Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Own Private Shaolin: Investigative Reports

I'm almost positive my man Joe G. stole my Wu-Tang CDs in 1997. A sharp assembly it was too. Wu-Tang Forever, Liquid Swords, Return to the 36, Cuban Linx, and a scratched the fuck up copy of Ironman that only played the first 10 tracks and would skip violently right when the beat dropped on Daytona 500 (grrrr).

Note that at age 16 I was already in a nascent stage of Wu snobbery in not owning copies of either Tical or Enter the 36 Chambers. I knew those records by heart, of course, but everybody had them and I tried to be more adventurous. I nurtured a deliberately esoteric palette. Liquid Swords, not Enter the Wu, was the essential record for me at that time. It was autumn and the taste of cold air had me gassed for GZA's crisp, meditative imagery. Liquid Swords is a cold weather record to be sure. And it's a personal record too. Enter the Wu is a record you put on when your driving around with the boys. Liquid Swords will always be an album I like to listen to best by myself.

So my mom and dad went out of town one weekend and I threw a bash on Golf View and my Wu specific CD case got lifted. I was bitching about it to some dudes in my math class, opining specifically for my GZA holdings and kicking some of the lines that should have been filling my headphones. Joe G sat a few desks away. We weren't really friends and he had been at the party. Joe listened to hip hop and had a reputation for mischief. He was the enforcer of the hockey team and rolled with characters who stole people's car amplifiers and cell phones. I had reasons to be suspicious.

The next day Joe came up to me after class and hit me with a copy of Liquid Swords and some bunk ass Sunz of Man CD.

"I heard what you were saying about your CDs getting stolen man. That's fucked up. I had an extra copy of you can still have some Wu-Tang to bump. GZA shit is my favorite Wu shit too. 'I slayed mcs back in the room era...' thats my shit!"

He'd put both discs in a Bone Thugz CD case. I inspected the back of the Liquid Swords and saw some familiar scratches.

Naturally I was heated to surmise that this kid had boosted my jams, but I was also touched in a strange way. It was kind of rare to be that deep on Liquid Swords in suburban Detroit at that time and I'm sure Joe was conflicted when he discovered he'd riddled someone who appreciated the record as much he did. Who perhaps needed Liquid Swords it in the weirdly specific, elusive way Wu-Tang records make certain upper middle class white boys jones for them. He didn't feel like he had to restore my entire cache, but couldn't bear the thought of having taken Liquid Swords from a dude who loved that shit so stridently. I thanked him for the GZA. Joe was a feared hockey goon and I was first year varsity on the golf team. I was out of my weight class. That Maximillion was all I really needed anyway. I don't think it left my Discman for next five months.

Joe G. and I have become good friends, and I finally confronted him recently. He fiercely denied my accusations and told me he was offended that I would ever think he was greasy enough to take another man's Wu-Tang, even back in his reckless youth. I pointed out that he used to steal whole stereo systems out of cars, thereby removing all music from people's lives, Wu-Tang or otherwise, but he maintained his innocence when it came to the Clan.

His earnestness revealed just how personal his relationship with the Wu-Tang was, and this of course is the very essence of My Own Private Shaolin. I was tempted to believed him. Then in a masterpiece of comic timing my roommate Tony Snow came downstairs, and when he learned what we were talking about, he started to lash out at Joe for hijacking HIS Liquid Swords CD a few years later. We put the record on to illustrate just how fucked up and depraved it was to pilfer something so fresh. Joe kept on saying he had no idea what we were talking about. So who really knows.

The tone of the conversation turned good natured as Tony related a story about how he forgot to write a paper for his English class one time. He scribbled the lyrics to Killah Hills 10304 verbatim at the last minute on the bus and turned it in. His teacher didn't identify it as rip job, but still only gave Tony a C+. A C+! I'm not saying the Genius is Ezra Pound or anything, and something is doubtlessly lost when the rhymes aren't set to RZA guillotine synths. But come on now, a fucking C+ for Killa Hillz 10304?!? Those who can't teach gym teach composition.

Overnight lows in low 50s tonight in Detroit. Protect your necks.

No comments: