I was in middle school, probably seventh grade, when I first started listening to the Wu-Tang Clan. My friend Danny had an older brother who bought Wu-Tang's second album — a double-disc release titled Wu-Tang Forever — when it came out in 1997, and we'd listen to it from start to finish, rapping along to verses by Method Man or Raekwon or Ol' Dirty Bastard. It blew my mind that so many different personalities could come together and create a cohesive song that made my head want to bob forever. The video for the single "Triumph" was our favorite because it featured a swarm of killer bees overtaking New York. (Actually, once I was watching the video on MTV and my grandma, who happened to be around, thought there was an actual killer-bee crisis in Manhattan. Grandma has definitely never formed a "W" with her hands and thrown it into the air.)
After Wu-Tang Forever, I got into the group's excellent 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which features tracks such as "Bring da Ruckus," "C.R.E.A.M." and "Method Man." I always liked how Method Man's delivery was raspy yet smooth, as if you could picture the marijuana smoke billowing from his open mouth. I still buy solo releases by Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. Last year, I read RZA's book The Tao of Wu, which most memorably discussed the final moments before Ol' Dirty Bastard overdosed in 2004, reducing the number of rappers in Wu-Tang from nine to eight.
So, yeah, I'm excited that the group is slated to take the stage at Expo Five (2900 S. 7th Street Road) this Wednesday, Jan. 5. But I'm a little skeptical because I've been to music festivals before and a Wu-Tang member who was supposed to perform (I'm looking at you, Ghostface) never showed. To ease my fears, I talked to local concert promoter Terry Harper, who's responsible for bringing this show to town. "They didn't tell me how long it's been since playing in Louisville," Harper says, "but they told me it's been years." Harper adds that tickets, which are $35, should be available at the door, and that Wu-Tang will take the stage about midnight.
You mainly bring rock and metal shows to town. How does Wu-Tang Clan fit in?
"Every blue moon I might put on an underground hip-hop show like Brother Ali, Atmosphere, Tech N9ne. Wu-Tang Clan is not that different from the other hip-hop shows I've done. From a legacy standpoint, though, they're probably the biggest."
How'd you get Wu-Tang to come to Louisville?
"When I emailed and reached out to the group, Louisville was definitely not a key city for them on this tour. It took multiple emails, a lot of begging. Honestly, though, the routing worked out really good. And I think they tried to do something in Indiana that fell through. I don't know why they're not playing in Ohio."
Which Wu-Tang members will be here?
"It's going to be everybody except for RZA. And Redman and ODB's son will be here."
Are you worried about any members not showing up?
"I mean, they're a month into the tour, I know that they're on buses and I've seen YouTube videos of previous shows. Nobody has left the tour yet. Am I weary of that? A little bit. And their fans, they know that too — that some of them don't show up sometimes. But this is the Rebirth Tour, probably one of their last runs. If they're smart business-wise, they'll show up."