One of the defining musical experiences of my life was the first time I discovered the Wu-Tang Clan. A collective of emcees from New York City with a unique and eclectic sound, it was a bombastic and unwavering experience which quenched my thirst for a sound I never knew I was looking for. I remember taking the cassette tape from my older cousin—who was entrusted in keeping us out of trouble and away from bad influences—and hiding in the basement of my grandmother’s house, ready to expand my horizons. As the first breaths of “Bring da Ruckus” enveloped my Walkman headphones, I knew that this experience was to be like no other, and that my musical palette would forever be altered and skewed towards a lifelong fandom and devotion to all things hip-hop. Indeed, Wu-Tang is for the children, and this eight-year-old child was hooked.
On Thursday night, the principal members of the Wu-Tang Clan (minus the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard) kicked off their 25-year celebration of their first studio album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia. Initially, only one show was scheduled in Philadelphia on January 25th, but that show sold out so fast and demand was so high that the group added an additional show, which took place on January 24th.
Each member of the crew had their moment to shine on stage, providing the collective raw energy that helped them blaze their trail throughout every crevice of hip-hop in the 90s. Along with the surviving principal members, one of the biggest delights of the night was ODB’s son, Young Dirty Bastard, joining Wu-Tang on stage and standing in for his legendary father on “Shame on a Nigga”, “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber”, and “Protect Ya Neck”. YDB had his father’s classic avant-garde lyrical delivery and mannerisms down so well, a casual observer may have mistaken him for the real deal.
Method Man and Ghostface Killah crushed the microphone with hardcore rhyme schemes and deafening deliveries, paired well with the methodical lyricism of RZA and the slam poet style of GZA. Raekwon gave a thrilling performance from the time he hit the stage, and Inspectah Deck’s bravado was the crescendo of an impressive show. Perhaps the most exciting portion of the evening came via an incredible performance of “C.R.E.A.M.”, the group’s most recognizable track from the album. The moment the classic beat (sampled from the opening chords of “As Long as I’ve Got You” by The Charmels) blasted through the speakers of the venue, the crowd came alive unlike it had all evening, energized by the grittiness of the lyrical beatdown and amplified by the head-nodding drum pattern.
The standing-room crowd went ballistic with each classic track’s opening notes, and each expression of allegiance to the group (as the initiated will know as “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuthin’ to fuck wit’”) struck like lightning across a summer sky. Considering the rarity of this moment—of the entire Clan together onstage—this performance felt as legendary as the original album and reinforced Wu-Tang’s legacy as hip-hop’s premier collective.
Wu-Tang Clan’s weekend 36 Chambers anniversary run will continue tonight, Friday, January 25th at Franklin Music Hall before landing back in New York City at Terminal 5 on Saturday, January 26th.
Below, you can check out a gallery of photos from Wu-Tang Clan’s Thursday night performance courtesy of photographer Adam Barnard.