Artist: Wu-Tang ClanTitle: Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 1Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Shawn Lawrence James
The year was 1993. Rather than scratching the surface, the rap collective known as the Wu-Tang Clan punctured Hip-Hop with sharp compositions of street life and quickly became a gritty alternative to the commercial avenue the West Coast paved and was riding its Caddies through. The league of rappers which nurtured many personalities championed the grimy aspect of Hip-Hop and their masterful piece Enter the Wu: 36 Chambers united thugs, indie rap geeks and 5 Percenters alike with their unfiltered chemistry of politics and poetry. Over the years their legacy has been confronted with fallouts, drug addictions and lackluster releases but for one special night, they decided to place their dilemmas on the backburner and compose what would become Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter One (Sanctuary). The album, spanning in at 27 tracks documents the historic performance July 17, 2004 at the Rock the Bells festival in San Bernardinom, Cali; where all nine original members (RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, U-God, Ol Dirty Bastard & Inspectah Deck) were present and performed an evening full of classics, exclusives and nostalgia.
The Clan starts off the same exact way they did on their debut with Bring da Ruckus. The group was in full stride as they sliced through their catalogue dishing novelty gems like C.R.E.A.M and Wu Tang Clan Aint Nothing To F Wit before letting the soloists grab a hold of the mic. Raekwons Incarcerated Scarfaces opened to much rave and his cool, charismatic approach to the cut was as entertaining as the track itself. Ghostface performed his smash hit Run as did Cappodonna who performs the version he recorded years prior. Despite reassembling, late into the LP, they lose steam and their harmonies are weighed out by fatigue and their lyrics becomes inaudible at times.
While events like this are encouraged, creating a project like this always presents a double standard. While this is undoubtedly the best track listing the Wu can possibly assemble, the fact that its a live album takes a lot away from the experience, being that fans have no visuals to position it with (there is a DVD available). Otherwise, this album is a past due expedition in to why the Wu-Tang Clan should still be considered one of Hip-Hops all-time greats. Their massive catalog, with the best produced by the RZA and performed here, as well as their very public reconciliation is something that fans cannot afford to elude.