Wu-Tang Clan and Thomas Pynchon

These are the lyrics to “Triumph,” from disc 2 of the Wu-Tang Clan album “Forever.” I was listening to the song and saying as many of the lyrics aloud as I could, and I got to wondering about the ones I didn’t know. I looked up the lyrics on Internet and here’s what I found. What’s surprising is how much it reads like Thomas Pynchon. I’ve included a couple haphazardly-selected sample passages at the bottom for purposes of comparison, and noted some of my observations.

I included the entire song because I didn’t get around to editing out the parts I was thinking of in particular, but feel free to skip to the end if you’d rather get to the point.

“Triumph”

[skipping ODB’s intro]

[Inspectah Deck]
I bomb atomically, Socrates’ philosophies
and hypothesis can’t define how I be droppin these
mockeries, lyrically perform armed robbery
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me
Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits
tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics
I inspect you, through the future see millenium
Killa B’s sold fifty gold sixty platinum
Shacklin the masses with drastic rap tactics
Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths
Black Wu jackets queen B’s ease the guns in
Rumble with patrolmen, tear gas laced the function
Heads by the score take flight incite a war
Chicks hit the floor, diehard fans demand more
Behold the bold soldier, control the globe slowly
Proceeds to blow swingin swords like Shinobi
Stomp grounds and pound footprints in solid rock
Wu got it locked, performin live on your hottest block

[Method Man]
As the world turns, I spread like germs
Bless the globe with the pestilence, the hard-headed never learn
It’s my testament to those burned
Play my position in the game of life, standin firm
on foreign land, jump the gun out the fryin pan, into the fire
Transform into the Ghostrider, a six-pack
and +A Streetcar Named Desire+, who got my back?
In the line of fire holdin back, what?
My peoples if you with me where the fuck you at?
Niggaz is strapped, and they tryin to twist my beer cap
It’s court adjourned, for the bad seed from bad sperm
Herb got my wig fried like a bad perm, what the blood
clot, we smoke pot, and blow spots
You wanna think twice, I think not
The Iron Lung ain’t got ta tell you where it’s coming from
Guns of Navarone, tearing up your battle zone
Rip through your slums

[Cappadonna]
I twist darts from the heart, tried and true
Loop my voice on the LP, martini on the slang rocks
Certified chatterbox, vocabulary ‘Donna talkin
Tell your story walkin
Take cover kid, what? Run for your brother, kid
Run for your team, and your six camp rhyme groupies
So I can squeeze with the advantage, and get wasted
My deadly notes reigns supreme
Your fort is basic compared to mine
Domino effect, arts and crafts
Paragraphs contain cyanide
Take a free ride on my dart, I got the fashion
catalogues for all y’all to all praise to the Gods

[Ol Dirty Bastard]
The saga continues
Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang

[U-God]
Olympic torch flaming, we burn so sweet
The thrill of victory, the agony, defeat
We crush slow, flamin deluxe slow
For, judgment day cometh, conquer, it’s war
Allow us to escape, hell glow spinning bomb
Pocket full of shells out the sky, Golden Arms
Tune spit the shitty Mortal Kombat sound
The fateful step make, the blood stain the ground
A jungle junkie, vigilante tantrum
A death kiss, catwalk, squeeze another anthem
Hold it for ransom, tranquilized with anesthetics
My orchestra, graceful, music ballerinas
My music Sicily, rich California smell
An axekiller adventure, paint a picture well
I sing a song from Sing-Sing, sippin on ginseng
Righteous wax chaperone, rotating ring king

[RZA]
Watch for the wooden soldiers, C-Cypher-Punks couldn’t hold us
A thousand men rushing in, not one nigga was sober
Perpendicular to the square, we stand bold like Flare
Escape from your Dragon’s Lair, in particular
My beats travel like a vortex, through your spine
to the top of your cerebrum cortex
Make you feel like you bust a nut from raw sex
Enter through your right ventricle clog up your bloodstream
now terminal, like Grand Central Station
Program fat baselines, on Novation
Getting drunk like a fuck, I’m duckin five-year probation

