The Wu-Tang Clan reunites with all 9 original members to perform and headline Chapter 11 of the Rock The Bells Festival in San Bernardino, CA on July 17, 2004, which featured Redman, Dilated Peoples, and more on the same bill.
It's Friday, November 12, 2004. The Wu-Tang Clan, that seminal rap act from the '90s that helped redefined both the genre and the industry end of hip-hop, are scheduled to perform in New Jersey. It will be the second time in a year that the divergent personalities that make up this MC supergroup—RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, and U-God—will be on stage together. Sadly, the entire group is not present. Russell Jones, a.k.a. Big Baby Jesus, a.k.a. Osiris, a.k.a. ODB/Ol' Dirty Bastard, one of the outfit's most recognizable names, faces, and performers, has failed to make the gig. Coming to town for the show, as well as to help the Clan work on their new album, his flight was unfortunately delayed. And so, the show is without its clown prince of rap.
In hindsight, it seems like an omen. Less than 24 hours later, Dirty would collapse in the studio and be pronounced dead. He was only 35 years old. With his passing, the original lineup of the legendary crew, a gang of ghetto superstars with a name based in the most metaphysical of the martial arts (Wu-Tang refers to an "internal" system of kung fu that focuses on structural and energetic development over strength and dexterity—quite fitting, actually) and a belief in the devastating power of their patter, was gone forever.
Which is what makes the DVD release of Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 2, a live concert performance from July 17, 2004, in San Bernadino, California all the more significant. It was the first reunion of all the original members since a strange appearance in 2000 when a then-fugitive ODB appeared onstage in front of several dozen members of New York's finest. It signaled a hoped-for rebirth for fans of the original Clan lineup, and a chance to see one of the greatest acts in the history of hip-hop take back both the stage and the circumstances that they helped create. No one could have envisioned that it would be the swan song for the full Wu-Tang, the end of a very important era in urban entertainment. There is no doubt the group will soldier on, and like most rappers in the great beyond, Dirty is destined to have a few more CDs/DVDs in his posthumous career catalog. But something will always be missing.
Presented as an overview of the Clan's combined efforts, and of the multitude of solo albums and side projects the members have made over the last decade, this ultra-high energy showcase is a sensational—and very special—presentation of the Wu in their prime. The sonic booms bombarding the packed SoCal house consist of the following 34(?) classic chambers:
• "Bring Da Ruckus": from the album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
• "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "Clan in Da Front": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "C.R.E.A.M.": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin' Ta F'Wit": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "Shame on a Nigga": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "Ghost Deini": from the Ghostface Killah solo album Supreme Clientele (2000)
• "Reunited": from the album Wu-Tang Forever (1997)
• "Duel of the Iron Mic": from the Genius/GZA solo album Liquid Swords (1995)
• "For Heaven's Sake": from Wu-Tang Forever
• "Criminology": from the Raekwon solo album Only Built for Cuban Linx (1995)
• "Incarcerated Scarfaces": from Only Built for Cuban Linx
• "Brooklyn Zoo": from the Ol' Dirty Bastard solo album Return of the 36 Chambers (1995)
• "Grind Iron Rap": from the Method Man solo album Tical 2000: Judgment Day (1998)
• "Bring the Pain": from the Method Man solo album Tical (1999)
• "It's Yourz: from Wu-Tang Forever
• "Liquid Swords": from Liquid Swords
• "One Blood Under W": from the album The W (2000)
• "Ice Cream": from Only Built for Cuban Linx
• "Triumph": from Wu-Tang Forever
• "Da Rockwilder" from the Method Man/Redman album Blackout! (1999)
• "Cherchez LaGhost": from Supreme Clientele
• "Careful (Click, Click): from The W
• "In the Hood": from the album Iron Flag (2001)
• Run: from the Cappadonna solo album The Pillage (1998)
• Run: from the Ghostface Killah solo album The Pretty Toney Album (2004)
• "Tearz": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man": from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
• "Dog Shit": from Wu-Tang Forever
• "Shimmy Shimmy Ya": from Return of the 36 Chambers
• "Y'All Been Warned": from Iron Flag
• "The 4th Chamber": from Liquid Swords
• "Gravel Pit": from The W
• "Do You Really (Thang, Thang): from The W
There you have it—34 tracks in 90-plus minutes (and you thought the Ramones could stuff a set list). There are definite positives and negatives to such a retrospective approach. On the one hand, everyone is made happy as their favorite juke joint is probably part of the extensive overview. Each member of the group gets a shot at a symbolic solo shout-out, and the overall feeling of the Wu-Tang ideal of a familial force is reestablished. On the opposite end of the entertainment spectrum, many of the powerhouse numbers get edited down and more or less shortchanged to fit the format. This means that instead of consisting of 34 full out forces of nature, Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 2 occasionally feels like a Wu-Tang "Stars on 45" (for those of you who don't understand that reference, consider yourself lucky). This is medley, not message-making, and the segmented sense grows disturbing after a while.