May 03, 2021

Wu-Tang Clan "Protect Ya Neck" (May 3, 1993)

"I wanna hear that Wu-Tang joint." "Wu-Tang again?" "Ah yeah, again and again!" The Wu... They were deeply confusing, even to those of us on the lookout for the latest in grimy, pop-unfriendly rap. Throw on a Wu-Tang song at a party-- well, except for "Method Man"-- and people would beg you to play something "fun." The RZA's beats didn't sound "budget," like he was just another underground loop-maker biding his time until he could sneak into a 48-track studio. His earliest songs, offering a new and freaky definition of "murky," sounded like a very conscious choice. This was the work of a man trying to drain his music of joy, to reduce hip-hop menace to its most concentrated dose. Plus there was the speed and density of the Clan's rhymes, the voices overlapping dizzily until you figured out who was who. Hip-hop had always been slang-dense as a way to keep out the squares, but nine dudes spinning line after knotty line of cult-like lingo? It was impossible to pick up even a fraction of the Wu's self-invented story without wearing down your Walkman's rewind button. No wonder it took a few self-conscious crossover stabs by the group's most camera-ready members before they truly entered the mainstream. All of that was part of the draw: "Non-Shaolinites, can you hang with us?" They could: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) eventually went platinum; Wu-Tang Forever did even better. Even today's grittiest radio rap sounds like a late-90s Bad Boy single when thrown up against something as stark as "Protect Ya Neck". But despite its (deserved) rep as a "let's see you top this!" line in the sand, the track still provides plenty of rap's traditional, visceral thrills: the rowdy virtuosity of the rhymes, the what-did-he-just-say? wordplay, the star-in-the-making charisma of certain Clan members, and one of the few kick-you-in-the-ass beats in the early Wu catalog. -- Jess Harvell. The 'internets' say it was released by Loud Records on this day in '93. More.