'Da Mystery of Chessboxin' - Wu-Tang Clan - Confused Young White Man Critiques Mid-to-Late 80s' Rap Music Narratives #2

by Rathe on Sunday, 20 March 2011

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I have a lot of time for the Wu-Tang Clan actually, if only because I’m so shallow I seem to think their sampling of kung-fu movies somehow makes their songs deeper and better than they really are. Still, they're probably one of the more consistent and varied rap groups out there in terms of members, lyrical styles and form - which makes the fact all their subsequent albums after their debut have somewhere in the region of 80 billion guest rappers all the more baffling to me. Nevertheless, let's have a look at a particularly fun song, 'Da Mystery of Chessboxin'', if only because in print it reads like the dying, fevered ravings of someone who picked up English as maybe their third or fourth langauge.

As ever, not for the kiddywinks or anyone who even has the slightest regard for the rules of grammar, as clicking after the jump will surely cause your head to implode as though your brain itself were a black hole inside your face.

[Verse One: U-God]
Raw I'm gonna give it to you, with no trivia
Raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia

Ah yes, Bolivia has been noted for just how little its cocaine is cooked. Adds to the flavour.

My hip-hop will rock and shock the nation
like the Emancipation Proclamation

It will free an approximated 3.1 million slaves, thus dividing political opinion across  the country and ultimately resulting in a civil war?

Weak MCs approach with slang that's dead

…phrases like “gee willikers!” and “utterly wizard”!

you might as well run into the wall and bang your head
I'm pushin' force, my force your doubtin'

I ain’t doubtin’ you pushin’ force, I just doubtin’ whether that force you pushin’ is your force!

I'm makin' devils cower to the Caucus Mountains


[Verse Two: Inspectah Deck]
Well I'm a sire, I set the microphone on fire
Rap styles vary, and carry like Mariah

OK, so to recap: you have received a knighthood, presumably for your inimitable ability to immolate recording equipment…also, since when was Mariah Carey renowned for carrying things? If only all surnames were this apt!

I come from the Shaolin slum, and the isle I'm from
is coming through with nuff niggas and nuff guns

Ah yes, those Shaolin and their penchant for guns.

so if you wanna come sweating, stressing, contesting
you'll catch a sharp sword to the midsection

Think about it, he basically threatened to impale us for little more than exercising.

Don't talk the talk, if you can't walk the walk

Leg amputees should be mute, too, then?

Phony niggas are outlined in chalk
A man vexed, is what the projects made me
Rebel to the grain there's no way to barricade me

It is literally impossible to prevent Inspectah Deck from entering your home. Try as you might, any attempt to restrain him is futile! He’s like the Borg. With mad rhymez.

Steamrolling niggas like a eighteen wheeler
with the drunk driver driving, there's no surviving

Really, I don’t see who wins in this situation.

[Verse Three: Raekwon the Chef]
Rough like Timberland wear, yeah


Me and the Clan, and you're the Landcruisers out there
Peace to all the crooks, all the niggas with bad looks
Bald heads, braids, blow this hook
We got chrome tecs, nickel plated macs

Nickel-plated Macs! Gee willikers! What next? Bronze iPhones?

Black axe, drug dealing styles in phat stacks

I like the idea of there being multiple ‘styles’ of drug dealing, like fighting stances or something.

I've only been a good nigga for a minute though
'cause I got to get my props, and win it you
I got beef with commercial-ass niggas with gold teeth

The ‘-ass’ suffix has finally plumbed new levels of redundancy! Or at least it did, 22 years ago.

lampin in a Lexus eating beef
Straight up and down don't even bother
I got forty niggas up in here now, who kill niggas fathers

Come on, Raekwon, two wrongs have never made a right. Nor have forty dead black men.

[Chorus: Method Man]
My peoples are you with me, where you at?

UK Film Council presents: Inside the Mind of Neville Chamberlain!

In the front, in the back killer-bees on attack

Attack? Dude, what a waste! Killer bees get, like +5 boost if you keep them in back in defence position. Basic tactics.

my people are you with me, where you at?
Smoking meth hitting cats on the block with the gats

UK Film Council presents: Inside the Mind of Charlie Sheen!

