The Wu-Tang Clan is a revolutionary hip-hop act that gained prominence during the early 90s. It’s an ensemble of nine M.C.s well known for having helped develop the East Coast hip hop scene.
Following the unprecedented success of their debut album in 1993, Wu-Tang Clan became a highly influential group. Their debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang, was a critical and commercial success. It catapulted the group into worldwide recognition.
Wu-Tang Clan was also revolutionary in the way it went about making and producing music. Instead of producing one album after another, they established the group with the debut album itself.
That was followed by a sequence of associated acts and spin-offs that enabled them to produce music individually as well.
In a long career that has lasted for more than 2 decades, Wu-Tang has produced seven studio albums. They have released multiple chartbusters and have also been often called the “Greatest Rap Act” in history.
As the group has a vast body of work, it’s a challenge in itself to list out the best among them. That said, here’s a list featuring the best Wu-Tang songs in no particular order.
Best Wu-Tang Songs :
1. Protect Ya Neck
The song was the first to feature 8 of the band’s original members. Therefore, it had eight distinctive voices showcasing the group’s prowess.
Originally released back in 1992 as an independent single, the song became an underground hit. It brought the group immediate attention and had multiple labels chasing after them.
Eventually, the group signed with Loud Records and re-released the song as a single in their debut album. It allegedly sold more than 10,000 copies and became one of the group’s most iconic songs.
The song’s original version contained profanities and came in a different order. And despite changes being made in the album version of it, the song was a popular radio hit during the mid-90s.
Released as the third single from entering the Wu-Tang album, C.R.E.A.M. received instant critical acclaim upon release. A shortening for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, the title was also appropriated as hip-hop slang for money.
Unlike the group’s more hard-hitting beat, C.R.E.A.M. contains a more relaxed style. Also, rather than sounding like a rant, the song and its lyrics focus more on storytelling.
It features a poignant piano arc while talking about life and youth in the hood. Despite the universal praise, the song wasn’t a commercial success at the time of its release.
However, over time it has risen to the ranks and achieved a classic cult status of sorts. It was also certified Gold back in 2009 and has been quite frequently sampled by numerous artists since.
3. Brooklyn Zoo
Wu-Tang members were free to sign with record labels as independent artists as well.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard, one of the original group members, was only the second member to release a spin-off album named Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.
It contained the debut single Brooklyn Zoo, which became a commercial success. It was Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s second-highest ranked single in his individual career.
The song has three parts. Starting off with an intro, the song proceeds to a single verse, albeit a long one. It then ends with a hook on a loop which basically is a rant against an unmanned enemy.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s tiff allegedly inspired the song with the group Brooklyn Zu, who were close associates with the rapper.
Criminology featured as a second single from rapper Raekwon’s debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Released in 1995, the song was an instant classic and became a mainstay during the 90s.
Popularizing the mafioso rap, the song begins with a dialogue in reference to the film Scarface. It featured bandmate and rapper Ghostface Killah, who performed the first verse. Raekwon performed the second verse without a chorus in between.
The song had various elements that made it a perfect representative of the mafioso aesthetic. It became so popular upon its release that it rekindled the sub-genre entirely.
East coast mafioso rap was in vogue during the late 80s but grew out of popularity quickly. Songs like Criminology were a great counterpart to West Coast’s G-funk style of rap.
Raekwon’s critically acclaimed solo album featuring the song was a harbinger of change in a sense.
Triumph was famously released as a single from the group’s second album Wu-Tang Forever in 1997. Like Protect Ya Neck, this song also features all the members of the group.
It consists of an iconic intro involving Inspectah Deck’s verse considered to be one of the greatest in hip hop history. The song then proceeds to an interlude followed by verses from other members of the group.
Interestingly, Triumph doesn’t have a chorus like many of their other songs.
The song was critically acclaimed, and the album debuted on the Billboard chart by topping it.
Aside from the song itself, the music video for the single also drew considerable notice. The video was rather elaborate and cost $800,000 to make, directed by Brett Ratner.
6. Uzi (Pinky Ring)
The song Uzi was the first single from the group’s fourth album Iron Flag released in 2001.
The music of the song is overlaid with an instrumental piece produced by R.Z.A. It features all the group members with their verses, starting with U-God singing about Angela Bassett.
Judging from the lyrics, the song talks about how the group isn’t dead yet despite internal struggles. The song title, an odd reference to the machine gun, is a rather implicit reference to the power the group wields.
The music video for Uzi was also produced by R.Z.A. It features the group in a setting which appears to be that of a party scene.
Interestingly though, some versions of the song have the title word “Uzi” censored.
7. Method Man
As the name suggests, the group member Method Man produced the song. He was the first successful solo star among the members.
The song was the group’s B-side release for the song “Protect Ya Neck.” It was part of the band’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang, which went on to become a global hit.
It’s credited as a single for the rapper Method Man and features bandmates G.Z.A.’s intro. Ghostface Killah and R.Z.A. also have contributed to the song.
The songs began with an introduction wherein Method Man and Raekwon talk about various ways of torture. The song then proceeds and notably features odd references to popular culture.
References are aplenty about various things, from Rolling Stones to Mary Poppins and the like.
8. Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit.
The song was famously released as part of the group’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in 1993.
Most of the songs in the album were, as ever, produced by R.Z.A. alone save for this one. R.Z.A. did it in collaboration with Method Man, who prominently in the song.
