“The story you’re about so see occurred along the main trading route on the border between the North and South”
In 2021 it will have been 20 years since Wu-Tang Clan released Iron Flag. The presence of mind they had to call out ‘2002’ at the start of Soul Power to give their album some chart longevity is reminiscent of Dr Dre’s maneuver in calling his watershed studio album 2001 when it was released in 1999. It meant it sounded right up to date for 30 odd months in the pubs and clubs I was DJ’ing in back then. Public Enemy played the same Hip Hop trope on Fight The Power. The amount of fans who know when it was released because of the opening “1989 the number, another summer, sound of the funky drummer” lyric remains a pub quiz trump card to this day. Hey Man! ENOUGH WITH THE NUMBERS! This is not a Dropkick Murphys equation. This is a juggernaut of a hip hop record. It flattens everything in its path. Soul Power (Black Jungle) sits between Chrome Wheels and Uzi (Pinky Ring) on Iron Flag and it bruises and bludgeons and brawls it’s way around your CD player. The Clan bring Flava along for the ride.
“Two Thousand and Two, representing the Wu”
Let’s not pretend any of us were buying vinyl in 2001. Or 2002. I wanted to and found it a struggle. Finances, access, work schedules, the death of every vendor of the stuff I knew at the time all came along to coincide with me meeting Mrs ForTheDeaf and then a significant shift in my priorities. When I met her in the summer of 2001 I was fresh off the plane from Greece. DJ bag on one shoulder, massive scar from riding a bike off a cliff on the opposite leg. She was all big smiles, denim and soul music. We bonded over funk, trip-hop, soul and hip hop. We dated to Wu-Tang, Mint Royale, De La Soul and The Avalanches. By the second month in 2002 we were married.
One of the things that makes Iron Cross such a solid gold classic (It’s clear I’m a lousy metallurgist) is that even in 2001 it was throwing back. Those Stax horn breaks, kung fu movie samples and break beats were retro when it came out.
I’d never bought a record online in 2002. Nor had I downloaded a moody MP3 or registered an Amazon account. I still went to record shops to buy music, to clubs to hear it and to pubs to talk about it. Hip Hop though. It had been the biggest thing for 20 years and MTV, NME or the BBC were all the help you could rely on.
I did get Iron Flag on vinyl a couple of years ago. An upgrade for a CD that was probably left in an old car stereo at some point between starter homes and the second (or is it third?) rungs on the property ladder. One of the nicest things about relationships is that merger of your personal cannon. Wu-Tang live in the same space as Nina Simone, Transplants, MOP, Marvin Gaye, Ladytron, Velvet Revolver, Death In Vegas, Missy Elliot and Roots Manuva. If I want to let Mrs ForTheDeaf know tonight is not a school night I just have to drop a little,
“I walk through the valley of death, the hotstepper, holdin’ red pepper, everybody on reach”
And we all know what time it is. It’s 20 years ago and we’re off to the kitchen for a boogie (dishwasher loading be damned)