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Every Wu-Tang Clan Posse Cut, Ranked

Enter the Wu-Tang

Posse cuts are an interesting sub-genre of hip-hop expression. While the usual dynamic for rap songs is a single rapper and a single producer with maybe one or two “featured” artists, the posse cut integrates varying styles and techniques but must remain fluid and coherent. The individual rappers tailor their own styles over the same beat which often produces intriguing dichotomies between artists. Indeed, some of the most memorable and influential rap songs can be considered posse cuts: “The Symphony,” “Scenario,” “Buddy,” and “Flava In Ya Ear (Remix),” to only name a few.

A few years ago, Complex ran a list of the 25 Best Posse Cuts, but set up almost baffling criteria for the form:

We defined a posse cut as a collaborative track between at least four rappers, and bringing together at least two acts (so A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems” doesn’t make it, because it has only three rapped verses, and Wu-Tang’s “Protect Ya Neck” wouldn’t qualify because they’re all part of the same group).

But ultimately, what defines a posse cut is the spirit of competition: The sense that each rapper has a burning desire to earn their spot and make a breakout performance (like Nas on “Live at the BBQ”) or to completely dominate the track (like Mystikal on “Make ’Em Say Uhh!”).

That’s certainly one way to define a posse cut. But a list that includes “It’s All About the Benjamins” and “Bling Bling” but doesn’t include “Triumph” is a list worth revising.

Can it be that defining “posse cut” was all so simple?

The Wu-Tang Clan creates a unique problem for hip-hop commentary because it technically is a cohesive whole. The overwhelming majority of Wu-Tang songs feature three or four rappers, so clearly it’s necessary to draw a line, otherwise every Wu song would be a “posse cut” and that’s not plausible.

However, while they are members of the same group, the individual rappers are very clearly “in competition” with each other, especially during Wu-Tang’s first phase, from 1993–1997. Each artist is trying to outdo the others and it’s that creativity and drive that propelled every album Wu-Tang released from 1993–1997 to go platinum: Enter the Wu-Tang, Tical, Return to the 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords, Ironman, and Wu-Tang Forever.

So if the underlying definition of “posse cut” is found in the spirit of its line-up, the artistic architecture of the Wu-Tang Clan enhances our understanding of the posse cut and its place in hip-hop history.

For the sake of clarity, I’m limiting a “Wu-Tang posse cut” to those featuring six different rappers contributing verses. That number can include affiliates like Killah Priest and Streetlife, but songs with additional personnel contributing only hooks or spoken word (such as intros or outros) aren’t included.

That still leaves us with 20 songs that qualify as Wu-Tang posse cuts. Two of those are included on Wu-affiliated albums but don’t feature a majority of Clan members:

  • “Graveyard Chamber” (6 Feet Deep, 1993)
    Verses by: The Grym Reaper, Dreddy Kruger, The RZArector, Scientific Shabazz, The Gatekeeper, Killah Priest
  • “Protect Ya Neck II The Zoo” (Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, 1995)
    Verses by: Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Budda Monk, Prodigal Sunn, Zu Keeper, Murduc, Killah Priest, 12 O’Clock, Shorty Shitstain, 60 Second Assassin

Removing those two, the remaining list is a powerhouse of 18 Wu-Tang classics. However, when compiling the list, I was surprised to find that some of the most iconic Wu-Tang songs “only” feature 5 rappers and miss the cut. Songs like:

  • “Mr. Sandman” (Tical, 1994)
  • “Snakes” (Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, 1995)
  • “Wu-Gambinos” (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, 1995)
  • “Assassination Day” (Ironman, 1996)
  • “Winter Warz” (Ironman, 1996)
  • “Visionz” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)
  • “Severe Punishment” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)
  • “A Better Tomorrow” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)
  • “It’s Yourz” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)
  • “Bells of War” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)
  • “Heaterz” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)
  • “Bobby Did It (Spanish Fly)” (Bobby Digital in Stereo, 1998)
  • “9th Chamber” (Uncontrolled Substances, 1998)
  • “Wu Banga 101” (Supreme Clientele, 2001)
  • “Back in the Game” (Iron Flag, 2001)
  • “Stick Me For My Riches” (8 Diagrams, 2007)
  • “Murder Spree” (Twelve Reasons to Die, 2013)
  • “Mistaken Identity” (A Better Tomorrow, 2014)

So with the criteria set and rules established, we’re ready to rank all 18 Wu-Tang posse cuts.

