“Wu-Tang!” the crowd cheered with arms up and hands intertwined to make a “W.” Saturday, Feb. 11, the Wu-Tang Clan strutted out to the stage of the Electric Factory and received an enthusiastic welcome by Philadelphia. A cloud of smoke sailed above hundreds of hands in the air.
Each MC came out in a showcase, but Method Man’s arrival to “M-E-T-H-O-D Man,” a hit from Wu’s debut, Enter the 36 Chambers, really got the show pulsing.
“If you have a lighter or a cell phone, put it in the air for ODB,” RZA urged the crowd during the show. The tour is a tribute to Ol’ Dirty Bastard, one of the most memorable members of the Wu-Tang Clan. The present-day group reminded the crowd not to mourn ODB, but to celebrate and honor his life.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the loose cannon and wild man of Wu-Tang passed away in November of 2004. His stranger-than-fiction story is more colorful than that of Axl Rose, Ozzy Osbourne or any other rock star. He rushed the stage at the 1998 Grammy Awards to rant that Wu-Tang deserved the award more than Puff Daddy. His rap sheet and other clan members can tell infinite stories about his escapades of debauchery, violence, drugs, jail and his “I always gotta be in the spotlight” attitude.
Along with a poem read in his dedication, the clan also played “Got your Money” and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” two of ODB’s most popular singles as a solo artist.
The Wu didn’t disappoint, playing songs from all albums that the crowd knew, including C.R.E.A.M., Triumph, and Bring Da Ruckus. They also performed a few songs from their most recent album Iron Flag, a good album even though it’s received less commercial success.
The group did its share of flattering Philly by referring to the city as their second home and complimenting its cheesesteaks. They also credited Philly with starting the “Wu-Tang dance,” a craze which I had no idea existed. The group asked girls to come up to the stage to have a “Wu-Tang dance contest” in what was a confusing event to me, especially since I was towards the back and couldn’t see.
Up to 8 emcees rapped on stage during the concert, and it’s tough for someone who is not a huge Wu fan to pick out what lyrics are coming from which emcee. Method Man and Rza are easy to recognize thanks to their commercial and media success. Others like Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck don’t get as much recognition.
Rza’s rapping definitely stood out and made my skull vibrate for a little longer. He has a much stronger presence live than his fellow Wu members. His delivery forces you to actually pick through his lyrics, which on the whole I found to have the most substance.
The way in which Wu-Tang works together and collaborates is like no other group. Member RZA brought together the group’s original 9 emcees in 1993. His goal was to form a group with members who would collaborate with one another while also maintaining solo projects. From there, the group became a crew, an entourage and a community of sorts still strong over a decade later.
Stu Jerue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.