The nine-piece outfit that is the Wu-Tang Clan was so successful for several reasons, but the lyrics and unique styles were indisputably one of the main factors. Each member of the collective had a distinct style, and listeners could tell who was on the mic without looking. Whether it was Ol Dirty Bastard (ODB) with his kooky intonations or Inspectah Deck with his complex rhyme schemes, each individual brang something different to the table.
Although there were nine MCs, it is safe to say we heard from some more than others. Acts such as ODB, Method Man and Raekwon were undoubtedly more prominent than GZA and Inspectah Deck. However, upon listening, one hears that the lesser-known acts were an integral part of all of the tracks as they helped the ebb and flow of songs and offset the more brash rappers who, without them, would overwhelm audiences.
The group’s initial plan was for every member to get their own individual record deal. However, it didn’t quite work out that way in the end. The New-York-based record labels such as Loud and Elektra were in search of a certain look, and even though specific individuals in the Clan were highly skilled lyricists, they didn’t have the look or braggadocious demeanour to compete in the mainstream.
During their prime, between 1992 and 1998, the Wu-Tang Clan released a lot of material, both collaborative and solo. In this article, we are going to see the five best and most potent verses ever delivered by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan during this period. Take a look at our picks below.
The five deadliest Wu-Tang Clan verses:
5. ‘Guillotine (Swordz)’ – Raekwon ft Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck & GZA, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, (1994)
‘Guillotine (Swordz)’ is somewhat of a posse cut as it features so many member of the collective on it. However, Inspectah Deck still shines brighter than the rest on this particular song. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was a platinum-selling record and is still considered an East Coast classic, but following his high exposure on the project, Deck (real name Jason Hunter) was widely considered one of the most lyrical members of the Clan.
Rhyming for over two minutes, Hunter commences by passionately rapping: “Poisonous paragraphs smash your phonograph in half / It be the Inspectah Deck on the warpath / First class, leavin’ mics with a cast / Causin’ ruckus like the aftermath when guns blast / Run fast, here comes the verbal assaulter / Rhymes runnin’ wild like a child in a walker.”
4. ‘Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit’ – Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), (1993)
This iconic track featured on the crew’s debut 1993 project, Wu-Tang: Enter The 36 Chambers. Made to assert the collective’s dominance, it was accompanied by other hits such as ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ and ‘Protect Ya Neck.’ Although many pay attention to the more well-known tracks, this song has some powerful verses. The second verse delivered by Inspectah Deck is, lyrically, the most potent part of this track. His rhyme schemes and abrupt stops, cadences and ability to flow within the beat’s pockets are second to none and are admirable.
Following RZA, the emcee raps: “Put the needle to the groove, I gets rude, and I’m forced
To fuck it up, my style carries like a pick-up truck / Cross the clear blue yonder, sea to shining sea I slam tracks like quarterback sacks from L.T / Now why try and test, the Rebel INS? Blessed since the birth, I earth-slam your best / Cause I bake the cake, then take the cake And eat it, too, with my crew while we head state to state.”
3. ‘Criminology’ – Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, (1994)
Released in 1995, Only Built For Cuban Linx was Raekwon’s debut album. Executively produced by his Wu-Tang counterpart RZA, the album debuted in the top five at number four on the Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. Almost every Clan member contributed to the project, with ODB, Inspectah Deck, GZA and every other individual in the crew managing to make their way onto the record. However, one track stands out in particular: ‘Criminology.’ Released as the second single, the track samples dialogue from the mob crime film Scarface.
In a 2015 interview with DJ Booth, the Staten Island act (real name Corey Woods) explained how the track was inspired by the countless experiences he and the Clan had with the police while innocently roaming Staten Island. Woods elaborated on how the local older women would be on hand to open specific windows and doors that could allow the collective to escape the cops, as they knew the Clan as respectful adolescents. Raekwon opens the track rapping:
“Yo, first of all son, peep the arsonMany brothers I be sparkin’ and bustin’ mad light inside the dark / Call me dough snatcher, just the brother for the rapture / I hand glide, holdin’ on strong, hard to capture / Extravagant, RZA bake the track and it’s militant / Then I react like a convict and start killin’ shit / It’s manifested, the God’s work like appliances / Dealin’ in my cypher, I revolve around sciences.”
