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WU EXPLAINS THE WORLD: 25 YEARS WITH THE WU-TANG CLAN

WU EXPLAINS THE WORLD: 25 YEARS WITH THE WU-TANG CLAN

Twenty-five years ago today, the world entered the 36 Chambers for the first time, when the New York hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan released their debut record Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). It was a grimy, mysterious world of smoky soul samples, cryptic kung-fu wisdom, and rugged tales from the streets of “Shaolin” (Staten Island) and Brooklyn. Totally unlike anything that had come before, it redefined music and would become a cultural touchstone well beyond the world of hip-hop.


But the album also held some geopolitical gems. So to celebrate a quarter century of the Wu as only we can, here’s a look three worldly bars, straight from the slums of Shaolin.

“RAW I’MA GIVE IT TO YA, WITH NO TRIVIA, RAW LIKE COCAINE STRAIGHT FROM BOLIVIA.”

As U-God reminds us in the opening bars of “Da Mystery of Chessboxing,” the Andean nation of Bolivia has always been a major producer of coca as well as, of course, the cocaine that’s made from it. In fact, in 1994, Bolivia produced more of the crop than Colombia, which wouldn’t see its own famous production boom until a few years later. Today, Bolivia is the third largest producer in the world, trailing Peru and Colombia, where coca crops have recently hit a historic high, so to speak. One interesting twist these days is that the Bolivian government allows its people to produce a certain amount of coca for traditional medicinal and religious uses. But according to observers, the nation still produces way above the threshold stipulated by the government. A lot of that is still finding its way abroad—with no trivia.

“TERRORIZE THE JAM LIKE TROOPS IN PAKISTAN”

To be honest, it’s not fully clear what Inspectah Deck meant with this line on “Protect Ya Neck,” the Wu’s first single. There was little terrorism in Pakistan in those days. The line may refer to the fact that Pakistan’s military and intelligence supported – with US and Saudi backing – thousands of Afghan and Arab jihadist fighters (the mujahideen) who battled Soviet forces throughout the 1980s next door in Afghanistan. After the war ended, some of those men would form powerful regional jihadist groups – as well as the global terrorist network Al-Qaeda – whose offshoots have killed thousands in Pakistan over the past decade. In addition, Pakistan is accused of harboring terrorist groups that operate in Afghanistan today. So the Inspectah may have had grimmer foresight than he realized. But the reference may also be to Pakistani military support for separatist insurgents (some of whom committed acts of terrorism) in Jammu and Kashmir, a still-disputed Muslim-majority region of northern India. Either way, consider the jam terrorized.

“PLO STYLE, HAZARDOUS COZ I WRECK THIS…”

The inimitable Ghostface Killah name checks the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in his verse on “Bring Da Ruckus.” The PLO is the national representative of the Palestinian people, formed in the 1960s under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. Until the early 1990s it disavowed Israel’s existence and waged a militant struggle – presumably what Ghostface is referring to – which included terrorist and guerrilla attacks. The year that 36 Chambers dropped, the PLO renounced armed struggle and accepted Israel’s existence as part of the historic, but doomed, Oslo Accords. Those accords created the Palestinian Authority, subordinate to the PLO, which today runs the West Bank but not Gaza (which is governed by the Islamist militants of Hamas).

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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