[Verse Four: Ol' Dirty Bastard]
Here I go, deep type flow
Jacques Cousteau could never get this low

Well, if we’re talking about depression, I guess he could.

I'm cherry bombing shits... BOOM
Just warming up a little bit, vroom vroom

A technique that goes largely unused in rap, sadly – rhyming couplets entirely dependent on onomatopoeia.

Rappenin’ is what's happenin’

The English language has yet to have a word that encompasses the unparalleled joy I feel whenever I read or hear this line. Just look at that. That, my friends, is imagination.

Keep the pockets stacked and then, hands clapping and
At the party when I move my body
Gotta get up, and be somebody!
Grab the microphone go straight to the phone
DUH-DUH-DUH...enter the Wu-Tang zone

Well, I’m glad someone seems to be having such a great time.

Sure enough when I rock that stuff
Guff puff? I'm gonna catch your bluff tough
rough, kicking rhymes like Jim Kelly

Or, at the very least, flicking through a dictionary like Richard Whiteley on speed.

or Alex Haley I'm a Mi-..Beetle Bailey rhymes
coming raw style, hardcore
Niggas be coming to the hip-hop store
Coming to buy groceries from me

They come in and ask how much cabbages are
I tell ‘em 3 bucks for two or five bucks for four
Some kids come in an’ steal a loaf of bread
Dem fools last meal was a round of lead

See? I can do this! Anyone can do this! Fun, easy and effective!

Trying to be a hip-hop MC
The law, in order to enter the Wu-Tang
You must bring the Ol' Dirty Bastard type slang
Represent the GZA, Abbott, RZA, Shaquan, Inspectah Deck
Dirty hoe getting low with his flow

Moving onto phonebooks, now, I see.

Introducing, the Ghost...face... Killer!
No one could get iller

No argument here!


[Verse Five: Ghostface Killah]
Speaking of the devil psych, no it's the God, get the shit right

It’s your song, bro! You tell me!

Mega trife, and you're I killed you in a past life

Tenses, son! Tenses!

On the mic while you was kicking that fast shit
You reneged tried again, and got blasted
Half mastered ass style mad ruff task
When I struck I had on Timbs and a black mask

Actually, I think this song pretty accurately simulates the experience of rapidly passing in and out of consciousness in the middle of a heated argument. In jail.

Remember that shit? I know you don't remember jack
That night yo I was hitting like a spiked bat
and then you thought I was bugged out, and crazy

Yes, because it’s completely reasonable to assume the guy with the spiked bat is going to sit down and have a civilised conversation with me.

strapped for nonsense, after me became lazy
yo, nobody budge while I shot slugs

Pretty good aim, though, I must say.

Never shot thugs, I'm running with thugs that flood mugs
So grab your eight plus one, start flipping and tripping
Niggas is jetting I'm licking off son

What, I…wait…what…

(Wu, Tang, Wu, Tang, Wu, Tang, Wu, Tang)

[Verse Six: Masta Killa]
Homicide's illegal and death is the penalty
What justifies the homicide - when he dies?

Well, I guess it’s a little more fitting than an apology.

In his own iniquity it's the
Master of the Mantis Rapture coming at you

All I want is one stanza that makes sense to anyone who was not in the room this was recorded in! One!!

We have an APB on an MC Killer
Looks like the work of a Master
Evidence indicates that's it's stature
Merciless like a terrorist hard to capture

Works better than ‘criminal mastermind’, I suppose.

The flow, changes like a chameleon
Plays like a friend and stabs you like a dagger

Sounds like a metaphor, like a simile, like imagery, etc.…

This technique attacks the immune system

Tip: Try not to liken your music to contagious viruses, as it makes PR’s job a little harder.

Disguised like a lie paralyzing the victim

Tip: Try not to liken your music to debilitating strokes, as it makes PR’s job very difficult.

You scream as it enters your bloodstream
Erupts your brain from the pain these thoughts contain
Moving on a nigga with the speed of a centipede

And following another chorus, that’s a particularly grim end to this joyful little romp through the world of the Wu-Tang Clan. I’d stick around, but I’m going to go pick up some ‘fly lyric’ from the hip-hop grocer. “Word”, “bro”! 

N.B.: Yes, I am aware this was out in 1993, but come on. The grammar-Nazi within me couldn't let this go.


