Originally made up of RZA, GZA, Method Man, U-God, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Masta Killa, Wu-Tang Clan have left one of the biggest legacies in hip hop history. They have launched the careers of several artists, with them as a whole being ranked by several publications as the best hip hop group of all time.
Some of their tracks stand alongside massive names in the industry as some of the greatest songs ever written, and today, we take a look at the 21 best Wu-Tang Clan tracks of all time.
1. Protect Ya Neck
Wu-Tang Clan’s debut single, featured on the group’s debut album, Protect Ya Neck is them at their highest power with eight of its nine original members. The song was the one that got them their deal with Loud Records. Weirdly, even the explicit album versions of the track are edited to scratch out almost all of the profanity in the song.
The music video for this one was pretty great, featuring the entire crew in black and white with each member rapping their verses individually with their—usually misspelled—alias flashing on the screen behind them.
Cash Rules Everything Around Me or C.R.E.A.M. was released in 1994 as Wu-Tang Clan’s second single from their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). It received universal praise from fans and critics, many of whom saw it as the best song on the album.
Despite that praise, it only peaked at number 60 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994 and wasn’t certified gold until 2009. Though that commercial success doesn’t seem super high, it is still their highest-charting single ever. Many have called it one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all time, with some calling it one of the greatest songs of all time bar none.
Triumph was the lead single on Wu-Tang Clan’s 1997 album, Wu-Tang Forever. The song has no chorus to speak of, just an intro and interlude by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and verses from the other eight members and Cappadonna. It is their one and only track to feature all of its members.
Yet again, it received incredibly positive reviews among critics, with many citing Inspectah Deck’s verse as one of the greatest in the history of hip hop. It broke ground for being six minutes long and still making it onto the radio, a major feat in a world where songs usually get cut down to three minutes or less to make it onto radio stations.
4. Method Man
Method Man is thought of as a classic today, but it was originally released as the B-side of Protect Ya Neck. Alongside GZA’s Clan In Da Front, it’s one of only two solo songs on the Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album. Supposedly, all nine members had a rap battle with the prize being a solo song on the album, and Method Man won handily.
5. Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit
Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit is one of the group’s most iconic songs today, with people who haven’t ever heard the track knowing they shouldn’t be fuckin’ with Wu-Tang Clan.
Coming off their first-ever album, the song had one singular purpose: to put every other hip hop artist on notice that they were here and were better than anyone would ever hope to be. According to RZA, “Lyrically, no one can fuck with us. It’s gonna take another generation to match our rhymes.”
6. Bring Da Ruckus
Bring Da Ruckus was the opening track of the iconic Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album, setting the stage for the group’s Shaolin takeover of the genre. It’s one of the songs that got remastered from their original demo tape and placed on their debut album. The signature crashing snare drum on the track was recorded by placing the snare in an elevator shaft and then hitting it to record the sound.
7. A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow served as the title track for Wu-Tang Clan’s album inspired by the 1986 Hong Kong action film of the same name. The lyrics are a call to create a better tomorrow, to stop being so unstable, and end the violence going on in the streets. We have to be better, and they knew at this point the eyes of the world were on them to set that kind of example.
8. Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’
Another song inspired by a Kung Fu film and another B-side track that has ended up being a classic. Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’ was the back side of C.R.E.A.M. and featured two of the Wu-Tang Clan members who don’t usually take center stage—U-God and Masta Killa.
If you’re wondering what chessboxin’ is, I got you. It’s not the sport that alternates chess and boxing, it’s a martial art form developed by the group that involves a lot of meditation and taking massive amounts of weed before the battle. You’re welcome.
Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture was released in October of 2005 to mass acclaim, featuring tracks from the group, their affiliates, and several other underground hip hop artists. Preservation was one of the standout songs of the album, rapped by Aesop Rock and Del The Funky Homosapien.
10. Uzi (Pinky Ring)
Wu-Tang Clan’s fourth studio album Iron Flag in 2001 didn’t let fans of the group down. The first single to come off it ended up being Uzi (Pinky Ring), sampling J.J. Johnson’s Parade Strut from the movie, Willie Dynamite. Upon release, the song got an accompanying music video directed by RZA.
Tearz is one of Wu-Tang Clan’s most creative and outwardly obvious social criticisms in their song catalog. Each verse tackles a different kind of deviant behavior, taking a different approach than most of the hip hop world and condemning the activities instead of relishing them.
