I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was June 2nd, 1997. I was a senior in high school. It was a Monday night. A school night. But, instead of sitting in my bedroom, watching the 11 pm Sportscenter, I was camped outside of Stedeford’s Record Shop on Pittsburgh’s Northside, surrounded by a throng of people—teens, uncles, Steelers, crackheads, etc—all waiting for midnight to hit so we could rush in the store and cop copies of Wu-Tang Forever.
For the last decade or so, I’ve told this story to both anyone who asked about my feelings for the Wu and anyone who didn’t ask but just happened to be in my company when I felt like volunteering. It’s a great story to tell because there’s no better snapshot of that singular moment in time when both Wu’s popularity and the pre-internet piracy era anticipatory rush of actually having to wait until a record was released to listen to it had reached their peaks, and it puts me right in the middle of it while providing a clear example of my Wu-standom.
There’s only one problem.
It didn’t actually happen.
Yes, people were at Stedeford’s waiting in line for the Wu album that night. And yes, I wanted to be there. But, for some long forgotten about reason, I wasn’t able to make it that night. I was such a fan of the Wu, though—and I remember the feeling of that day so vividly—that I started inserting myself in the story.
As I shared the story to more and more people, something strange happened: I forgot it was a lie. Remember that Seinfeld episode where George pretends to be a marine biologist, somehow finds himself in a situation where a marine biologist is needed, and, for that small moment of time, actually willed himself into becoming a marine biologist? No? Well, whenever I’d tell the Stedeford’s story, I was actually in line in my mind. I “remembered” how unseasonably warm it was that night. I “remembered” how the plastic on the CD felt in my hands. Shit, I even “remembered” who I drove there with. Even though none of it happened, it was somehow real to me. I felt like I should have been there, so I made myself there.
Anyway, I’m sharing this increasingly bizarre story today because, well, I can not think of another way to express exactly how much of an impact Wu-Tang Clan has had on my life.
I mean, there are other things I could have talked about today to express my Wu-affinity. I could tell you how I became so enamored with Cappadonna’s “Love is love, love/Love is love, love” line on “Sweet Love” that “Love is Love” became my first email address, my first AIM handle, and my first tattoo. I could share how I bought the America is Dying Slowly soundtrack just for the Wu song on it, and how I listened to that tape so much that I memorized the words to every song, and how I would “borrow” some of the more obscure lyrics in study hall freestyle battles, and how I gasped when watching the live performance of that song on MTV when Method Man took his hat off and revealed he cut off his braids. I could show old pictures of my dozen or so Wu-Wear t-shirts, my fatigues, my fishermen’s caps, and my three pairs of impossible-to-keep-the-soles-clean Clarks Wallabees. I could tell you that the only time I’ve ever clapped in a movie theater was when seeing RZA’s name in the credits of Kill Bill. I could bore you with an argument about exactly why 4th Disciple is one of the most underrated hip-hop producers ever. I could admit that I used to pretend that I knew what words like Genovese meant when my friends would ask “What does Genovese mean? Why do they keep talking about that?” I could even confuse you with the fact that “Brooklyn Zoo” somehow made me stop dating light-skinned girls. (Don’t ask.)
I won’t do any of that, though.
Instead, as we pass the 20th anniversary of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), I want you to think about a 24 year old who was so impacted by this group that he…
1. Began to tell a lie about his 18 year old self just so people who don’t care about how much he loved the Wu would know how much he loved the Wu…
…and, a decade later…
2. Wrote a thousand word long piece admitting to a lie that nobody cared about just so he could let more people who don’t care about how much he loved the Wu know how much he loved the Wu.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)