Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is just one of those classic hip-hop albums that spawned a million artists. The album, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, is seminal that it’s hard to forget your first listening experience, as it will shape how you listen to hip-hop for the rest of your life.
Given all of these truths, we find it more than a little ironic that Ol’ Dirty Bastard doesn’t even remember recording the album. Blame it on the alcohol. Michael A. Gonzalez recounts his experience covering the Wu, via Ebony:
Doing the singing/rapping style years before Ja Rule or 50 Cent, Rolling Stone called ODB “The most original vocalist in hip-hop history,” but away from the mic he was a mess. Be it drugs, a mental unbalance or whatever, Ol’ Dirt Dog just wasn’t right. But just like observing the antics of a wacked-out court jester, the world was always ready to chuckle at his latest antics. Whether Dirty was running from the police or bum-rushing the stage at the 1998 Grammy Awards to declare “Wu-Tang is for the children,” we all simply laughed.
Nevertheless, the truth of the matter was the man was suffering. In 2003, when Ol’ Dirty was released from prison after being there since 2001 for crack possession, I visited him at his mother’s home in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Although Dirty was sober, he seemed to be highly medicated. The Dirty I met was a shell of a man who’d long ago been broken by ghetto foolishness, keepin’ it real ridiculousness and representin’ self-destruction.
Ten years later, I still recall how sad the entire scene made me. Noticing my glance at the gold record for Enter the Wu-Tang hanging on the wall, he looked at me and said, “I don’t even remember making that record. When I was drunk, I was in another world. All I remember was waking up and having a hangover.”