[GZA]
War of the masses, the outcome, disastrous
Many of the victim family save they ashes
A million names on walls engraved in plaques
Those who went back, received penalties for the axe
Another heart is torn as close ones mourn
Those who stray, niggaz get slayed on the song

[Masta Killa]
The track renders helpless and suffers from multiple stab wounds
and leaks sounds that’s heard
ninety-three million miles away from came one
to represent the Nation, this is a gathering
of the masses that come to pay respects to the Wu-Tang Clan
As we engage in battle, the crowd now screams in rage
The high chief Jamel-I-Reef take the stage
Light is provided through sparks of energy
from the mind that travels in rhyme form
Givin sight to the blind
The dumb are mostly intrigued by the drum
Death only one can save self from
This relentless attack of the track spares none

[Ghostface Killah]
Yo! Yo! Yo, fuck that, look at all these crab niggaz laid back
Lampin like them gray and black Puma’s on my man’s rack
Codeine was forced in your drink
You had a Navy Green salamander fiend, bitches never heard you scream
You two-faces, scum of the slum, I got your whole body numb
Blowin like Shalamar in eighty-one
Sound convincin, thousand dollar court by convention
Hands, like Sonny Liston, get fly permission
Hold the fuck up, I’ll unfasten your wig, bad luck
I humiliate, separate the English from the Dutch
it’s me, black nobled you Ali
Came in threes we like the Genovese, is that so?
Caesar needs the greens, it’s Earth
Ninety-three million miles from the first
Rough turbulence, the waveburst, split the megahertz

[Raekwon]
Aiyyo that’s amazing, gun in your mouth talk, verbal foul hawk
Connect thoughts to make my manchild walk
Swift notarizer, Wu-Tang, all up in the high-riser
New York Yank’ visor world tranquilizer
Just a dosage, delegate my Clan with explosives
While, my pen blow lines ferocious
Mediterranean, see y’all, the number one draft pick
Tear down the beat God, then delegate the God to see God
The swift chancellor, flex, the white-gold tarantula
Track truck diesel, play the weed God, substantiala
Max mostly, undivided, then slide in, sickenin
Guaranteed, made em jump like Rod Strickland

—————

“He understands that it’s something back in Holland, before Arnhem–an impedance permanently wired into the circuit of themselves. How many ears smelling of Palmolive and Camay has he crooned songs into, outside-the-bowling-alley songs, behind-the-Moxie-billboard songs, Saturday-night open-me-another-quart songs, all saying, honey, it don’t matter where you’ve been[…]” (208, Gravity’s Rainbow)

“Death converted into more death. Perfecting its reign, just as the buried coal grows denser, and overlaid with more strata–epoch on top of epoch, city on top of ruined city. This is the sign of Death the impersonator.” (167, GR)

They share tone patterns and the habit of repeating phrases  (“behind-the” songs, “epoch on top of epoch, city on top of ruined city”) with a slight tweak–the word “ruined.” The solid phrase first, then the descriptive term, which, if not latent in the phrase itself, is somehow being incubated by the book as a whole: the “ruined” city.

Plus, all these references to tearing down Gods–replacing them with other Gods–syncs with GR‘s exploration of the “One God, but many administrations” theme, a theme that you notice in other works of this scale (diversity of narrative textures in Ulysses, for example, representing the many separate administrations of a God ordering the world of the book) and that is actually explicitly stated in Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke.

Then the odd techno-sensuality: the London Blitz as the sexual assault of one country on another; “Ninety-three million miles from the first/ Rough turbulence, the waveburst, split the megahertz;” the inevitability of death; the fascination with the human body, which even extends to the common use of the word “vortex” in contemplating sex.

“He dares to gaze up at her cunt, that fearful vortex.” (GR, 235)

My beats travel like a vortex, through your spine
to the top of your cerebrum cortex
Make you feel like you bust a nut from raw sex” (RZA, “Triumph”)

Just pointing out some of the similarities that jump to mind when I really look at this stuff. I’m sure there’s more, a lot more, but it’s afternoon and I’m going to the museum to see what happens there.

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One response to “Wu-Tang Clan and Thomas Pynchon

  1. amazing amazing amazing
    sounds like the beginning of a doctoral thesis

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