Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 2 (Wu Records/Sanctuary Urban)
By: Gray Gannaway
Wu-Tang Clan has been one of the most influential movements in hip-hop music for the past 15 years. God knows how hip hop would have made it out of the 90's without Wu-Tang (and to an equal degree DJ Premier) resurrecting the raw, grimy, but soulful as hell sound of early east coast hip hop in a decade that had to endure an onslaught of R&B hooks, Dr. Dre clones, obnoxiously self-proclaimed "conscious" rap, and the ultimately devastating blow of what is Puff Daddy. From '93 on, the Wu smashed through the rap industry, redefined both underground and commercial rap across the globe, and split off in countless directions engraving the infamous "W" symbol everywhere and leaving the hip hop world speaking a new language.
That being said, I was basically indifferent when I first heard mention of the "new live Wu-Tang DVD". Wu-Tang fans have had to sift through the never-ending torrent of Wu spinoffs and semi-releases for over 10 years now, and while the talent from the crew never dries up, bulletproof wallets do. Of course, as soon as I got the DVD in my hands I immediately went home to check it out and was blown away.
Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 2 is the follow up release to the live CD released earlier this year. The showcase of the DVD is the live performance in San Bernadino this past July 17, the first time all 9 members had performed together since the CD release show for The W at Hammerstein Ballroom in November 2000 (when ODB performed while on the run from police, having recently escaped a drug treatment center that was the result of a violated probation). I think this may be the last time all nine members ever performed together (they were set to perform again in NYC the Friday night before ODB's death, but he couldn't make it). The DVD itself consists of the "complete" live show ("complete" other than some random edits), the "movie"(which is a mixture of segments from the live show and interview clips from all official members except Ol' Dirty), and the music videos for "Chi Kung" (Rza) and "Old Man" (Masta Killa).
Hardcore Wu-Tang fans will be in heaven while watching this -- it would be hard to craft up a better set list for a reunion show (other than the encore of "Gravel Pits' -- wtf). They deliver not only the most relevant tracks from all four Wu albums, but also rip tracks from all your favorite early Wu solo albums (minus Ironman). As you'd expect with a Wu-Tang show, there are like 50 people on stage at all times, and everyone is constantly rhyming on each other's tracks and filling each other in. Streetlife and Islord are also on stage (and on the mic) for most of the show, Redman appears for a song with Meth, and Cappadonna shows up for a few (slept on) tracks.
Those who have never been a hip hop or Wu-Tang fan may not fully appreciate this DVD - it's more of a representation of the Wu-Tang energy than the Wu-Tang precision. But for anyone that IS a fan of hip hop, after seeing this you'll understand why Ghost is often credited for saving Wu as he effortlessly destroys classic verse after classic verse, you will remember why you can't sleep on Ugod and Masta Killa, and you'll even forgive Method Man for the weak collabs, Right Guard commercials, and sitcoms, and remember why you first liked him - he's built to get shit poppin'. Each member has a purpose and the combination of the nine emcees creates something greater than the sum of its parts. Wu-Tang is an example of a mastered art.
ODB is (always) a highlight. Most of the time he just sits on the edge of the stage looking both indifferent to the crowd and totally in awe at the same time, but he comes strong on the mic throughout the entire show. Probably the best moment on the entire DVD is when he locks in on "Reunited", after which the entire group stays on fire for the rest of the show.
Drawbacks of the DVD are the randomly deleted footage from the show, the absence of the "Careful" and "Triumph" videos, and the fact that many of the songs are cut short (before final verses) with some kind of breaking-glass sound effect. But before you have time to bitch about how obnoxious the transitions are, you're like, "OHHHH SHIT! 'BROOKLYN ZOO'!"
Aside from the absolutely tragic news of Ol' Dirty's death, this DVD really is worth getting just for the few minutes of footage you get of him. While he stays reserved for most of the show, when he shines you definitely feel it. You may not get all the goofy ODB tactics that some have come to expect, but you get an honest representation of his lyrical style and can appreciate that he was infinitely talented as an emcee, and not just some guy who made the press by acting up in court and collecting welfare out of a limousine. Having first watched this DVD a week before his death but writing this review in late November, it's fucking hard seeing "4th Chamber" at the end of the show while Ghost, who had been gravitating towards the quiet ODB all night, spits his verse like a god while Dirty sits motionless with his eyes closed and sings along.
This DVD will definitely have you breaking out your old Liquid Swords and Cuban Linx, but if you have no idea what that means, do yourself a favor and go pick up Enter the 36 Chambers.