1. “Triumph” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)

Because of course it is. The first single from Wu-Tang Forever is one of the greatest rap songs of all time. Period.

Verses by: Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Cappadonna, U-God, RZA, GZA, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon

2. “Protect Ya Neck” (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 1993)

Wu-Tang’s first song is still one of Wu-Tang’s best songs, 25 years later. And that’s not a slight on them in any way. The song perfectly sets up the Clan for the audience: the Rebel INS is Wu-Tang’s lead-off batter; Meth’s catchy and fluid rhymes are contrasted with Rae’s and U-God’s shotgun blasts; ODB’s verse is controlled chaos; and GZA brings it home with tongue-twisting rhymes forcing listeners to engage the lyrics, and letting them know that there’s a deeper layer of understanding to be found.

Verses by: Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Method Man, U-God, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, RZA, GZA

3. “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’” (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 1993)

If “Protect Ya Neck” is the yin, “Chessboxin’” is the yang. An angrier song, “Chessboxin’” is set-off by U-God’s bombastic baritone and dedicated by Rae “to all the crooks.” This song is most notable for Masta Killa’s debut verse, an instant submission to the pantheon of legendary raps.

Verses by: U-God, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa

4. “Uzi (Pinky Ring)” (Iron Flag, 2001)

One of the funkiest songs in the Wu catalog, featuring one of U-God’s best verses since “Chessboxin’” in the lead-off spot. I have no clue what the song’s about, but it’s the Clan at the top of their game.

Verses by: U-God, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, RZA, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, GZA

5. “Ruckus in B Minor” (A Better Tomorrow, 2014)

Very few things on A Better Tomorrow work. The group’s discord is evident in every aspect of ABT’s production. And while the album is notable for its embrace of live musical backing, Rae’s comment that it’s a RZA album with features rings true for most of the album. That is, except “Ruckus in B Minor.” The problems are still there: the verses are weirdly inconsistent, but RZA was smart to use Meth’s looped vocals as a bonding feature. GZA brings it home with the best rap about “the rings of Saturn” and superconductors ever done. The public rift between RZA and Raekwon is musically re-enacted three-quarters through when the song completely changes momentarily and Rae proves he’s worth the drama.

Verses by: Inspectah Deck, U-God, Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, GZA, Raekwon, Masta Killa

6. “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 1993)

Surrounded by the explosive beats and hit singles that define Enter the Wu-Gang, “7th Chamber” is almost always overlooked. More than “Protect Ya Neck” or “Bring Da Ruckus,” “7th Chamber” is the template Wu-Tang most commonly followed in later years. And that’s a compliment.

Verses by: Raekwon, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, RZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, GZA

7. “Paisley Darts” (The Big Doe Rehab, 2007)

In the 2000’s it was up to Ghostface to keep Wu-Tang relevant, and he did his job well. While the beat and lyrical flows are pretty “standard Wu-Tang,” it’s worth remembering that “standard Wu-Tang” is head and shoulders above average.

Verses by: Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Sun God, Trife da God, Method Man, Cappadonna

8. “Hellz Wind Staff” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)

Somewhat hidden toward the end of Disc 2, “Hellz Wind Staff” is an underrated powerhouse. Streetlife’s intro verse kicks off the song with the right amount of energy and story intertwined. By the time Ghostface’s verse starts, the song’s won you over.

Verses by: Streetlife, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, RZA, Raekwon

9. “9 Mili Bros” (Fishscale, 2006)

A surprisingly upbeat hook drives one of the last classic Wu-Tang posse cuts. Each of the members are shining at what they do best, here.

