jump to navigation

WuTang: (Unfortunately) Now and Forever July 17, 2007

Posted by doctorolove in Music, Pop Culture Rants.
1 comment so far

Now I know me some Wu Tang Clan. They were first introduced to me in the summer of ’92 when hip-hop was still, quite possibly, a character in a Beatrix Potter novel as far as I was concerned. I didn’t understand hip-hop. I thought Young MC was as dark and evil as things could get (I mean, to a thirteen year old, discussion of butts and busting moves was as gangsta as my pubescent mind needed.) I didn’t understand NWA. Maybe it was my naiveté or just the fact that I didn’t live in Compton. I didn’t get metaphors about hot steel and pigs and clocking hos (all of which still to this day make me wonder how doe one actual clock their ho? And what is time good for?) But I got the Wu Tang clan.

Sure they also spoke of hos and pigs and smoking this thing they called blunts, but they also made reference to the Hall of Justice and superheroes. I knew of them. Heck, I spent a whole summer trying to build a submersible underwater megafortress of my own out of a ripped Slip and Slide and a Kiddie Pool that smelled like a mixture of mold, rapidly congealing waterproof Coppertone and my grandma’s shag rug. And while half the things I couldn’t understand (Thank you, vocal cords ravaged by unfiltered blunts…seriously guys, if you don’t want the reunion album to be called “Live From The Iron Lung…with RZA on Voice Box” it is called a filter…Look into it), I identified with Superheroes. And Kinko’s. And the 7-11. They were using metaphors a young obsessed white-bred suburbanite like me could understand. And for that, I became a member of the Shaolin Nation.

And it is because of my in-depth Wu knowledge that what I heard from a moving car today has got me all riled up. Now I have heard some amazing things from cars that feel the need to validate the thousands of dollars spent on their bells and whistles. I’ve heard songs that should never be played at ear busting volumes ever, unless you are trying to drive a Panamanian drug lord from their home (Mandy by Barry Manilow is no more poignant at 200 decibels that it is at 4). I’ve heard a La Cucaracha horn that sounded as if it were warbled by a dying seal. And I’ve heard the children cry (Though I was nice enough to let them know I tried at the next stoplight.) The car was whipping by at a pretty nice clip and I heard it for what was a brief second, but I know what I heard was…

“Cash rules everything around me…got to get the money…dollar, dollar bill, y’all…”

Now to many, that may just sound like Raymond Babbitt mumbling at the blackjack table or that rambling homeless guy who shuffles past your job while wearing a pair of Skidz Pants. But I knew it as this: the seminal lyric from Wu Tang’s hit “C.R.E.A.M” I’d know it anywhere. I’d know it’s capitalistic, playful undertone wrapped in a glaze of double entendre anywhere.

And I also know it wasn’t sung by any member of the Clan. Not GZA. Not Ghostface. Not Raekwon. Not even the dulcet set-on-fire-then-put-out with sand-paper tones of ODB and Method Man. This was somebody singing a COVER VERSION of a Wu-Tang song and what’s more, somebody was playing it loudly, all while zipping down the streets.

Which brings me to one cardinal rule that for the sake of good taste everywhere, we all must adhere to this day forth: NO COVER VERSIONS, NO REMAKES, NO REIMAGININGS OR REINTERPATATION OR RE-ANYTHING OF RAP/HIP-HOP SONGS!

Why? I mean, they do it all the time, you say? I mean, don’t you own everything the Neptunes re-did for every popular artist ever? Yes, but you see those are remixes. A remix is taking a track and adding your own personal spin on it. Or it means hiring some rapper to write lyrics on the back of his hand while limoing over to the recording studio and dropping them in the middle of the song with no cohesiveness what-so-ever. Or it means taking the lyrics and mashing them up with something that seems clever. But the song remains. The lyrics, the basic cadence, the messages..all still there. A remix is pushing it the same way you tested the boundaries of a childhood ultimatum by walking across the kitchen floor on your knees…Ma, you said “Don’t Step Foot in the Kitchen….”But it’s still the same song. Not a remake. A remake is when a person or persons take the entire song and re-do it their own way. Lyrics, background, even the message.

Yet they do it with movies and those turn out fine, right? Some do, yes. Or rather they work in theory. Updating The Manchurian Candidate in our own paranoid present existence was a great idea in hindsight. Casting Dean Stockwell as a shadowy villain was not (what no other Sci-fi TV second bananas were available? You’re telling me Twiki wasn’t available? That “Biddi-Biddi-Biddi” sound was menacing.) And retelling classic ideas with a modern spin is intriguing: Just avoid Bernie Mac (Ocean’s 12), Bernie Mac (Guess who’s Coming to Dinner) and Bernie Mac (Charlie’s Angels).  Remaking or reimaging a film can work because of concepts. It’s like how we are all amazed when somebody sets Shakespeare in modern times. Ideas resonate. And Leo and Claire looked good in Hawaiian shirts and strange sexy corset things

Oh, then Mr. Sarcastic, rap songs don’t resonate then, huh? Incorrect. Most classic and meaningful songs do resonate, because their themes and messages are universal. You can still drive down a street in the South Bronx and almost feel “The Message” coming out of your subconscious. And while it may be great to see a bunch of elderly rappers, dressed in purple track suits that make them look like Batman villains, paired with the hippest, pulled from the Billboard list new guard on a VH1 honors show, but that is a homage. It is not a remake.  What I heard was a remake and those are not allowed.

Why? Because a hip-hop song is kind of like what needs to happen at that precise moment to be truly great. (And who wants to remake a BAD song? Unless you really feel the nuances of MC Hammer weren’t truly touched upon). You need the backing track, the words to have meaning or significance and all the while you have a producer over the scenes like an urban Gepetto. And when you switch any of these things, the song ceases to hold its integrity and its specialty. It’s like a great speech: you need the poignancy, the words themselves and most of all, the speaker. You don’t see people re-enacting great speeches unless it’s for a bad community theatre production of Lincoln! The Musical or during a casting call for voice over work on the History Channel. And a good rap song works like that. Ingredients are precise and perfect and to re-make them gets just some bad cake.
So remake the movies, the pop songs, and remix the rap songs until you’re blue in your D&G sunglassed face, but don’t remake em. Because you lose everything they stand for. If you do, you’re left with a song that doesn’t sound good coming from a car as it speeds by on a New York street. Something no amount of ride pimpin could save.

Advertisements