Released in 1993, the album hailing from Staten Island, New York, gave birth to a new wave of gritty, raw, and complex rhymes that contrasted sharply with the polished West Coast sound dominating the era. The Wu’s nine members – each with a distinct style and persona – joined forces to craft an album that felt like a mystical journey through the rugged streets of Shaolin.
These songs aren’t just normal rap tracks; they were gritty stories, philosophical musings, and above all, a war cry from a group of lyricists ready to make their mark. Each track, from the rugged chants of “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit” to the soul-baring tales on “C.R.E.A.M.”, weaves a thread in the Wu’s gritty tapestry. Then there are songs like “Method Man” and “Shame on a Ni**a”, which became part of the hip-hop lexicon, standing tall for their memorable lyricism and magnetic energy. The album’s structure – part gritty, part philosophical, part absurdist– has always been a significant part of its appeal.
So let’s get into it. From the aggressive opener “Bring da Ruckus” to the highlight posse cut “Da Mystery of Chessboxin'” and poignant “C.R.E.A.M.”, we rank every song of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
11. “Clan in da Front”
Right on the edge at spot 11 is “Clan in da Front.” Sure, it might not have the universal appeal of other tracks on this album, but its rawness and lyrical intensity are nothing to scoff at. It’s an anthem that spotlights GZA’s lyrical wizardry. As our entryway into the top 10, it sets a high standard.
10. “Method Man”
Number 10 is the Meth masterpiece, “Method Man.” This track was the hook for many into the Wu universe. Method Man’s charismatic, energetic style – bouncing from smooth, melodic flows to raw, gritty rhymes – is simply captivating. Coupled with RZA’s stripped-down, dusty beat, this track is an absolute classic.
Rolling in at 9, we have “Tearz.” This cut stands out with its narrative style and emotional depth. The RZA and Ghostface tackle a couple of chilling street tales over a beautifully soulful sample. The storytelling is vivid, the emotion real, and the impact enduring. It’s a reminder of the Wu’s ability to reflect on the harsh realities of their world while still delivering supreme lyrical content.
8. “Can It Be All So Simple”
The soulful “Can It Be All So Simple” finds itself sitting at number eight, with its rich samples and introspective verses from Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. Its potent depiction of struggles in the projects might not carry the same hard-hitting energy as other tracks higher on this list, but its heartfelt narrative and contemplative beat serve as a poignant reminder of the group’s versatility and their roots.
7. “Shame on a Ni**a”
Now, landing at number seven, “Shame on a Ni**a” is a riotous gem. It might come off as chaotic to some, but this track perfectly embodies the unpredictability and raw talent of the Clan. ODB’s manic energy, coupled with Raekwon and Method Man’s slick verses, make this an unforgettable banger – it’s a shame it didn’t crack our top five!
6. “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber”
Just missing out on the top five, we have the grimy “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber.” Serving up what might just be the definitive sound of Wu-Tang, it’s a gritty, raw, and uncompromising tour de force of verbal acrobatics. Every Wu-Tang Clan member (well, except U-God and Masta Killa) gets their moment here, but it’s the overall synergy of the group that makes this track shine. While it’s a must-listen for any Wu-Tang fan, the tracks further up this list just edge it out in terms of iconic status and innovation.
5. “Da Mystery of Chessboxin'”
Producer: RZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard
“Da Mystery of Chessboxin'” leaps into our top five with the kind of lyrical genius that defined the Wu-Tang Clan’s rise. Every verse is a testament to the Clan’s wordplay prowess, yet it’s U-God’s memorable opening lines and Masta Killa’s debut verse that steal the show. Although it’s etched in hip-hop’s memory, it narrowly misses out on the top three, simply due to the sheer force of the tracks that outstrip it.
4. “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit”
Producer: RZA, Method Man
Now, if ever there was a track that encapsulated the Clan’s identity, “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit” would be it. Landing at number four, this track serves as a war cry, underlining the group’s indomitable spirit and unique style. RZA’s kung-fu inspired beat and the energetic verses make this song a defining moment in Wu-Tang’s catalog. Yet, it’s the absolute classics in our top three that keep it from ranking higher.
3. “Bring da Ruckus”
Coming in at number three, “Bring da Ruckus” kicks off Enter the Wu-Tang with an uncompromising assault of raw lyricism over RZA’s grimy production. As the album opener, it set the tone for the Clan’s distinct style, making it an instant classic. But as iconic as it is, the top two songs on our list have had an even greater cultural impact, redefining the course of hip-hop itself.
“C.R.E.A.M.” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) not only earns the second spot on our ranking but it’s also one of greatest ’90s rap songs. Raekwon and Inspectah Deck’s gritty storytelling over that unforgettable piano loop strike a chord that resonates with anyone who has ever strived for a better life. However, even this undeniable classic has to bow to our top selection.
1. “Protect Ya Neck”
Taking the crown, we have the raw, unadulterated “Protect Ya Neck”. This debut single is the very essence of Wu-Tang Clan, a no-holds-barred lyrical brawl featuring eight of the Clan’s members. The minimalistic beat is like a blank canvas, allowing each member to bring their unique flavor and make their mark. The track was a gauntlet thrown at the feet of the entire industry, showing that Wu-Tang was here to conquer and forever shift the landscape of hip-hop.