Verses by: Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Cappadonna, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, U-God

10. “Careful (Click, Click)” (The W, 2000)

After 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever, the Clan got sneakily experimental. “Careful” is a prime example of the risks RZA et. al were willing to take at this point. Nothing’s watered down — the Clan is still angry and want you to know what they’ll do to you — but it’s done with a nod to the avant garde.

Verses by: RZA, U-God, Masta Killa, Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck

11. “Iron Flag” (Iron Flag, 2001)

The term “slept on” was coined for songs like this. Raekwon kills his opening verse. Although RZA’s minimalist score shares similarities with many of its peers — a soul sample, twisted with gritty beats — this is the form at its best. And then the beat completely changes and U-God shepherds listeners into a distorted mirror universe where the mantra is “good thing we brought the Glock.” The experimental era of Wu-Tang is remarkably successful in hindsight.

Verses by: Raekwon, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Ghostface Killah, RZA, Cappadonna

12. “Rules” (Iron Flag, 2001)

Another upbeat song with “standard Wu-Tang” lyrics on top of a catchy funk beat. RZA gets a lot of flack for his production, but (with the exception of A Better Tomorrow), the beats are never the problem.

Verses by: Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Streetlife, Raekwon, Method Man

13. “Protect Ya Neck (The Jumpoff)” (The W, 2000)

The redux of Wu’s iconic smash hit is an upbeat party song, featuring some powerhouse verses by Wu-Tang generals at the top of their game.

Verses by: Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Method Man, Masta Killa, RZA, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Cappadonna, GZA

14. “Life Changes” (8 Diagrams, 2007)

While all of 8 Diagrams is dedicated to Ol’ Dirty, “Life Changes” takes the issue head-on and each member gives a verse in memoriam. The individual stories are full of sadness and regret and it’s clear none of them had been able to reconcile ODB’s tragic ending. It’s a sad time in Wu-Tang history, and “Life Changes” is a unique look into the inner chamber.

Verses by: Method Man, Raekwon, GZA, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, U-God, RZA

15. “Windmill” (8 Diagrams, 2007)

Another example of Raekwon giving INS a run for the lead-off spot. While some of the later verses are a bit derivative, the individuals play off the beat like the professionals they are. If nothing else, “Windmill” is a reminder that Wu-Tang is only one song away from being the best rap group again.

Verses by: Raekwon, GZA, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Cappadonna

16. “Deadly Melody” (Wu-Tang Forever, 1997)

With a simple beat that’s a throwback to early Wu-Tang, “Deadly Melody” is guided by Masta Killa into a classic Wu-Tang dynamic. Each verse is a hard-hitting narrative and the beat underscores the simplicity of Wu-Tang’s music. And yet, the clues that it’s more complex are there — just under the surface.

Verses by: Masta Killa, U-God, RZA, Method Man, GZA, Streetlife, Ghostface Killah

17. “40th Street Black/We Will Fight” (A Better Tomorrow, 2014)

An interesting idea for a song, but hampered by A Better Tomorrow’s larger problems, such as inconsistency and tone. RZA’s experimental choices are interesting, but like the rest of the album, it never rises beyond that.

Verses by: Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Method Man, GZA, Cappadonna, U-God, RZA

18. “Never Let Go” (A Better Tomorrow, 2014)

Someone had to be last. A sadly forgettable song. Couched in sampled kung-fu dialogue, the song can’t get past itself. A weirdly nostalgic song, the members not involved in the larger dramas seem to be taking it out on record.

Verses by: Masta Killa, GZA, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, U-God, RZA

Wu-Tang Forever

There they are: all 18 Wu-Tang posse cuts, ranked. Disagree with my ordering? Let me know what I got wrong.

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John E. Price

John E. Price

Academic and Trekkie. I talk about the politics of culture, review nerd stuff, and golf a lot. Co-host: @podmeandering, #TopFive, @folkwise13

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