100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #12 Wu-Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck

Released : 1993

History gets re-written, so the emergence of weed and Kung-Fu obsessives the Wu-Tag Clan and the transformation of East Coast rap that brought about is now often said to have been a response to the emergence of G-Funk. Real life isn’t that smooth however, and Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style was released almost a year later than Protect Ya Neck’s original debut – and even then the track had been completely reworked from it’s original form. Crossover aside, it’s very arguable the Wu-Tang phenomenon would’ve happened anyway.

As in the West – where Dr.Dre was shot calling – the Staten Island big top would have a ringleader in RZA, who made the beats dirty and expertly worked soul off-cuts into more ominous street forms. Added to this he had to manage the volatile egos of a team of Shaolin killer bees comprising at that point himself, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa.

It wasn’t exactly a democracy, but nearly all of them would share the verses of Protect Ya Neck as a collective, each personality competing for airtime, snapping into it almost as live over a piano roll and razor-thin snare that sounded like a hammer hitting sheet metal. The battle between concrete and palm trees would eventually turn real, but it didn’t start here.