Monday, May 5, 2008

First round of solo albums

First round of solo albums

The period between the release of ''Enter the Wu-Tang'' and Wu-Tang Clan's second album is considered to be "the greatest winning streak in rap history.
The RZA was the first to follow up on the success of ''Enter the Wu-Tang'' with a side project, founding the [[Gravediggaz]] with [[Prince Paul]] and Frukwan (both of [[Stetsasonic]]) and [[Poetic (hip hop)|Poetic]]. The Gravediggaz released ''[[6 Feet Deep]]'' in August 1994, which became one of the best known works to emerge from hip hop's small sub-genre of [[horrorcore]].

It had always been planned for Method Man to be the first breakout star from the group's lineup, with the [[b-side]] of the first single being his now-classic eponymous solo track. In November 1994 his solo album ''[[Tical (Album)|Tical]]'' was released. It was entirely produced by The RZA, who for the most part continued with the grimy, raw textures he explored on ''36 Chambers''. The RZA's hands-on approach to ''Tical'' extended beyond his merely creating the beats to devising song concepts and structures. The track "All I Need" from ''Tical'' was the winner of the "Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group" at the 1995 [[Grammy Awards]]
This approach would continue throughout the first round of solo projects from the Clan members. Ol' Dirty Bastard found success in early 1995 with ''[[Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version]]'', which saw the 36 Chambers sound become even rawer and rougher-edged.

Late 1995 saw the release of the group's two most significant and well-received solo projects. Raekwon the Chef's ''[[Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...]]'' was a diverse, theatrical [[criminological]] epic that saw The RZA move away from the raw, stripped-down beats of the early albums and towards a richer, cinematic sound more reliant on [[String instrument|strings]] and classic [[soul music|soul]] [[Sampling (music)|samples]]. Lavish living and the crime underworld are referenced throughout, with the mystique of the Wu-Tang Clan deepened by the adoption of crime boss aliases and the crew name Wu-Gambinos. The album introduced a flurry of slang words to the rap lexicon, and many artists have gone on to imitate its materialism. It featured [[Nas]], who was the first non-Clan MC to appear on a Wu-related album. GZA's ''[[Liquid Swords]]'' had a similar focus on inner-city criminology akin to ''Only Built 4 Cuban Linx'', but it was far darker, both in GZA's grim lyrics and in the ominous, foreboding production that saw The RZA experimenting more with [[Synthesizer|keyboards]] than ever before. The two 1995 solo albums remain widely regarded as two of the finest hip hop albums of the nineties.

Ghostface Killah released his own debut, ''[[Ironman (album)|Ironman]]'', in 1996. It struck a balance between the sinister keyboard-laden textures of ''Liquid Swords'' and the sentimental soul samples of ''...Cuban Linx'', while Ghost-face himself explored new territory as a lyricist. It was critically acclaimed and is still widely considered one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums. Although the 1994-1996 albums were released as solo albums, The RZA's presence behind the boards and the large number of guest appearances from other Clan members (Raekwon and Ghostface's albums only had two or three actual solo tracks each and both included many tracks that included other Clan members) means they are usually considered as to be all-round group efforts.

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