The song features a plethora of sampled music from artists such as W. Watts Biggers and Andrea McArdle.
Aside from Method Man, Inspectah Deck has a part of his own who sings the second verse. All members sing the chorus, while the intro and outro notably feature R.Z.A.
The music video of the song features the classic street-based theme wherein the M.C.s are singing and rapping around a derelict building. It has all the subsequent gritty, street-level elements that East Coast music is well known for.
9. Can It Be All So Simple
The song was one of the lead singles, released as among the group’s debut albums released in 1993. It was an instant hit and reached as high as number nine on the Hot Dance Billboard charts.
Like most songs in the album, it features extensive production from R.Z.A.
Sampled to the tune of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “The Way We Were,” the song talks about themes often recurring throughout the album.
Ghostface Killah and Raekwon feature heavily in the song as they rap about their youth, growing up, and struggling in New York City. The lyrics are interestingly based around the mafioso style rap, often associated with East Coast music.
The song alludes to life in the hood and the singer’s desire to walk away from it to live a better, much more lavish life.
A remixed version of the song featuring different lyrics can be found in Raekwon’s debut album.
10. Bring Da Ruckus
The song was the group’s lead single released in their debut album in 1993, and it did create a ruckus in the music scene.
The song is not particularly long but features each M.C.s with their individual verses, bringing out a distinct sound in the process.
The song has three major samples, the most iconic being Shaolin Shadow Boxing. The song begins with a dialogue from the English version of the movie about Shalin and Wu-Tang.
Produced entirely by R.Z.A., it features four distinct verses sung by four different group members. Upon its release, the song was well-received and supposedly made a huge impact on the hip-hop scene.
The song supposedly ushered in an era wherein the lyrics about street life and how records got mastered and produced.
11. Da Mystery Of Chessboxin
Released as a B-side to the group’s more popular hit “C.R.E.A.M.,” this song was a part of their debut album in 1993.
There’s no doubt how heavily inspired the group is by the Hong Kong martial arts movie Shaolin and Wu-Tang. The song is another one from the album to have featured a sample from the English version of the movie.
Additionally, it was the only song in the album to have featured member Ol’ Dirty Bastard as a producer besides R.Z.A.
The song is also noted for having featured most of the M.C.s, including lesser-known members like U-God and Masta Killa. The song has as many as seven verses, with a chorus sung by Method Man.
At almost under five minutes, the song is of longer duration than other singles in the album.
Tearz originally appeared on the B-side to the group’s most iconic song, Protect Ya Neck, back in 1993.
The song has an interesting concept. Unlike most of their songs which feature multiple verses, this one has only two. These two verses are sung by R.Z.A. and Ghostface Killah, respectively.
The chorus, sung in unions by the group, features a single sentence that says – “after laughter comes tears.”
Understandably, the song departs from the group’s more robust and energetic style. Instead, it deploys a mellow vibe by incorporating a piano sample derived from Wendy Rene’s song “After Laughter (Comes Tears).”
The song is about the reminiscing of tragic times when happiness was soon followed by sadness and tears. Apparently, it was the first song recorded by R.Z.A. as part of the ensemble, a fact he disclosed in his book, The Wu-Tang Manual.
13. Hollow Bones
Hollow Bones was a single that featured in The W, Wu-Tang’s third album, released in 2000 by Loud Records.
Before the group produced the album, band members had forayed into solo projects. As a consequence, the resultant product in the form of their third album was nowhere near as polished as before.
Regardless, Hollow Bones was one of the few songs from the album well received. It features a sample taken from Syl Johnson’s “Is It Because I’m Black.”
It’s a relatively short song compared to the other ones included in the album. It contains only three verses sung by different M.C.s. And like most songs, this was entirely produced by R.Z.A.
14. I Can’t Go to Sleep
Another song to feature on our list comes from Wu-Tang’s third studio album, The W. Released in 2000; the song is one of the few popular tracks from the album.
Produced by R.Z.A., the song is the second shortest among the tracklisting. Fittingly enough, it features only two verses sung by Ghostface Killah and R.Z.A.
Around the time of the album’s production, Wu-Tang was in collaboration with several artists for their projects. That said, Issac Hayes is also featured in the song. Writing credits for “I Can’t Go to Sleep” are shared by Hayes and R.Z.A.
Interestingly, the song contains a sample of Hayes’ song Walk On By.
The song is mostly about reconciliation and the need to make peace with one’s circumstances. It condemns the violent behavior shown by most people in the hood in unequivocal terms.
15. Older Gods
The song was in the group’s second studio album Wu-Tang Forever, released in 1997.
Though the album was a hit in its entirety, Older Gods received particular attention from fans and critics. Older Gods was one of the few songs which R.Z.A did not produce.
Instead, S. Bougard, who goes by the stage name 4th Disciple, received credit for the song’s production. Not just production, but S. Bougard was also instrumental in writing the music.
It features three verses sung by R.Z.A., Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon. And at under 3 minutes, the song is one of the shortest in the album.
We have come to the conclusion of this listing with that. As mentioned before, it’s hard to make a list featuring Wu-Tang’s best songs, considering the vast body of work.
This list in no way makes the claim that these songs are “the best” as such. There are subjective considerations involved, with which many people might not necessarily agree.
That said, these are 15 of the most popular and well-known songs from the group. These songs have had a popular following and also have charted the Billboards. Suffice to say, and there’s little denying that any genuine Wu-Tang would naturally know these songs by heart.