Christmas Gift Tips: Have Yourself a Wu-Tang HolidayPosted: December 8, 2011
The Internet and those who keep its soul alive (a quartet of morbidly obese, sweaty nerds with pimple-crowded faces who live in a pod ninety-five feet beneath the St. Louis Gateway Arch–correct me if I’m wrong here) have it rough. They get a bad rap for everything from page loading that takes longer than .03 seconds to child porn to, most repugnant, copyright infringement. This last heinous act raises the ire of those in the music industry which, to be fair, knows a great deal about bad raps–an A&R guy, possibly drunk, did offer a record deal to Rich Hill, “rapping” son of fashion mogul Tommy Hilfiger, and an almost certainly stoned-to-the Ribbed Marble Tom-Tom Hat Hill accepted).
The Internet serves another purpose, one not unlike the Library of Congress or that crazy lady who collects potato chips that vaguely resemble all iterations of Dr. Who–it’s an archive, for the good and the bad alike. A number of forgotten or purposely lost albums have resurfaced online over the years and whether the leaked album is Q-Tip’s jazz-spoken word Kamaal the Abstract, Prince’s Black Album or the Backstreet Boys’ concept piece Dry Humping the Stage Can Cause Unexpected Long-Term Damage, the Internet allows fans to hear the work of their favourite artists despite the machinations of the philistine music industry executive who thinks in hit singles and lacks the sensitivity to understand a broader artistic statement (to say nothing of the powerful concert stage lobby).
Finally, we can add another title to the artistic roll call saved by Netizens and the recording company insiders who bravely steal audio files for that girl in the parking lot who will totally bang her one day, provided he keeps producing stolen property and, thus, proves his integrity.
The Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers of Christmas arrives just in time for people to illegally download during the gift-buying season (Ha! Occupy my wallet fat-cat Mom and Pop record stores? I think not.) I have my hands on a copy and, let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Adding to the rich history of Christmas-themed hip hop started by Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rap”, furthered by Run-DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” and pretty much ending there, the Clan brings shit up a notch with this blistering aural attack of razor-sharp rhymes meant to best celebrate the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
RZA’s trademark note-perfect production and sampling taste is on display in the album’s opening track, “The Return of Shaolin Kringle”, which interpolates snatches of dialogue and sword-clashes from Sir Run Run Shaw’s least successful film production, Shaolin Temple Fury (in which a group of monks misconstrue the attempts of Santa Claus to bestow them with presents as an attack they must defend–no surprise it was a flop as a drunken-fighting Rudolph would strain anyone’s suspension of disbelief, although Shaw recut the film into a half-hour Christmas special that, with the addition of fourteen songs, became a classic of the kung-fu Christmas genre).
From there things get hectic real quick, with Ghostface Killah and Raekwon destroying “Little Drummer Boy”, reworking into the story of a young drug mule with hopes of getting a brick of heroin to a record exec on Christmas Eve and, in turn, landing himself a record deal.
This marks one of the few times Wu-Tang moves into storytelling instead of their standard stream-of-consciousness flow marked by each member taking their fair shot at the mic (which leads to a standard track running time of nineteen minutes). Those worried that the Clan are about to be bowed by expectations of the brutal Christmas album market should fear not.
“Bitch, Don’t Eat My Cookies” displays a stunning resurgence of Cappadonna who muscles the rest of the Clan into his hype crew for one track, and GZA lights it up on the creeping dread of “Tidings of Good Joy”. Masta Killa shines on “Good King Wenceswhaaaaa?” and what at first blush sounds like Method Man trying to lure Joe Budden to reignite beef turns into an all-out offensive on Michael Buble with “Nigga, Git Right Wit Those Suits”. If I were Buble, I’d refuse Meth’s invitation to “see me in the Octagon”.
The one sour note is the resurrection of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard who, through outtakes and rambling answering machine messages, is presented as lead MC on a ghoulish take of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. This blood-soaked revenge fantasy is more Geto Boys than Wu-Tang and, no surprise, was crafted at the behest of a record exec who thought the project needed a “hit single”. Sure, it’s good to hear ODB spit on the mic, but an in-depth investigation of what a Ginsu knife would do to the jolly man’s intestinal tract does little to engender good cheer, especially if it’s patched together from what sounds like a shopping list for one of ODB’s legendary tailgate parties.
One can understand the Clan members refusal to promote an album that featured such a blatant grave rob (although mysteriously were on board with ODB’s digital pairing with Fred Astaire in a new series of Dirt Devil commercials). But if you love hip hop or know someone who does, get yourself online and download this, stat. The burned CD that features your awful handwriting in smudgy marker will make the perfect addition to the stocking of any hip hop fan on your list this year.