The storied kinship between the Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest dates back to the 1980s, when the paths of the late Wu-Tang rapper/jester Ol Dirty Bastard and the de facto leader/renaissance man crossed paths of Tribe, Q-Tip, as teenagers cruised and wrestled outside the latter’s Manhattan High School, while ODB’s cousin and future Wu-Tang keymaster RZA beatboxed. (As The tip was revealed in a recent interviewODB served him without any problems.)
But for three decades, the groups have been linked to a very specific day: November 9, 1993.
On that day, Wu released his groundbreaking debut. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)and Tribe released its beloved third album, Midnight Marauders. These double albums made 11/9/93 something of a holiday for hip-hop fans—and few would argue that it was the greatest release date in the genre’s history. (Up there too? June 28, 1988 and September 29, 1998.)
From the “Slums of Shaolin” (also known as Staten Island), Wu-Tang assembled a supergroup whose original members also included GZA, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah and Method Man. Her 36 chambers was a stunning statement that instantly reinvented the young sound of East Coast rap and paved the way for the likes of Biggie, Nas and Mobb Deep.
There had never been a crew so cohesive, so raw and so powerful in their street poetics. (None that so passionately bridged the gap between classic martial arts films and hip-hop.) And that hasn’t happened since, which is why Wu-Tang fans are almost cult in their beliefs and why there have been several books, Documentaries and television shows about the founding of the group.
Queens’s Tribe came into being, as RZA noted in a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment, in the fall of 1993, when the leaves were changing color—and changing the face of hip-hop forever. As part of the Afrocentric extended Native Tongues family, Tribe – which also included the late wordsmith Phife Dawg, producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and sometimes mystery man Jarobi (or “A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y”) already released two certified classics, 1990s People’s instinctive journeys and the paths of rhythm and 1991s The Low End Theory. But with Midnight Maraudersthe group delivered their magnum opus, a pitch-perfect five-mic triumph that further developed low-fi jazz sampling the low-end theory in rich, multi-layered, rousing boom bap.
“It was just a proud day for us that your album came out and New York City accepted us,” RZA tells us. “It was a big party and a lot of celebrities that we admired or wanted to be like, who wanted to be in their shoes, came to the party.” Q-Tip and I [had] We’ve known each other since high school, he and ODB have a great history together. And here we are on the same day. And even though we weren’t as big as Tribe at that point, they were already a gold act on the way to platinum, and we were a new act. … But that day was still a happy accident because it still sparked a movement in hip-hop and a moment in hip-hop.”
RZA could sense the changing dynamic in rap, which continued two weeks later with the release of Snoop Dogg’s award-winning debut album. Doggy style.
“Tribe Called Quest, one of your favorite East Coast groups, came out largeand drop a few bombs. And [then] They’ve got Snoop on the West Coast with something big. And then something new happens, you know what I mean?
“And so I remember that time, I remember driving in the van with our brothers to different places, be it radio stations or record stores, getting ready for the party, and we had the other heroes’ cassettes , Tribe and Snoop and all that. Because back then you went to a store [appearance] And you buy some albums too, you know what I mean? And you get back in the van and someone throws it in and you check it and listen… And I just remember for me it was like, “Put our tape in!” We got one too. Put our shit in it.’ Boom.”
Boom went Enter the Wu, buoyed by the singles “Protect Ya Neck,” “CREAM” and “Can It All Be so Simple,” sold 30,000 albums in its first week. (You know an album is special when even the B-sides like “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit” and “Method Man” are an all-timer.) The gospel of Wu spread quickly and the album went platinum by 1995. By 2018, in the midst of the digital age, it tripled that status.
Midnight Marauders rode the wave of hits “Award Tour,” “Electric Relaxation” and “Oh My God” to a debut at No. 8 on the Billboard 200. It was certified gold in 1995 and platinum in 1995 – fittingly, just like that Enter the Wu.