Thursday, August 11, 2011

Musical Memory: Wu-Tang Clan - Careful (Click Click)

Over the past 22 years, the iron flag which proudly displays the emblem of shaolin has remained firmly planted on the battlefield of hip-hop.  Though it has weathered some very dark days over the years, the recent artistic resurgence of the clan has it standing nearly up right again.  However, I’d like to take you back to the days when the ascendance of Bad Boy, Ruff Ryders, and Roc-A-Fella had knocked the clan down a few slots in the east coast hip-hop pecking order.   

The lukewarm reception of their highly anticipated (though criminally underrated) sophomore effort Wu-Tang Forever brought about a premature end to their reign.  Still, they soldiered on through an increasingly foreign Hip-Hop landscape, releasing their third album The W during the Christmas season of 2000.  It had a considerably lower profile than its two predecessors, but still contained quite a few choice displays of deadly Shaolin skill.  One such display was the warning shot “Careful (Click Click).”

The song itself is one of RZA’s more minimalist compositions.  Programmed drums stamp footprints in the sonic sand, while sound effects reminiscent of water droplets a la Jeru’s classic “Come Clean” emanate a cavernous echo.  It’s banal and menacing, offering a skeletal variation on RZA’s “torture chamber” style.  Of course, no Wu-Tang track would be complete with the requisite English dubbed dialogue snippets from a classic Chop-Socky.  The batting order is a series of peaks and valleys. 

The Abbot is first up, reinforcing the title of the song with a gun brandishing warning to all attackers.  It’s yet another of his scattered, stream of consciousness style outbursts.  U-God briefly interjects, then Masta Killa sprinkles a bit of lyrical valium over the track.  Cappadonna ups the energy level back to where it was originally set.  Ghost knocks the door off the hinges with a blast of abstract thermite.  Lord knows what he’s talking about, but as always it sounds dope.  U-God swoops in again, managing to be even more abstract than Ghost or Cap.  Inspectah Deck lays down a concise lyrical blueprint that is technically the best written of all the verses.  

The video for the song somehow managed to fly completely under my radar at the time, but I discovered it last year on “Uncle” Ralph McDaniels online mix show Video Music Box.  The Joseph Khan directed clip is rather bizarre.  The Clan is at a club, profiling and taking in the milieu.  A breaker decked out in a Red Adidas track suit with matching Kangol and a thin gold cable reveals himself to be an assassin.  He pulls out twin semi autos and blazes away, Chow Yun Fat style.  The Clan produce weapons of their own and return fire.  Even after being perforated with numerous shots, the assailant continues shooting with a disturbing smile on his face.

The look of this video is just lovely.  Everything is seen through an amber crystal.  A slow motion tracking shot shows the clan parlaying with females in rounded booths.  This is juxtaposed with the hypnagogic imagery of the red clad Assailant, who turns out to be none other than Bokeem Woodbine!  Kadeem Hardison, or someone that bears a striking resemblance to him, can be seen in one of the booths.  There are also the requisite shots of Wu Members brandishing weapons and scowling at the camera.  Everyone is firing their guns in classic “O-Dogg” fashion.  The whole piece is both surreal and authentically hood.  It revels in gun fetishism and cartoonish machismo.  In other words, it’s a great 

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