The Vinyl Word

By Olivia Wycech  /  Contributing reporter

Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - Page 10

Enter the Wu-Tang is what nine underground rappers from New York did more than 20 years ago when they masterminded their explosive debut album, and called it exactly that. Together, donning hoods and masks, they called themselves the Wu-Tang Clan and to the surprise of many, they shot to international fame and eventually became worldwide icons for their new vision of hip-hop.

Even 20 years later, the cultural dynasty they created thrives and has very much been integrated into pop culture. Musically, Wu-Tang’s inaugural lo-fi album sounds like it hasn’t aged a bit and is still on regular play. Both the album and the group’s influence on music and culture are legendary, and the style subsequently inspired much of modern hip-hop. And for the very first time in Taipei, a performance that is just so beyond the scope of anything hip-hop heads in Taiwan have ever experienced, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan are preparing to teach Taiwan about where hip-hop came from, and why it’s still alive.

“Without overstating it, this is monumental,” said Leo Shia, one of the key members of The Blast in Taipei, who the Vinyl Word first reported on in 2012 when the hip-hop collective first started to makes sound waves in Taipei. “In the past 5 years, Taiwan has really developed its knowledge of hip-hop and now more and more youth are taking the time to go back and study the roots of hip-hop.”

“Wu-Tang are definitely part of those roots,” he said. “So to have two of the most prolific — and still active and successful — artists in the game come before they’ve passed their prime makes this an extra special event.”

Combined with the four official albums that followed Enter the Wu-Tang, and a new one scheduled for release in 2014 called A Better Tomorrow, the outfit has been deservedly awarded the title of best rap group ever by Rolling Stone magazine.

And rightfully so, believes Shia. “The group not only pioneered a sound and style that changed the face of music, but also were the first group to turn themselves into an enterprise. Wu-branded video games, comics, movies and the first artist-owned hip-hop clothing brand. They changed pop culture without altering their image or content and have stayed true to it through 20 years of relevance.”

Shia, who is also known by his performing moniker LEO37, has been living on and off in Taipei for the last six years. For the most part, he was disgruntled with not just the lack of a hip-hop scene in Taipei, but by the overall dominance of only dance music clubs. “It’s not just because there’s no hip-hop. There’s just not much variety at all.”

Shia says that their biggest challenge has been educating audiences about a 40-year-old music style that really only became prevalent in Taiwan recently. But they’ve learned quickly, and he says that in the past five years especially, tastes have broadened and cover a lot more of the spectrum. Does that mean Taipei might be ready to really relight and revive the scene?

“North America has already started the transition, so I think it’s only a matter of time,” Shia said.

■ Raekwon and Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan play Wednesday night from 6:30pm to midnight at ATT Show Box, 7F, 12 Songshou Rd, Taipei City (台北市松壽路12號7樓). Advance tickets are available only until Sunday, and cost NT$1,500 for section A, and NT$1,350 for section B. There is only a possibility of tickets being available at the door. All ticket vendors as well as more information on giveaways, such as three custom Lomography cameras designed by US street artist Udon to commemorate the first appearance of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah in Taiwan, are available at