into existence on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and has appeared in Nas’ music ever since. The story goes like this: before the fortune and fame, Nas was known as Nasty Nas, another persona who was hungry for success that spent days and nights grinding trying to make it. After Nasty Nas reached the top, Escobar took over. Escobar is a ruthless kingpin in the rap game who is always looking to make the next dollar. He’s a tragic hero who represents how power corrupts and changes humans.
3) The Based God:
The Based God is a diety with the appearance of Ellen Degeneres, Sam Cassell, Dr. Phil, Bill Clinton and many more famous public figures combined together. When seen in public, it is tough to fight the urge to shout out, “Based God, you can fuck my bitch!” Based God is the creator of the now famous “cooking dance” used by athletes all around the world and he occasionally takes over Lil B’s twitter feed in order to drop knowledge on the Based Lifestyle. He always promotes love and forgiveness, even going as far as to write a book on the topic. This alter ego is more than the music, which gives him a punchers chance to take home the bacon.
The Verdict: The Based God is a new-age alter ego, utilizing Twitter as the main avenue to reach his fans. His grammatically-challenged Twitter rants are pure comedy, but they always are done with the best intentions (to spread positivity and tips on how to live a Based life). Escobar is legendary in his own right, as his verse on “Verbal Intercourse” marked the first time ever that a non-Wu-Tang member appeared on a Wu-Tang album. That’s some serious shit right there. But I still have to go with Based God. He’s convinced sane men in relationships that it’s alright for him to fornicate with their girls. Based God, you can fuck my bitch… in the second round.
Sensitive thugs need hugs. Makaveli never needed hugs. An angry, ruthless thug who strategically ruled the streets, Makaveli feared no man. On Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (which was completed in 7 days), Makaveli fired shots at all of Tupac’s enemies. He represented an artistic rebirth of Tupac, as Don Killuminati featured a much darker tone than Pac’s previous albums. Still, Makaveli’s songs featured Pac’s poetic verses and classic delivery, which is why the album is considered one of the greatest of all time. Based on all of this, Makaveli has both the style and substance to win this thing.
4) Brook Lynn:
Mary J Blige is well known for her singing abilities, but few know about her alter ego, Brook Lynn, who raps. Brook appears on songs such as “Enough Cryin” and “Midnight Drive,” and she teams up with Mary to make a formidable tandem. Brook is a sassy, independent woman who doesn’t do soppy love songs. She may need a soppy love song after the first round, as she is faced with the tall task of trying to beat one of the all-time greats.
The Verdict: I’m not going lie, Brook Lynn surprised me on the mic. She came with the goods, holding her own with the likes of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, DMX and Rah Digga. And she’s dressed the part, decked out with some chains and sunglasses. That’s not even close to enough to challenge Makaveli, who gets huge bonus points because Tupac died before the album was released. It turns Don Killuminati into Tupac’s “say hello to my little friend” moment where he completely disregards his life and gives one last “fuck you” to his opponents. Makaveli lives to fight another day.
2) MF Doom:
Heroes are overrated. Daniel Dumile agrees, and that’s why his alter ego, MF Doom, is a super-villain. What’s a super-villain? The scholarly MF Doom defines it as: “a killer who loves children.” This charming masked man successfully flexed his complex rhyme schemes and unique flow on both of his albums (Operation: Doomsday and MM… Food). Rappers beware: Stand up to MF and Doomsday could be upon you.
3) Mr. Rager:
Super-duper Cudder’s struggles with drugs are well documented. He constantly battles his alter ego, Mr. Rager, in order to stay on the straight and narrow. Mr. Rager has always been present in Kid Cudi’s rhymes, but it wasn’t until Cudder’s sophomore album, Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager that he officially existed. Mr. Rager represents everything evil and isn’t afraid to show it, as he only wears clothes that are black. His music is drug-inspired, and his rhymes punch you in the chest harder than the heavy bass behind them. We all have problems, but luckily we don’t have Mr. Ragers.
The Verdict: An intriguing matchup. On one side you have Mr. Rager, who is more real than any other alter ego on this list. Kid Cudi’s career has come close to derailment multiple times because of Mr. Rager. Man on the Moon II is a vastly underrated album, and Mr. Rager has an unbelievably cool video to his name:
On the other hand you have MF Doom, the awesome super-villain who is criminally underrated as well. His creativity is on another level; he’s the guy who rapped about food in 2004. HE EVEN SAMPLED FOOD IN HIS MUSIC. Now cats are Instagramming food left and right, thinking they’re cool. No. MF Doom is cool, and so is his music. I don’t care how many ninjas Kid Cudi karate chops in the Adam’s apple, MF Doom wins in a close decision.
With this, the first round of the Tournament of MC Alter Egos is completed! I will provide the quarterfinals, semi-finals and championship bout in next weeks issue. Stay tuned! And remember, when in doubt, get yourself an alter ego.
When you think of the game of chess, what comes to your mind? If you answered “hip-hop,” then you already know where I’m going, but to some chess and hip-hop isn’t the connection that is made. However, these two go hand-in-hand more ways than one might think. For one, both are battles: chess pits two sides against one another with the goal of trapping the King, in which pieces are thrown, movements are made and victories are seized; in hip-hop, everything is a battle, whether it’s between a movement and a certain oppression, getting out a certain ideal, pitting two MC’s head-to-head in a freestyle or having b-boys facing off in a break battle. Those reasons, along with plenty more, showcase this nature. Secondly, chess is a game that is notorious in the urban community. From the park tables that are swamped with players everyday to the inner-city championship tournaments held all around the world, chess has manifested itself deep within the roots of urban culture and has consequently become a beacon and symbol in hip-hop.
For the Wu-Tang Clan, chess has long had an important role. RZA, a founder and the producer for the collective, has long stood by chess and has stated that it’s part of the “Wu essence.” In The Wu-Tang Manuel, RZA goes on to say, “It’s a game of war–it’s about battle. And Wu-Tang was formed in battles from challenging each other.”
RZA isn’t the only member to publicly point to chess as one of the Wu staples. In fact, the collective has made a notion to include chess whenever possible. Littered throughout the Wu music archives, chess not only is mentioned, it’s used as symbolism. Moreover, samples containing chess dialogue are strewn among these tracks, and GZA went as far as to include a mini-chess set in his Liquid Swords reissue box.
So with all this, I thought it would be fun to think of the primary Wu members as chess pieces. In fact, wouldn’t it be cool to have a chess set, but instead of normal pieces you’d have miniature Wu members? Who would represent the King? What about the Rooks? This is my take, something that can and should be argued over among Wu fans all over.
Note: There are eight non-Pawn pieces to a chess set: one King, one Queen, two Rooks, two Bishops and two Knights. Because the current Wu lineup has eight members, I will use them. I dedicate this idea to the ninth member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Russell Tyrone Jones aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and he will be the “second King” alongside the one I have chosen from the eight current members. Rest in peace Mr. Jones. Also, there are eight Pawns, and I figured that since all of the primary Wu-Tang members hold the other positions, Pawn pieces can be represented by Wu-Tang affiliates, Killa Beez and Wu Fam. Picking those eight individuals is up to the reader.