Retrospective: Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers vs Wu-Tang Forever

Wu-Tang arrived on the scene officially in 1992-1993 with their brash and aggressive demeanor, kicking down the doors of the industry. With their classic debut album "Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers", they instantly became the crew to watch in hip hop. The album is considered a classic, and most people would say it is Wu's best. However, in 1997, Wu put together a 2nd classic album, this time a double album, that was more ambitious and creative, Wu-Tang Forever. Wu-Tang Forever is considered by some to be Wu's best, which begs the question... Which album is honestly better? We gathered a few folks to discuss this topic, so let's get right into it, shall we?

Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers

1. Bring The Ruckus
2. Shame On A Nigga
3. Clan In The Front
4. Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber
5. Can It Be All So Simple
6. Da Mystery of Chessboxin'
7. Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit
8. C.R.E.A.M.
9. Method Man
10. Protect Ya Neck
11. Tearz
12. Wu-Tang 7th Chamber Part 2


Wu-Tang Forever

*Disc One
1. Wu-Revolution
2. Reunited
3. For Heaven's Sake
4. Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours
5. Visionz
6. As High As Wu-Tang Get
7. Severe Punishment
8. Older Gods
9. Maria
10. A Better Tomorrow
11. It's Yourz

*Disc Two
1. Intro
2. Triumph
3. Impossible
4. Little Ghetto Boys
5. Deadly Melody
6. The City
7. The Projects
8. Bells of War
9. The M.G.M.
10. Dog Shit
11. Duck Seazon
12. Hellz Wind Staff
13. Heaterz
14. Black Shampoo
15. Second Coming
16. The Closing

I fell in love with hip hop when I heard Protect Ya Neck for the first time. I knew hip hop would forever be a part of my life when I listened to the. "Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers" album in its entirety. It was unlike any other album at the time. The beats were unique and the lyrics were mind blowing. This album was a perfect showcase for each artist individually and as a group. When I'm asked why 36 Chambers is a better album, my reply is simple. I prefer the lyrical content, flow and beats (among a few other things) of 36 Chambers to Wu Tang Forever. I'll explain, the lyrical content in this album from track to track is like each artist came with their own story to tell and brought different elements of their life experience with the words they said. As for flow, RZA did a fantastic job of putting artists together that compliment each other's voices and flow (ex. Can It Be All So Simple - Rae and Ghost and then the tracks with all members) and the beats found on 36 Chambers is so unique, which you have to credit RZA for. The Wu-Tang Forever album just sounded a little bit watered down when compared to 36 Chambers. Beats were softer, lyrics weren't as raw and real (to me). I think on the Wu-Tang Forever album, the target audience was much broader, so it took away from what made 36 Chambers so successful and loved.

My favorite group of all time, the Wu-Tang Clan(Outkast is my favorite duo, there's a difference), have blessed hip hop with loads of classics and gems for over 20 years. Not so much within the last 12 years or so, but their first 2 albums are pinnacles in our culture. Enter the 36 Chambers is an all time classic of course. "C.R.E.A.M." and "Protect Ya Neck" are amongst the hip hop upper echelon of tracks on the album. But Wu-Tang Forever is the clear winner here. It's just too evolved from 36 Chambers. Every track is a lyrical manslaughter, I can't name just one track.

Wu-Tang Forever is in my top 5 favorite all time albums and it is by far the best double album in hip-hop, in my opinion(sorry Pac and Big). This is one of my audio bibles and it helped me in my adolescence and still to this day. Too many jewels and pure streams of consciousness. I go with Wu-Tang Forever.

They always say the first kiss is the most memorable, and while this statement by any means doesn't represent any need to make out with members of the Wu-Tang Clan, 36 Chambers will always be a better album than Wu-Tang Forever, in my opinion. The latter, while containing some AMAZING moments (Triumph, The MGM, Dog Shit), is another double album filled with too much filler and records that just plain ol' miss the mark. There is no such issue with 36 Chambers. "Shame On A Nigga" helped introduced hip hop's most unpredictable character in ODB. "Method Man" was arguably the rap single of the year in an era when competition in hip hop was at its zenith. "Can It Be All So Simple" is is a ghetto ballad that hasn't been matched. And lets not forget "C.R.E.A.M". A song so great that the word went from slang to permanent fixture in urban language to describe money and/or the act of getting it. It isn't even a close comparison. "Wu-Tang Forever" is a great feather in the hat that is the Clan's catalog. 36 Chambers, however, changed the genre and is still one of the greatest hip hop albums ever created.

They say music marks time. A lot of times, the album that captures the people's attention first, they always consider it your best. Musically, even if you come with a stronger project later on, they will still hold onto your first as your best. Interestingly enough, a lot of groups and artists reach their apex on their sophomore album. It Was Written is a better album than Illmatic, and I personally prefer The Massacre over Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Those are just two examples. In this case, I think overall as an actual album, Wu-Tang Forever is better than 36 Chambers, just by a small margin. Now, when I was younger, I used to always hear 36 Chambers playing around my neighborhood and in the house. Wu was loved in the streets and that album was considered a classic almost instantly. Rightfully so. 36 Chambers was an album full of anthems, sounded like the rawest thing ever in music, and definitely is the more impactful album in the hip hop culture. However, when compared to an album like Wu-Tang Forever, that was more so ambitious, creative, and introspective, they are worlds apart. 36 Chambers is the world's introduction to the Wu, while Wu-Tang Forever came at a time when they were connecting on all cylinders. Liquid Swords, Cuban Linx, Tical, Ironman, the Wu could seemingly do no wrong.

Why do I pick Wu-Tang Forever over 36 Chambers? Let's look at the songs here. "Reunited", "Visionz", "Older Gods", "Cash Still Rules/Scary Hours", "It's Yourz", "Maria", of course "Triumph", "The M.G.M.", "Dog Shit", "Heaterz", might as well say the whole album. Beatwise, RZA was a bit crisper with his samples and more creative with them as well. Wu-Tang Forever is actually my personal favorite Wu album, along with tied for the best double album with Life After Death, in my opinion. There really isn't much filler here in this album to me, and even on this 2-disc section, the Wu seem comfortable and precise. I feel Wu-Tang Forever is criminally slept on and a classic. Don't get me wrong, 36 Chambers is a classic and the most important album that Wu has overall, but Wu-Tang Forever is just slightly better musically to me.

The purpose for this particular roundtable was to look beyond the usual hip hop opinions, similar to our Illmatic vs It Was Written album discussion. While Illmatic is the most important Nas album period, with so many iconic moments, there is an argument that It Was Written is his best album musically. As I said, music marks time. You can never recapture the feeling that you had when you first heard an artist, and that artist could never reinforce that feeling honestly, but they can always make a better album. What's your opinion? 36 Chambers or Wu-Tang Forever? Join the conversation.



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