Monday, January 26, 2015

The Wu-Tang Clan Journey: "Return To The 36 Chambers (The Dirty Version)"

Needless to say, this album cover is one of the most unorthodox, unique covers in hip hop history, and you definitely wouldn't see anything like this in today's hip hop world. I feel one reason we got a cover like this was for the late Ol Dirty Bastard to show the world he was different and wasn't ashamed of himself and where he came from, and he certainly had my respect for that. And with most albums from the 90s, this one comes with a story. My cousin Terrell had this on tape, and that's how I heard it the first time, plus my aunt Denise had the "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" single on cassette, and from there, I HAD TO cop this joint, which I eventually did. I owned the cassette twice, and including the version I have now, I copped the CD at least three times.

ODB was not a lyricist in any form (he probably would've told you that himself), however, he was entertaining as hell (sometimes for the right and wrong reasons), plus he could flow when he had to. Although I never listen to hip hop for a comedic fix, one thing ODB did better than anyone else at the time was make people laugh, and to this day when I bump this album, I laugh at some of the moments, and I'm about to dissect this album. Read on!

Release date: March 28, 1995

1. "Intro"
This intro starts things off on a funny note. When I first heard him say, "let me introduce myself, my name is Mr. Russell Jones," at the time I had no idea that was his real name, so it had me cracking up, thinking he was making that name up. I still laugh when I listen to it today. Towards the end, he says "I'm just kiddin' wit y'all, how y'all feelin, listen to the album cause it's BANGIN!," and that was SO true.

2. "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" 
Produced by The RZA

Silly song title aside, this was one of the hits in 1995, and since then, each time I hear it, all it does is instantly take me back to that moment in time in my life. You can't do nothing but nod your head when you hear this and sing along: "Shimmy Shimmy Ya, shimmy yam, shimmy yay/Gimme the mic so I can take it away!"  
 *5 out of 5*

3. "Baby C'mon" 
Produced by The RZA

Another RZA produced banger and I love it! I also love the great video (along with "Shimmy Shimmy Ya "at the beginning of it) and two of the most memorable parts of this song are the end of the first verse ("that's why you gotta do what ya gotta do, come on, can I get a Wu-Tang?! WU-TANG, WU-TANG, WU-TANG, it's on da brain!") and the end of the song, when he says "I'm gonna give it to ya, baby, baby, then when he gets to the third baby, he extends it and it ends the song, leaving you wondering if he ran out of breath doing it or not.
*5 out of 5*

4. "Brooklyn Zoo" 
Produced by True Master, Co-Produced by ODB

ANOTHER banger here, and this lyrically may be his best song ever.  
*5 out of 5*

5. "Hippa To Da Hoppa"
Produced by The RZA

This joint is a trip right here. Not only does RZA's beat absolutely knock, but ODB is just hilarious on this one, and in one of the funniest and dirty (pun intended) lines I've ever heard on a hip hop record, he says and I quote, "I keep my breath smellin' like shit so I can get FUNKY!!" Good God!
*4 out of 5*

6. "Raw Hide" 
Featuring Method Man & Raekwon 
Produced by The RZA

Let's see, we have ODB being himself, a tight verse by Rae, a show stealing verse by Meth, all over another tight RZA production. Classic if you ask me. 
*5 out of 5*

7. "Damage"
Featuring GZA
Produced by The RZA, Co-Produced by 4th Disciple

The average person may think that GZA probably ran lyrical circles around ODB on this one, but surprisingly, not only does ODB hold his own on this track, but this is another where he shows he can flow when it's time.
*4 out of 5*

(I had to up the rating to a "5 out of 5" for this one. The back and forth between GZA and ODB has increasingly gotten better over time.)

