Wu Tang Clan is a gangsta rap hip hop group that formed in New York in the early 1990s. In their lyrics they explore some common gangsta rap hip hop themes such as life as a gangster, the circumstances that lead people into selling drugs, the consequences of selling drugs, general bragging. Unusually for a hip hop group Wu Tang Clan's lyrics are littered with many subtle references to the homosexual lifestyle and culture and particularly to the Clansmen's own homosexuality, which references would have allowed them to stand out as a distinguished and pioneering musical act had circumstances permitted them to be 'out and proud', to use the jargon. Alas and for obvious reasons the group had made the choice to remain covert. When working in the gangsta rap environment as a homosexual or group of homosexuals it is unwise to be too explicit about one's sexual leanings in one's lyrics. The deliberate obscurantism in Wu Tang Clan's lyrics could be why the following argument may be difficult for some to swallow, but the evidence is there for all to see.
First an example of the kind of thing that I will not be talking about. It would be too easy to use as illustration a song such as 'Co-Defendant' from the Wu Tang Killa Bees album 'The Swarm', which is a straightforward celebration of the deep bond of brotherhood between Shyheim and Hell Razah with no hidden homosexual meaning. To apply such a meaning to a very tender but nonetheless masculine song would be false and unfair and, frankly, childish. My aim is only to shine a light on an area that would otherwise have been left unilluminated, not to create false, baseless, and potentially damaging rumours.
We start with 'Bring Da Ruckus', the first track on Wu Tang Clan's first studio album 'Enter The Wu Tang's 36 Chambers', in which Raekwon declares
'I watch my back like I'm locked down, hardcore
Hittin' sound, watch me act bugg'd, and tear it down
A literal type asshole..'
A what type of asshole is making which kinds of hitting sounds when you're acting how, Mr. Chef? True, he's concerned with protecting his 'back' from what can be surmised must be a reference to prison male on male rape, and on the basis of that line alone one might naively conclude that for Raekwon homosexual actively must be low in his order of preference of sex acts. But in the light of the wider context of the verse a greater degree of nuance becomes apparent, and we see that his aversion is only towards acting as the receiving partner during anal copulation
but not to all forms of homosexual sexual activity. Bear in mind that homo-phobia
is an irrational loathing of that which is like oneself. Compare this with his more overt homophobia in 'Duck Season' on CD2 of 'Wu Tang Forever'.
Later in 'Bring Da Ruckus' Inspectah Deck informs us
'I rip it hardcore like porno flick bitches.'
If his purpose in choosing that particular word rather than a word for his own sex was to preserve the rhyme and meter of the song then there might have been room for debate as to the meaning of the bar. But the word he later rhymed with 'bitches' is 'biscuit
s'. Inspectah Deck may have had another purpose when he chose to express a level of empathy for 'porno flick bitches'.
On 'Clan In Da Front' GZA is proud that
'I'm on the mound G, and it's a no-hitter
And my DJ the catcher, he's my man.'
Homosexuals have always had a fondness for half transparent coded behaviour, dress, and language which could be passed off in normal society as harmless eccentricities but whose dark, perverted meaning can be easily discerned by those in the know, especially those of a similar 'bent'. This practice dates back at least to the poet Sapphos
of Lesbos, whose disorder remained undiscovered to her sexuotypical readers until well into the 20th Century A.D. even though the most obvious clue is right in her name, twice. Illegal homosexuality in America conveniently had been provided with a great mine of repurposable imagery in the already nationally familiar sport of baseball. In baseball there is a 'pitcher
', whose job it is to aim a ball within a narrow space next to the 'batter' who will attempt to strike the ball with a large straight bat, and a 'catcher' who sits behind the batter and wears a comically large leather glove with which he must catch stray balls, much as in ordinary homosexual sex. To pitch a 'no hitter' means that the batter had not struck a single ball pitched at him by the pitcher. I believe the implication within the metaphor used by GZA is clear.
The very name of GZA was itself a deliberate choice by RZA, who must have enjoyed the idea of being able to say things like 'I got the GZA on my side', as in fact he does when introducing the second CD of 'Wu Tang Forever', clearly relishing the opportunity and displaying admirable restraint when he might have said he had GZA on his right hand.
In 'Tearz' Ghostface Killah issues a dire warning to those in the homosexual community who choose to 'ride bareback', as it were. Only the especially naive could be convinced that the girl from whom the young man in the tale told in this song had caught HIV was not a male transvestite.
On 'Wu Revolution', the first track of the first CD (of two) of the second Wu Tang Clan album 'Wu Tang Forever' the quintessence of the Wu Tang Clan philosophy is given voice and person when an unnamed archetypical wise man reminds us how
'You see what we did, we lost the love.
I'm talking 'bout the love.
The love of your own.'
The love of your own. Otherwise known as homoerotica
, homo-agape, and that whole septic tank of vileness. Here we are invited to root around in our dark secret areas and uncover that which should have remained buried. To 'put [our] dicks together', as we are enjoined to do by Ol' Dirty Bastard
in the song 'Dog Shit', as bonobo
s will do to ease tension and oil the social wheels, so to speak. It must not be forgotten that bonobos also have sex with their children and continue to come short of discovering fire or grammar.
As one of his various split personalities Bobby Digital, on the track titled 'Must Be Bobby' on his album 'Digital Bullet', RZA tells us
'I keep rice soaked in coconut milk mixed with tofu'
which should require no further explanation.
A great multitude of similar such equally clear though subtle examples can be found all throughout the works of Wu Tang Clan and associated artists. The most striking example of all is the group's very name, a reference to a 1983 martial arts film called 'Shaolin and Wu Tang', ostensibly about two rival martial arts schools and the machiavellian ambition of a man who seeks to destroy them both and which film sits on homosexual subtext of its own. This fact will come as a surprise to most afficionados of martial arts cinema but not at all to the gay martial arts community who have always been aware of all the nods and winks to their lifestyle within the film. Under Communist China a film about practicing and proud homosexuals would not have been allowed and its makers would have been tortured with dildos for days by a mob of concerned citizens. The Chinese knew this and so did the American hip hop group Wu Tang Clan. Even with the world against them and at great risk to themselves they have taken pains to offer much needed encouragement to some young boy whose life they might have saved by letting him know that someone understands him and his condition, and for that Wu Tang Clan deserve to be applauded these days.