In the historical annals of hip-hop, 1993 will be remembered as the year “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” was released. The funny thing is that it was released in NOVEMBER of ’93, so that even though the Wu-Tang buzz had already been building off the success of “Protect Ya Neck” and “Method Man” as singles, it wasn’t really until 1994 that Wu-Tang Clan suddenly seemed to dominate the hip-hop landscape, and every hip-hop debate was suddenly about who was the best rapper in the group and who would drop the best solo albums.
We’d have answers soon enough. In fact we’d have that answer almost exactly one year after Wu-Tang Clan’s album, when Method Man’s “Tical” because the first of an endless (but welcome) parade of solo projects. The Wu-Tang success was so massive it wound up spinning off projects from people who had initially been nothing more than a shoutout during an interlude on the first album such as Shyheim AKA the Rugged Child. Eventually heads used terms like “secondary” and “tertiary” to describe how tenuous the connection to the original Wu related projects might be, while the debate turned from which member would drop the best solo to what order you’d RANK the solo albums in from best to worst.
As monstrous as the Wu-Tang Clan was on the hip-hop landscape for a couple of years, there’s no doubt that there was an equally large explosion on the hip-hop landscape in the West, led in part by Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and the fledgling but rapidly expanding Death Row Records. For me as a Midwesterner (big up K.C., big up Chi-Town) it made no difference where good music came from. I had already incorporated the cities where Too $hort, Geto Boys and Sir Mix-A-Lot were from into the rotation, and ’94 brought in Atlanta with the debut album from OutKast. Regardless as people became entrenched in “East coast” or “West coast” cliques what could have been friendly competition reached disproportionate levels of antipathy and animosity – and sadly at times dissolved into violence.
As we look back at an era almost 20 years past, let’s pour out a little liquor for the greats who are no longer here, and for all of the people who didn’t record albums and become famous who aren’t here either. There was no such thing as “social media” in 1994 let alone Twitter, and more people had internet on their college campuses than in their homes, but #BlackLivesMatter with or without the hashtag and the protests. The names that don’t make headlines or magazine covers have always mattered more than the ones that do. Pour out a little liquor for the forgotten and take a trip back to a time before I could even legally purchase any in stores.
1.) Wu-Tang Clan – “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)”
2.) Snoop Dogg – “Gin & Juice”
3.) Common – “I Used to Love H.E.R.”
4.) Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy”
5.) O.C. – “Times Up”
6.) Warren G & Nate Dogg – “Regulate”
7.) Nas – “The World Is Yours”
8.) Thug Life (2Pac) – “Pour Out a Little Liquor”
9.) Black Moon – “I Got Cha Opin (Remix)”
10.) A Tribe Called Quest – “Electric Relaxation”
11.) Gang Starr – “Mass Appeal”
12.) Organized Konfusion – “Stress”
13.) Scarface f/ Ice Cube – “Hand of the Dead Body”
14.) Crooklyn Dodgers – “Crooklyn”
15.) Method Man – “Bring the Pain”