One of the tests of an aesthetic production--music, art, literature, or otherwise--is whether it can rise above an unpromising premise. It's good if the work is good in the first place, in conception and execution, but there's something to be said for being pleasantly surprised.

As a hip-hop fan, with a definite bias for the east coast and the early-mid 90s, the omission of the Wu-Tang Clan was an odd one. But despite an affection for ODB (from Pras' "Ghetto Superstar," obviously), the specific Wu-combination was of things I don't particularly like: Kung-Fu movies and ultraviolence. I also prefer the Pete Rock-style sample-heavy brand of hip-hop to RZA-style minimalist production. But Amazon offered Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers for $5 (or maybe $3, can't remember), so it was time to give it a chance--and it's incredibly good. Part of it's the enthusiasm that comes from everyone in the group--as if they're doing their best to hold back but failing; part of it's also that production style: because there are so few elements to the production, each one is able to have greater impact, which makes it easier for the RZA to manipulate the reactions of his listeners. It's not for everyone (what with the violence and all), but it's masterfully done.

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