8. "Don't You Know"
Featuring Killah Priest" 
Produced by The RZA

With all due respect, Killah Priest's verse is all but forgotten on this hilarious song. (Naw, Killah Priest's verse is not forgotten. Not even sure why I said that.) ODB is telling a story from the perspective of a kid in high school, coming up in sexually charged environment, and the following lines are from the song are quite notable:

I'm just sittin' right, in my class at a quarter to ten right?
Waiting patiently for the class to begin right?
Teacher said "open up your text and read the first paragraph, on
oral sex!
I said "oral sex, what kind of class is this?!"
Girl next to me said "whats wrong with you Miss?!"
Good, hilarious song. 
*3.5 out of 5* 
9. "The Stomp"
Produced by The RZA, Co-Produced by ODB
Another banger right here, something that'll get you hype even 
if you don't want to be.
*4 out of 5*

10. "Goin Down"
Produced by The RZA

Decent song, sort of getting you ready for the next (hilarious) song.
*3 out of 5*

11. "Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie)"
Produced by ODB and Ethan Ryman

Oh man, this joint is hilarious too. ODB trying to sing has to be heard to be appreciated, or laughed at I guess. I don't think he meant to be serious with this one, as his sole purpose was to entertain the audience, and he did that on this song.  
*3 out of 5* 

(For sheer comedic purposes, I gotta bump this one up to a "4 out of 5" rating.)

12. "Snakes"
Featuring The RZA, Masta Killa, Killah Priest and Buddah Monk
Produced By The RZA

I still can't determine who had the best verse on this song between RZA, Masta, or Killah Priest, but rest assured all three of them kill this dope track, and by the time ODB comes on at the end, it's a little too late for him to do any damage to this track. He tried though.  
4.5 out of 5

(Now when I think about it, even after all these years, I have to say ODB's verse was the worst on this one compared to everyone else's, plus I'm bumping this one up to a "5 out of 5.")

13. "Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane)" 
Featuring Ghostface Killah 
Produced by The RZA

ODB, seemingly drunk on this track, just incoherently recites the first verse from the song "Damage" (sometimes starting the verse over as soon as he starts it), until Ghost comes in and just RIPS everything to shreds. 3 out of 5, mostly due to Ghost's verse.

14. "Protect Ya Neck II (The Zoo)" 
Featuring Shorty Shit Stain, Prodigal Sunn, Killah Priest, & 60 Second Assassin 
Produced By The RZA

Never mind the fact that "Shorty Shit Stain" is possibly one of the WORST names for an artist in all the history of music or that this shouldn't have been named "Protect Ya Neck II." The only thing that saves this is RZA's track, and although everyone's verses are not wack, they're not memorable either.  
*2.5 out of 5*

(I might've been a little too hard on this one. Granted, it holds NO candle to the original "Protect Ya Neck," but everyone is "energetically raw" here and it's kinda hard to ignore. I'll bump this one up to a "4 out of 5.") 

15. "Cuttin Headz"
Featuring and produced by The RZA

RZA and ODB had some fun on this track, even with a title like "Cuttin Headz," and you can tell that as you listen to it.
*3 out of 5*

Bonus Tracks (CD only)

16. "Dirty Dancin" 
Featuring Method Man
Produced by The RZA

This short song is very good, mostly due to Meth completely stealing the show (again) and RZA's banger of a track.
*3.5 out of 5*

17. "Harlem World"
Produced by Big Dore

Even back then and now, I have no idea who the hell Big Dore is, but no matter what the case is, this song is totally forgettable and it clearly should NOT have made this album.
*1 out of 5*

Overall, Wu-Tang were truly hitting their stride (and prime) at this point. They were on top of the world, and this release, while different and not the best on a lyrical level, what you heard (and saw) with ODB was what you got, and judging by the success of this album and the fact that it still holds up today, he delivered, and as I mentioned before, I don't listen to hip hop for a comedic fix, but damn, ODB still makes me laugh to this day when I listen to some of the songs on this album. 
4.5 stars

Next up, my #2 favorite album of all time, the "purple tape," Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx."

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