Method Man, O.D.B., & RZA Proved That In ’97, Wu-Tang Could Freestyle Forever (Audio)
In June of 1997, Wu-Tang Clan kicked the summer off at the top of the Hip-Hop class. Whereas 1993’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) just missed the Top 40 (to eventually reach platinum), its follow-up Wu-Tang Forever would debut at #1. A double album, the Loud/RCA Records release of the nine-man collective would eventually achieve four platinum plaques—despite its conviction to unconventional rhyming and production. Also by ’97, Clansmen such as Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard had cemented solo stardom with hits of their own.
On the other hand, RZA, who was supplying lots of production to his swordsmen at that time, had not yet released a solo LP (though he branched into work with Prince Paul and Gravediggaz). Masta Killa, who was held to just a single verse on the ’93 jump-off, was still getting his name up, thanks to key features on LPs by Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and GZA. U-God, who played a greater role in the debut LP, was also waiting for chance to let the “golden arms” shine.
So in 1997, part of the Clan and DJ Allah Mathematics hit Tim Westwood’s London, England studio to promote Wu-Tang Forever. Even as A-list artists, the Clan wanted to freestyle just like they had before the deal. RZA joined Mathematics behind the turntables for a set that lasted nearly one hour (52 minutes)—in freestyle, free-form radio that Westwood has just digitized. Some of these verses are straight off of the Wu double LP, and other projects. Other verses are clearly completely off the dome. Between the rhyming-intensive radio takeover, there are some jokes, antics, and even U-God’s hotel room stated for all the interested parties. For a group often called “raw,” this nearly 20 year-old relic shows how unchanged by success the Wu really was.
For the first 20 minutes, the MCs play round-robin with the mic over some classic breakbeats. Even though he’s on the decks for part of it (and tries to play a cassette of some beats later on), RZA grabs the microphone and gets his rhymes in too. Heads will hear 1970s and 1980s park-jam records like ESG’s “U.F.O.,” Melvin Bliss’ “Synthetic Substitution,” Billy Squier’s “Big Beat,” and The Honeydrippers’ “Impeach The President.” Some of these records have been the sample basis for Wu favorites. Here, they are presented in loops. After this part of the set, the sounds move to Wu-Tang Forever instrumentals, and other gems from the solo releases.
This is the second straight week that Westwood unveiled his Thursday throwbacks with Method Man material. As a reminder, if there is another album coming by the Clan, Ghostface Killah is said to be the one at the helm in terms of sound and direction.
This 1997 footage begs the question: How many MCs with a #1 album about to drop want to rock for this long?