“Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit!” is a hypothesis that has been tested innumerable times in uncountable places. After tonight’s show at WTF Club I am tempted to call it an axiom. This group has several performers who can serve a crowd to the fullest and the mythology around the group is enough to drive any publicity vehicle. But there is substance behind the myth. Ghostface Killah lived up to the hype tonight and delivered a show that many thought was not forthcoming. As usual, patience was a virtue.
I missed the other major hip hop events this past weekend, due to prior commitments, but I was excited to see this one, maybe overly so, because I ended up at the gig awhile before things got started. Quite awhile. There were still many people there at my uncool hour and the tunes were being spun or, rather, double-clicked.
Hip hop in China boasts a small, but dedicated fan base. This was referred to by one of the opening acts, the MC from Redstar. “In China the scene is so hard. We can’t make money from our music.” He was a young man with a presence and I enjoyed his very short set. I would suggest that he take the elements that he prefers from the genre and put his own stamp on them, but there is time for that. And there is also time for the Chinese hip hop scene. This shit did not happen overnight in the US, and Chinese hip hop is like a toddler. Chinese hip hop artists’ true goal should be honing their craft and developing an intense following, rather than blowing up. As the mysterious, disembodied whisper from Field of Dreams predicts, “If you build it, they will come.” I can’t believe I just typed that, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it.
The opening acts took maybe a half hour. I’m a bit hazy on the math, but there followed a long, long wait for Ghost. Two Qingdao stubbies and two vodka Red Bulls is the only approximation I can give you. My mate heard a rumor that Ghostface was piss drunk and throwing up outside the club. For a moment, the show wasn’t going on. But then one girl brought a bathhouse-worthy supply of towels to the stage, another brought a bunch of water. Was Ghostface going to bathe, rather than perform, we wondered? Anything was possible. Then the man came through, like a prizefighter, parting the crowd and reaffirming lives. He wore a bright Wu Tang-yellow t-shirt that would have been a dress on you (trust me), jeans with the cuffs sporting the same yellow, a backwards Florida Marlins cap, and black boots
What is it about the great MCs? Some people call it charisma, some people call it swagga, but whatever the moniker, the man possesses copious amounts. He came on the stage in a foul mood, something to do with the sound, which was admittedly not great at the time. What we needed, as Ghost put it, was “the beats crunchy and the flows crispy.” Brilliant and succinct. Hip hop sound is notoriously difficult to recreate in the live setting, where the bass can gang up on the lyrics and effectively erase them. Also, the rapper must have good monitors piping his voice back to his own ears. If these are not present, the rapper will scream himself hoarse by the third song. I don’t know about the monitors, but the sound situation for the audience did improve, which was appreciated. They have a wicked system in WTF. There are certain spots where the bass can misadjust your heartbeat. This is a good thing.
I’m not going to run through every song on the program here. If you want the set list, go to the show. I will say that they opened with “Ice Cream,” a classic ode to the ladies from the Golden Age of Wu Tang. There were many other abbreviated Wu Tang joints, Ghostface solo pieces, as well as tributes to a host of other hip hop royalty, including the Pharcyde, Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, and Jay Dee. Jay Dee (RIP) is a legendary producer who died too young a couple of years ago from lupus. Another highlight was the song “Greedy Bitches”, where many young female specimens were invited to the stage to writhe. Irony of ironies.
Soon after, the show concluded and the Ghost disappeared like, well, a ghost. However, he did not leave a trail of smoke, but an actual trail of women following him to the backstage area for what I’m sure was some good, clean fun. And this show was also good, clean fun, a little lateness and grime aside.