Wu-Tang Clan celebrates 25th anniversary of ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’

The Wu-Tang Clan will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the group's album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) at Terminal 5 on Saturday and Sunday.
The Wu-Tang Clan will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the group’s album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) at Terminal 5 on Saturday and Sunday. Photo Credit: Comedy Central / Jon Pack

The deserved star of the Wu-Tang Clan’s upcoming shows at Terminal 5 is “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” the crew’s debut album, which turned 25 late in 2018. But a perusal of the band’s European set lists from last year indicate that New Yorkers are likely to get tastes from the individual members’ solo works, as well.

While it’s an unwritten law that the group’s debut record is the best album ever to bear the Wu stamp, there are dozens of solo records that came after, most featuring collaborations with other members of the Staten Island collective. Which one of those stands atop the others? Here are eight of the classics.

(Honorable mentions go to three collaborative albums that involve non-Wu co-stars: Ghostface Killah’s concept records with producer Adrian Younge, “Twelve Reasons to Die I and II” and the Method Man/Redman team-up “Blackout!”)

8. Ghostface Killah, “Fishscale” (2006): Get ready to see a lot of Ghost on the list; the emcee likely has the best solo catalog of any Wu member (with 13 albums since 1996, certainly the largest). Stream the deluxe version for collaborations with Notorious B.I.G., Ice Cube, and Kanye West.

7. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version” (1995): “Got Your Money” might be on his other solo effort, but the original was the first peek at the unhinged energy of the Wu talisman. “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo” capture the late MC’s infectious bounce and unique vocals.

6. Ghostface Killah, "Ironman" (1996):  “Winter Warz,” featuring five Wu MCs, may be one of the best posse cuts from the Clan’s solo careers (and Cappadonna’s song-ending verse is a full track all to itself.) It’s almost hard to call it a solo record, with Raekwon appearing on 12 of the album’s 16 songs.

5. Raekwon, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . Pt. II" (2009): Sequels are never quite up to the level of the original, but Rae came very, very close with the spiritual brother of his solo debut.

4. Method Man, “Tical” (1994): It was the first of the post-“Enter the Wu-Tang” solo records, and it set off a series of platinum albums that were simultaneously loved by critics. Its biggest charting hit, “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” with Mary J. Blige, wasn’t even on the original release — the beloved version is a remix of the album’s original.

3. Ghostface Killah, “Supreme Clientele” (2000): Many of the Wu artists struggled on their follow-up releases; Ghostface’s was his best work. Crew collaborations were highlights here, as well, but with RZA only producing three of the tracks, this was one of the first signs that the production and lyrical alchemy between RZA and the rest of the Clan was important, but not critical.

2. Raekwon, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . ”1995): The forever summer hit “Ice Cream” comes from here, along with “Incarcerated Scarfaces,” a mixtape favorite of the era. The Rae/Ghostface combo pays off here as well, to the point where the album features, on its cover, “Guest Starring Tony Starks (Ghost Face Killer)" [sic].

1. GZA, Liquid Swords (1995): Technically, GZA’s first “solo” release predates “36 Chambers” (1991’s “Words from the Genius”). But its follow-up maximizes the combination of RZA’s production and the otherworldly lyrical skills of the Genius (not to mention at least one cameo by each member of the Clan) to create an all-time hip-hop classic.

If you go: Wu-Tang Clan performs  Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. at Terminal 5, 610 W. 56th St., terminal5nyc.com, sold out

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