I dont know how or why I actually read some of this, but you need a life. These men are using life experience to bring insane beats, and here you ar, trying to knit-pick through them and sound funny. you fucking punk

by Anonymous on 27 May 2011 at 05:39. #

Hello, Mr Anonymous! It appears that you have misinterpreted the point of this article! I took a song I liked from an inarguably groundbreaking record and tried to provide a humourous spin on its lyrics! I do not deny the doubtlessly unpleasant conditions these men lived in, but I also don't deny the massive bundles of cash they now roll around in on a daily basis have dulled that 'killa instinct'!

I am very happy to have helped you today! Thank you!

P.S.: What is "knit-picking"? Is that a guitar technique? I like playing guitar! Do you like playing guitar? Please tell me if you like playing guitar! Maybe we can play guitar!

by Rathe on 27 May 2011 at 16:31. #


"Raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia.
My Rathe’s deconstructive style will rock and shock the nation—
Well mainly those that didn’t read the opening proclamation.

Weak Anons approach with slang that's dead,
you might as well run into the wall and bang your head."

I don't know how or why I actually read some of this—let alone published it, but you need a life. Rathe is using witty insights to elevate these “insane beats”, and here you are, 'trying' to knit-pick through them and sound funny."You fucking punk!"

I can’t say I am particularly surprised you struggled to comprehend what was a well written and interesting article, seeing you managed to miss the opening "I have a lot of time for the Wu-Tang Clan…they're probably one of the more consistent and varied rap groups out there in terms of members, lyrical styles and form".

Either way we run an open ship here at TCFTD but you know maybe you should 'read' the article before commenting.

by Indiana… on 27 May 2011 at 17:04. #

I just stumbled on to this an you guys are 'grammar nazis'.Ok, well instead of wasting your time looking for completely literal translations, how about you try to read into the lyrics and metaphor. I may not have great grammar but you guys are seriously,and I'm using my own words here, butt-hurt.

by Anonymous on 18 November 2011 at 00:41. #

Hi Luke,
First I suppose I should note that I'm not the author of this article, that privilege belongs to Rathe, though I'm sure he wouldn't mind me speaking on his behalf for the moment.

But before I jump to his defence, let's jump back to his opening statement:
"I have a lot of time for the Wu-Tang Clan actually…they're probably one of the more consistent and varied rap groups out there in terms of members, lyrical styles and form".

I feel this more or less sums up the feelings behind the article; we are both fans of the Wu at TCFTD and this article is not an attack against the song writing of the Wu Tang Clan because as I've mentioned we are both fans, more just a knowing joke between fans of the Clan who appreciate there often bizarre lyrical quirks.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, though I must say the phrase 'butt-hurt'—even when correctly connected by an n dash—does inevitably render an other wise interesting response juvenile and more damningly boring. The 'grammar nazi' insult—if something so feeble can even be classed as such—is similarly baffling as no comment was passed on grammar and indeed it would be an impressive sight to see some one critique the 'grammar' of some one's speech.

by Indiana… on 18 November 2011 at 03:05. #

Hello Luke! Thank you for commenting. Like everyone else who leaves negative feedback on TCFTD, the odds of you reading this are almost nil. But you took the time, and so will I:

There isn't really much I can say Indy hasn't covered for me. This is not an attack on the Wu-Tang Clan by any means. Here's a fun experiment you can try at home, though:

1. Take any song with lyrics you particularly enjoy. Go on, anything at all!
2. Write them down, or type them, or whatever. have those lyrics in front of you.
3. If they still seem quite as good when they're being sung, rapped, or shouted to you, then you're either a) listening to TISM or b) in denial. To quote Steve Albini: 'The subject matter is generally pretty stable but the precise words that are sung aren’t.' There's a difference between me tapping my foot listening to the song and laughing myself silly reading the lyrics - I enjoy both greatly, for different reasons.

A lot of songs, especially rap songs, look ridiculous on paper, for much the same reason most people find archaic poetry impenetrable. I'm laughing with, not at. Besides, it's quite a nice way to deconstruct rap. And make silly, cheap jokes.

Also, my buttocks are just fine, thank you.

by Rathe on 18 November 2011 at 15:44. #

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