Released: January 25, 2000
Label: Epic Records, Sony, Razor Sharp
Let’s get one thing straight. East Coast, hardcore hip-hop during the 1990s was completely dominated by the Wu-Tang Clan. Yeah, albums from Nas, Biggie and a few other heavyweights stole the spotlight now and then, but from ’93 to ’97, it was that undeniable RZA touch the defined the gritty underbelly of New York.
From Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to Tical, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Liquid Swords toIronman, and finally to Wu-Tang Forever, no other hip-hop act, let alone artist managed such a blazing run at the time.
But then things fell apart. RZA stopped managing all aspects of the Clan, delegated production duties to his disciples and ceased to completely oversee solo albums. As a result, sophomore projects like Beneath the Surfaceand Immobilarity didn’t even come close to their predecessors’ critical and commercial success, while debuts from Deck, U-God and RZA failed to the make any substantial impact. It seemed like the once-mighty Clan was starting to crumble from within.
Then Supreme Clientele dropped in 2000.
Toe-stubbing, bug-eyed verbal compositions, impressionistic lyrics that somehow transform into breath-taking narrative scenes, chaotic, bizarre and distinctly Ghostface Killah; Supreme Clientele was the saviour of the Wu-Tang Clan. The record showed there was still life within the 9-headed monster.
Dusty soul samples laced with so grime you could taste the dirt. Crafting gritty, atmospheric loops that are both homage to RZA’s style as well as step forward in producing, the beat-making team (which consists mainly of RZA’s students) concoct a dynamic backdrop for Ironman to spit his trademark slang.
Forget Ghost’s ’96 debut. Ironman simply pales in comparison to the sonic savagery, lyrical brilliance and overall cohesiveness of Supreme Clientele. This is Ghost’s Liquid Swords and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…; the record he’ll be remembered for, the record fans will always revere, one of the greatest Wu-Tang Clan albums of all time.