2. ‘Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane)’ – ODB, Return to the 36 Chambers, (1995)
Ol Dirty Bastard’s debut album was fantastic. However, the project did create friction between ODB and GZA following the former’s failure to safeguard his funds. However, irrespective of the tension it may have caused, it’s safe to say that the RZA-produced album was a masterpiece. Ol Dirty Bastard’s style was so unique and different from anything at the time that it made him a lyrical idiot savant, which is why he was the first of the Clan to secure a solo record deal.
The kooky, fragmented, yet exceptional cadences that ODB (real name Russell Jones) used on this record, in particular, culminated in a legendary first verse. The lyrics of ‘Brooklyn Zoo II’ were used by Jones during a 1995 cypher at the 1994 Gavin Convention in San Francisco and have since been a signifier of his strange brilliance. The late Fort Greene lyricist utilised unexpected and dramatic intonations that, akin to Eminem, gave him a quasi-neurotic edge. Produced by RZA, the track features what is arguably one of the WU-Tang Clan’s deadliest verses. Inspectah Deck’s first verse is flawless, considering flow, delivery, breath control, and more. The complex rhyme scheme and his aggressive demeanour make for exemplary performance. As the listener hears the emcee (real name Jason Hunter) switch from flow to flow so seamlessly, it is impossible to deny the excellence of this verse. You can see and listen to the verse below.
“I’ll grab and the mic and I’ll damage ya, plus your whole stamina / Here comes the medical examiner / One verse then you’re out for the count / Bring the ammonia, make sure he sniffs the right amount
Wake you up and then I ask you, how do you intend this? / Competition to get an ass kickin’ so tremendous / You shouldn’t bother this / Leave me alone like a son he’ll be fatherless! / I got the Asiatic flow mixed with disco / Roll up on the scene like the Count of Monte Crisco / And MC’s start to vanish / I rolled up on a jet black kid the nigga started speakin’ Spanish / Yo! You wasn’t from Panama I asked you how you get so fuckin’ dark, you said sun-tan-ama / He responded so fast, you made me laugh
Ha-ha-ha, scared his ass!”
1. ‘Triumph’ – Wu-Tang ft Capaddona, Wu-Tang Forever, (1997)
‘Triumph’ was the first single released for the Clan’s 1997 album, Wu-Tang Forever. With several artists having already secured solo record deals, this project saw the crew reunite to show the world they were still united and just as potent as they were when they released ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ 1997 was a big year in hip-hop. It saw what was the raging East Coast versus West Coast war end and marked the end of several musical empires, including Death Row and Bad Boy. However, Wu-Tang was just as united as it was in the early parts of the decade.
Produced by RZA, the track features what is arguably one of the WU-Tang Clan’s deadliest verses. Inspectah Deck’s first verse is flawless, considering flow, delivery, breath control, and more. The complex rhyme scheme and his aggressive demeanour make for exemplary performance. As the listener hears the emcee (real name Jason Hunter) switch from flow to flow so seamlessly, it is impossible to deny the excellence of this verse. You can see and listen to the verse below.
“I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses / Can’t define how I be droppin’ these mockeries / Lyrically perform armed robbery / Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me / Battle-scarred Shogun, explosion when my pen hits tremendous / Ultra-violet shine blind forensics / I inspect view through the future see millennium / Killa Beez sold fifty gold, sixty platinum / Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics / Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths / Black Wu jackets, Queen Beez ease the guns in / Rumble with patrolmen, tear gas laced the function / Heads by the score take flight, incite a war / Chicks hit the floor, diehard fans demand more / Behold the bold soldier, control the globe slowly / Proceeds to blow, swingin’ swords like Shinobi / Stomp grounds and pound footprints in solid rock / Wu got it locked, performin’ live on your hottest block!”