The Wu-Tang Clan played a massive role in shaping and pioneering the sound of New York hip-hop in the 1990s and, along with the likes of Nas and Mobb Deep, helped the East Coast musically find its feet in an era of Death Row domination.
However, as well as making fantastic music, the nine-piece outfit also found themselves at the centre of a strange feud with New York’s most potent mainstream hip-hop radio station, HOT 97.0. The collective got so caught up in the beef that the entire group got blackballed from the station, and the war took over a decade to die.
HOT 97.0 has been New York’s most listened-to hip-hop radio station for some decades now. In 1992 when the Wu-Tang Clan were in their prime, the station had just switched from pop to hip-hop and was the first hip-hop-only station on the East Coast. It quickly became the hottest station in the city, with Funkmaster Flex running the show. However, tension between the DJ and members of the crew arose as a result of a misunderstanding.
The initial fallout between the Clan and Flex occurred following what Inspectah Deck claimed was a case of musical blackmail. According to the Staten Island native, the station (including Flex) coerced the collective to headline their Summer Jam festival by asserting that they would no longer play their records if they did not do it.
In an interview for the group’s 2019 docuseries Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, the musician stated, “The deal was, as far as I remember, you gotta come back and do this Hot 97 Summer Jam, or we’re not gonna play any more of your records on your station,” he explained.
Due to their frustration and anger at the station’s tactics, Ghostface Killah screamed “Fuck Hot 97!” while onstage and encouraged the crowd to join in with him. What ensued was tragic for the collective as they got blackballed by the station.
Explaining how this suppressed their sales, led to a decline in popularity and helped fragment the crew, for their 2019 docuseries, Inspectah Deck unveiled, “They didn’t play our records for like the next 10 years. Us not being involved while they playing the Biggie shit, they playing Nas shit, everybody that was rocking with us at the time. That affected our sales, that affected our touring, that affected everything. That affected our presence.”
However, the tension was partially dealt with in 2013 when the remaining members of the Clan performed at Summer Jam. Earlier this year, Funkmaster Flex, who now operates as the station’s creative director, took time out to apologise to the collective in a picture alongside RZA.
Taking to Instagram, the Bronx native wrote,“I WANNA TAKE THIS TIME TO APOLOGIZE TO THE @RZA AND THE ENTIRE @WUTANGCLAN !!! ALMOST 25YRS AGO THE GROUP, ME AND HOT97 HAD A DISAGREEMENT THAT TO ME NEVER GOT PUT TO BED AND I APOLOGIZE!”
He continued, “LOOKING BACK AT THIS 20 SUMTHIN YEARS LATER.. WE GONNA MAKE UP FOR THE TIME WE MISSED…THE WORLDS GREATEST RAP GROUP AND THE WORLDS GREATEST RADIO STATIONS ARE GOING TO COME TOGETHER BRING U SOMETHING AMAZING!” You can hear Inspectah Deck telling DJ Vlad about the crew’s feud with the station in the video below.