Saturday, November 09, 2013

20 Years Later: "Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers" and "Midnight Marauders"

I remember Nov. 8, 1993 fairly well because that was the night I was able to purchase A Tribe Called Quest's "Midnight Marauders," a full day before it went on sale to the public.
The rest of the world is celebrating Nov. 9 as the 20th anniversary of the release of two classic hip-hop albums, the aforementioned "Midnight Marauders" and Wu-Tang Clan's debut "Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers." Two weeks later, Snoop's "Doggystyle" was released, making November 1993 a pivotal time for hip-hop music.
But Nov. 8 was special for me because as a holiday employee at Sam Goody, one of the job perks was the opportunity to purchase new album releases a day before they went on sale to the public. We had to wait until the end of our shift to buy it, but there was some cache in having the tape ahead of the rest of Salinas.
In the pre-internet days, this was the closest I ever got to an album leak, and it was glorious.
Both albums had an immediate impact on me and my circle of friends. We would go back and forth on the Wu-Tang "torture" scenarios like rounds of the dozens. We would recite "The Killer" skit to one another as if it was secret code. And even the east side cholos I grew up with could get behind the oldies samples on "Can It Be That It Was All So Simple."
Midnight Marauders was special to me because it was one of the first albums I analyzed critically. There were subtle mysteries to unlock, the first one being 'what was the hook really saying in "Electric Relaxation?'
Later, when I learned the "Lyrics to Go" sample was actually a Minnie Ripperton vocal loop, it was an eye-opener. So much texture to the production. So much innovation.
These albums had instant appeal to rap nerds like myself, at a time when rap nerdom was relegated to a die-hard few.
Reflecting 20 years later, I feel old, but happy that my 17-year-old self was forward-thinking enough to appreciate classic hip-hop music. I have yet to outgrow these albums, and I will have to give them a listen sometime soon to enjoy them all over again.

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