Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) vs. Mobb Deep’s The Infamous. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Especially in the early 1990s, two crews that embodied their ruggedness in sound, style, and lyrics were Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep. Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and The Infamous both project an image of New York City completely opposite of Midtown Manhattan. The Clan already proved they’re “nuthing tah’ F’ wit’,” after swarming De La Soul Is Dead, while Prodigy and Havoc mobbed Big Pun’s Capital Punishment. Now, two more of Loud Records’ finest offerings face off, as Finding The GOAT reaches its Top 10 of the ’90s (click one then click “vote”).
Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan
– First Round Winner (against De La Soul’s De La Soul Is Dead, 82% to 18%)
In late 1993, Wu-Tang Clan bum-rushed the show when they brought their own menacing cacophonous raucous. Enter The Wu-Tang is a tour de force of rugged raps, filthy beats, and a style that made Hip-Hop’s early ’90s elite get out of the way, handing over the mic. RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Masta Killa, Method Man, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard were against the odds when they brought nine bodies to a Loud/RCA Records-backed album, and made all seem as organized as a rank-and-file military branch. With every MC offering something different, each vocalist distinguished himself with skill, vocal tone, and flow. From acts like The Rebel I.N.S. taking on lion’s share roles to M.K.’s lone verse, the family did no favors to each other—and showed its own agitated quarrels in the interludes. Although they had their own internal dynamics, the Wu brought an unrivaled sense of family pride to outsiders. Songs like smash single “C.R.E.A.M.” and follow-up “Can It All Be Simple” proved that the common theme of hardships made this unit a pack of hungry wolves who resented aristocratic peers. Save for GZA and RZA, all the MCs were burgeoning to wax since 1992’s “Protect Ya Neck.” However, from O.D.B.’s “Shame On A Nigga” timing, to the “Method Man” routine all presented styles that felt like they were bottled in 1988, but fermenting, and getting all the more intoxicating while waiting for their chance. On one hand, Wu-Tang was futuristic in their dismissal of conventions. On the other, this was a head-trip back to the days of the late ’80s underground—battling in a smoke-filled train car.
36 Chambers, as the album is often affectionately called, is a beautiful testament to RZA’s visionary gift. In addition to delivering the most lucid, razor-sharp verses of his career, Robert Diggs made an album that sounded electric, alive, and dangerous. Break-beat arrangements on songs like “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit” and “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber – Part II” were accentuated with organs, special effects, and muted horns. While Dr. Dre was out in Los Angeles, setting chronic highs to three-wheel motion, RZA laced his jagged basslines with audio angel dust. With its rough texture, the album is incredibly cohesive, making skipping implausible if not impossible. Enter The Wu-Tang captivated Hip-Hop. It restored the comparative nature of over-stuffed Rap crews. It made every minute of an album feel precious internally and externally. The LP also made the Hip-Hop act feel like a militia, an outlaw posse, or a flash mob of witty, unpredictable voices with natural game. This LP not only served its nine creators with plush careers that followed, it made the industry take closer notice of what was really going on in the streets. For 15 years, Staten Island was the ignored borough. Also with MCs from the Bronx and Brooklyn, the Clan made the short-sighted Manhattan labels not only scared, but surrounded.
Album Number: 1 (as a group)
Released: November 9, 1993
Label: Loud/RCA Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #41 (certified gold, March 1994; certified platinum, May 1995)
Song Guests: 4th Disciple
Song Producers: (self)
The Infamous by Mobb Deep
– First Round Winner (against Big Pun’s Capital Punishment, 70% to 30%)
Mobb Deep found their creative pocket on 1995 sophomore album, The Infamous. Prodigy and Havoc were always belligerent, paranoid, and gritty. However, the two MCs matured into auteurs in their early twenties. The second LP presented New York City’s underbelly on songs like “Q.U. – Hectic” and “Give Up The Goods.” With the Chrysler Building in sight, Hav’ and P chronicled tucking weapons, heavily self-medicating, and riding prison buses with grilling stares. The reality was grim, but presented honestly, from two MCs who seemingly never laughed, smiled, or relaxed without stress. On their sophomore LP, Mobb Deep viewed life as little more than fleeting moments between strife. In turn, The Infamous drew to so many, basking in its own jagged hopelessness. Songs like “Survival Of The Fittest” and “Shook Ones, Pt. II” were anthems of war, at home and abroad—and against oneself. Both MCs, but especially the surging Prodigy found a knack in stuffing battle-tested street wisdom into 16 bar verses. The raspy delivery and smoke-filled lungs of P brought power to words, and made listeners feel invincible in the crew comradery.
While the self-proclaimed H.N.I.C. had stepped into a new class lyrically, Havoc found his finest hour behind the boards on The Infamous. With Q-Tip (as “The Abstract”) sitting in the swivel chair beside him, Kejuan Muchita became a 20-21 year-old that rivaled the masters. The elements that made up The Infamous were such deep excavations, that diggers questioned where Hav (who says he forgot most) mined the sample sources. Hard drums accented eerie elements beautifully, not only on the two aforementioned hits, but on album cuts like “Give Up The Goods,” and “Party Over.” The drum arrangements were kept simple, but it was those specific sounds that made Mobb Deep’s march feel like proudly walking the yard, or fearlessly past the dealers, pimps, and stick-up kids on the ave’. Additionally, The Infamous quite literally bridged the mid-1990s New York City Hip-Hop community, as an album that galvanized the movement with Nas, Wu-Tang, and A Tribe Called Quest personnel all in one place. As labels and crews were fiercely territorial, the M-O-B-B, for all of their abrasiveness, first saw the possibility of the power-album. While greater sales achievements would follow, The Infamous is the album against which Mobb Deep is forever judged.
Album Number: 2
Released: April 25, 1995
Label: Loud/RCA Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #15 (certified gold, June 1995)
Song Guests: Nas, Raekwon, Q-Tip, Ghostface Killah, Big Noyd, Crystal Johnson
Song Producers: (self), Q-Tip, Schott Free, Matt Life, Fal Prod
So which album belongs in the 1990s Top 10? Make sure you vote above.