The first verse opens up with RZA describing his brother being shot when they were kids. The second is done by Ghostface Killa, tackling sexual promiscuity and telling the story of a friend ending up with HIV after not practicing safe sex. The track sort of takes notes from the after-school-special advertisements, but those will never be as flagrantly sick as hearing those kinds of things from the group.
12. It’s Yourz
It’s Yourz features as the final track on the first disc of the Wu-Tang Forever double album. It’s a classic Wu-Tang Clan song, if for no other reason than because it’s the perfect example of how the group coalesces when they perform, uniting artists with different approaches and flowing into something cohesive.
Each rapper takes a different approach to it, from RZA’s aggression to U-God’s simplicity and Raekwon’s complexities to Ghostface Killah’s imagery. It’s a highlight of their career together, but sometimes gets overlooked because of how many amazing tracks they were able to perfect and release as a group.
To get the story behind Reunited, you have to look at an interview Method Man did with Complex magazine Method Man did. The track originally was just RZA and GZA, but Method Man ended up getting onto it and rapped the final verse of the song. And it’s a good thing he did, otherwise, we couldn’t have gotten lines like “I got the golden egg plus the goose” and “Eighty-proof, Absolut, mixed with cranberry fruit juice.”
14. Hollow Bones
One of Wu-Tang Clan’s most slept-on songs from one of their most slept-on albums. Hollow Bones came from a set that was never as prolific as Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) but served as one of the ways the group showed off their massive range as artists.
It’s one of their most emotionally captivating tracks, and if you pay attention, you can hear the pain coursing through Ghostface Killah’s voice as he raps. Great rhymes, great samples, great chemistry, and a step outside of the normal box from the group that deserves more attention than it gets.
15. I Can’t Go To Sleep
I Can’t Go To Sleep is less of the rap single you hear it as and more of a lament of the problems much of the group and the African American communities deal with on a daily basis. It touches on ghettos, drugs, guns, and poverty, serving as a heartfelt plea from the group to end the violence that so often goes unnoticed outside of the neighborhoods it happens in.
It’s got all the old-school flavor you want from Wu-Tang Clan but is deeply emotional, and you can hear how much it affects both RZA and Ghostface Killah when they rap their verses. In that way, it kind of mimics Hollow Bones just by the sheer sadness of it.
16. Gravel Pit
Gravel Pit was one of Wu-Tang Clan’s songs that saw extremely high radio play, topping the 106 & Park for two weeks in a row. Oddly enough, it’s also their biggest hit single outside of the US, becoming the group’s only UK Top 40 hit when it peaked at number six on the UK Singles chart. NME ranked it as one of the 150 Best Tracks of the Last 15 Years in 2011.
Four samples are used prominently in the song, a trumpet introduction from James Brown’s It’s Man’s Man’s World and sections of the main title of the French miniseries Belphegor, as well as Enter The Dragon and Short Eyes.
17. Careful (Click, Click)
In Careful (Click, Click), Wu-Tang Clan takes it back to the 80s, using the same time-traveling elevator from Gravel Pit and Protect Ya Neck. What did they do there? From what I can find, they apparently shot LL Cool J. It’s also one of the few songs that features U-God in a prominent role instead of just as a supporter or excluding him. Unsurprisingly, everyone on the track nails their verses, continuing the legacy of ill yet generally conscious lyrics from the group.
18. Older Gods
Oler Gods ignores the standard verse-chorus-verse structure in favor of their twice-repeated hook between the second and final verse. Most of it is done in coded language and unraveling it is insanely fun if you have the time. Some of the best ones include “Copycats are finnicky, Without skills, they master the art of mimicry” and “Might walk up in your studio time, slap your engineer.”
Always looking to the future and hoping it ends up being better than it is right now, Wu-Tang Clan is no stranger to expressing the vision of what they hope the world looks like going forward. Visionz is another one of their songs that discuss their ideals throughout the verses, featuring some funny movie and TV references from Method Man and Raekwon in their sections.
Don’t let the title of this song fool you. Babies is one of the rare times that Wu-Tang Clan leans heavily on their gangsta rap side. Coming off the Iron Flag album, the track absolutely slaps. Ghostface Killah also did a solo version of the song that received almost as much praise as the version he did with the group.
21. Liquid Swords
There are a lot of songs I could pick to slot into this final spot but I couldn’t pass up the chance to write about a track with such a sick title. This team-up by GZA and RZA takes hip hop back to the old days and showcases their incredible fundamentals as artists. Throughout the whole song, they call out their rivals and shame them for cocaine use.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.