The Wu-Tang Clan were a 1990s East Coast phenomenon. Comprised of nine members born and raised in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the collective was raw, edgy and reinvigorated the New York rap scene. The group had humble beginnings. From a small trio in a Staten Island basement to becoming a nine-piece outfit taking over the airwaves, the cleverly Clan worked their way to the top.
The East Coast ensemble had a unique look and a far-out sound that made them incomparable to any other act at the time. The collective integrated the discipline and mentality of martial arts into their productions. Moreover, they drew parallels between the perseverance and mental strength needed in martial arts to the mentality necessary to survive in the “hood.” This was an exciting approach to music that only the Clan had. Furthermore, the collective was highly conceptual concerning their tracks and had diverse subject matters. One of their most well-known tracks following their debut single ‘Protect Ya Neck’ was ‘C.R.E.A.M.’
An acronym for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” the song explores the importance of money in capitalist America. It delves into how cash simultaneously controls and restricts African-Americans daily and details the problems that come with it. Akin to many of the tracks released by the Clan, ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ was produced by the collective’s beatmaker and founder, RZA (real name Robert Diggs). However, it he didn’t take on the vocals.
In a 2017 interview with The Cruz Show, RZA explained how the initial album version was different to the official single that was released later. Furthermore, Diggs unveiled that there were multiple renditions of ‘C.R.E.A.M’. Elaborating on the recording of ‘C.R.E.A.M.’, Diggs revealed, “Well, the cool thing about ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ is that we got the chance to go back to the studio and re-record it for a [official] single. It started off with 60 seconds of Assassin doing the ‘ooohs’. You’ll notice that the drums are heavier than the original album cut. What a lot of people don’t know about ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ is that this song must have been recorded about four or five times by Wu-Tang Clan!”
The legend continued, “The first time we recorded it was during a court case I had, and I felt that I shouldn’t have been arrested. So it was [originally] called ‘I’m On Some Sh*t.’ It was just me and Ghostface! Later it got recorded with just Raekwon and Inspectah Deck and it was called ‘Lifestyles Of The Mega-Rich.’ Then when we got to the studio to record The 36 Chambers album, I decided that this track had to be on the Wu-Tang album so I reminded Rae and Deck of their verses but their verses were [too] long. They truncated the verses and then Method Man the master of hooks at the time came in with this hook here!”
Recorded at Firehouse Studios in Brooklyn, ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ was released in 1994 as the third single of Enter the Wu-Tang: The 36 Chambers. You can see some rare footage of the Clan recording the track in the video below.