Monday, September 5, 2011

Track Checker: RZA "Wu-Wear"

Artist: RZA featuring Method Man and Cappadonna
Song: Wu-Wear (The Garment Renaissance)
Release Date: September 10, 1996
Album: High School High Soundtrack

If there is one thing that I like to do it's stay cool. I don't mean low temperatures in the hot summer either, I mean fresh threads ya knucklehead. So when I want to be at my coolest I look to rap artists and especially bootleggers for guidance and deals. BOOTLEG CLOTHES! Actually, I don't like to wear bootleg clothes...those lousy bootleggers, they take everyone's ideas and just make them cheap and sell them to make money. I'm talking cheap like the collar falls off the first time mall security grabs at you during an escape. You know: CHEEEAAP. So back to bootleggers, or more specifically, the bootleggers who took the iconic Wu-Tang "W" logo and made a t-shirt iron-on or something and then sold it for big bucks while the actual Wu-Tang Clan got nothing. Those guys. Obviously all the Wu fans wanted Wu-Branded merchandise, so the Wu decided to actually sell it themselves and beat those bootleggers, so they made their own clothes (and shoes and hats and everything else). They also made a commercial disguised as a song and threw it on the "High School High Soundtrack" and also released a single. I bought both. I paid to hear two commercials.

So how about a little Wu-Wear history, fella? "No Thanks" - you. Well it's kind of important to this post. The Wu-Tang Clan was a ridiculously stong brand (which was nothing new, so was Death Row and Bad Boy at the time) and the move to sell clothing really strengthened the connection between the artist and other ways to make money besides music. This song was the official starting point, after this a lot of the big rap artists started affiliating themselves with clothing (but maybe not as directly).

But the Wu didn't settle for just selling clothing at Macy's (which they did), they also had their own stores that only sold Wu-Wear. Exclusive! Being an idiot, and a true fan (and living near the store) I visited the Wu Wear store in Philadelphia. You had to ring a buzzer to get in. The store was about the size of a 7-11, and it was really nice inside, like somewhere you would buy a business suit. They had hardwood floors, dramatic lighting, expensive looking paint schemes and moldings. They had a wide variety of merchandise: jeans, hoodies, key chains, t-shirts, jackets, gloves, shoes, and much more. I also remember seeing the price on a pair of jeans and immediately planning my escape, that shit was expeeennnsssive ($$$$)! I was (and am) low on the CREAM, son!

Raw No-Shows

Before I start reviewing the actual song, I have a clip of RZA talking about Wu Wear, he describes how it lets the public dress like the Wu (no duh), and that it " just as good as Polo, Tommy Hilfinger...a real strong competitor inside the garment district." Okay, what is the "Garment Dustrict"? He goes on to say that Wu Wear was put out to help express the rawness of the streets, to help tell the story of the struggle that the members of the Wu experienced...the song is dedicated to that same message. That's so dumb, here's the song...

So who ended up being recruited for the commercial? RZA, Method Man, and Cappadonna (who was still getting established thanks to his late start in the Clan).

The song starts out with a pretty strong beat, listening to it there is no doubt that RZA is behind the production. Meth drops the hook, half singing, half whining, and to be honest it's both irritating and crabs. Then the beat changes up a little and RZA starts tearing it up over a doorbell. Rewind: RZA starts tearing it up over a doorbell. Where do they come up with these beats? Huh, kids today a long time ago. His verse is vintage RZA, hes talking about sodium benzoate, chicken thighs, and triglycerides. It's amazing. He manages to stay mostly on the Wu Wear topic, and talks about someone who was lost, "then he became highly civilized and spent time amongst the wise, went through a garment renaissance". RZA then lists all the clothing brands that this person stopped wearing (read: competitors brands) and claims that he now wears "strictly Wu Wear". Great verse.

Meth hits the hook again, then Cappa comes in with an absolutely irritating verse. He also manages to stay on the topic of fashion (something he is very good at), but his lyrics are a bit more random. He doesn't do anything memorable, except he closes his verse with a final frenzied sales pitch: He mentions Wu-Wear several times and sounds completely out of his mind. His lyrics kind of make sense when you read them, but they are absolutely incomprehensible on the song. 
Now it's my time, Asian Wu Wear, Cap and fleece wear / One wear plaids the Don will hold the best for all wear /
plus boo wear, Wu Wear, what's going on / We're the best of this year, Wu Wear and fleece wear
Whut? Finally Meth drops the final "verse" (only two lines) in the same singing/whining voice and for some reason it works, he basically takes the hook and extends it a few lines, then drops two lines with his normal flow. Meth also manages to advertise the clothing brand, but his pitch might not be as effective:  
"Official nasty asses, straight shots in dirty glasses / Wu Wear fleece for you and your stinkin piece"

The rumor is that Method Man was opposed to the whole concept of Wu-Wear, he was even quoted as saying, "I never rock that shit". So listen close: every time you hear him spitting the hook you can hear him dying a little bit inside. Actually, he experiments a little on this song, and sounds good...which is partly a tribute to RZAs production ability.

The song wraps up with Meth rocking the hook over an extended instrumental filled with doorbells and random keyboard pounding. I like it and so do you!
Overall this is a good song and a good commercial. It definitely has a different vibe than most other Wu almost sounds happy. The clan push their brand hard, and mention other clothing brands about twenty-five times during the four minute song. But it all works...nice job to all the Clan (even Ghost and he wasn't even on this track)!

Wu-wear is still around today, the physical stores are (mostly) closed but they still have an online shop. I don't know who is buying it but they still release new gear. However, it is obviously not a priority: on the Wu-Wear website, the Clan's biography discusses how they are coming together to work on "The W" which dropped almost ten years ago. Maybe they need another commercial/song.

Score: 8/10

Yep. I Wu-Tang Wu. (Probably not official Wu-Wear)

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