In the beginning, hip hop served as both an outlet and peacemaker to urban youth in the Bronx who were members of rival gangs. The brotherhood had unspoken rules, a sort of kinetic energy, and was untapped by the outside world aka corporate America. Sound familiar? Vibranium is Wakanda’s most precious resource, but it’s also a hidden treasure of sorts. As the world is under the impression that Wakanda is a third world country — much like Americans at large view Black male youth as menacing, uneducated, would be perpetrators, the truth about Wakandans remained underground.
Hip hop still has its underground elements to this day. We all know the story too well of what happens when a particular artist or sound or group goes mainstream. The “vibranium” if you will, becomes tainted. It’s weakened, and the hip hop culture [read: movement] loses another battle. The momentum dissipates, until a new king emerges. Be it Kendrick, J. Cole, Nas, Jay Z, Biggie, Tupac or Rakim. Once the financial sponsors, endorsements, award nods and record deals come into play, the raw talent that launched these artists into our speakers and headphones is now well-mannered and trying to sell you viagara.
But I digress. I saw Marvel’s Black Panther movie during opening weekend and it was awesome to have a team of Black superheroes to cheer for, starring of course, King T’Challa. I must admit, though, this isn’t my first experience with a team of Black cult figures. The Mighty Wu Tang Clan holds that distinction. One of my favorite Wu Tang moments was the release of the Triumph track and video:
“Battle-scarred shogun, explosion when my pen hits
Tremendous, ultra-violet shine blind forensics
I inspect view through the future see millennium
Killa Beez sold fifty gold sixty platinum
Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics
Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths
Black Wu jackets Queen Beez ease the guns in
Rumblin' patrolmen tear gas laced the function
Heads by the score take flight incite a war
Chicks hit the floor, die hard fans demand more
Behold the bold soldier, control the globe slowly
Proceeds to blow swingin' swords like Shinobi
Stomp grounds I pound footprints in solid rock
Wu got it locked, performin' live on your hottest block...
The saga continues
Olympic torch flaming, we burn so sweet
The thrill of victory, the agony, defeat
We crush slow, flaming deluxe slow
For, judgment day come'th, conquer, it's war
Allow us to escape, hell glow spinning bomb
Pocket full of shells out the sky, Golden Arms
Tune spit the shit immortal combat sound
The fake false step make, the blood stain the ground”
I wanted to quote the whole damn song! You get the point. If you read the lyrics and don’t get images of Wakanda dancing in your head, you’re asleep.
During GZA's verse, a brief scene from the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation is shown. He makes a gesture with his hands, and sends the killer bees back down into Manhattan. They conglomerate to form Masta Killa, who is standing on a tower in the shape of the Wu-Tang Clan symbol. People gather around him as if he was preaching. He forms a spark in his hands that enters all of their eyes, symbolizing the exposure to "true hip-hop". He then fades away in the form of killer bees, who travel to a club, where Ghostface Killah and Raekwon are rapping. After they finish, the crowd transforms into a mass of bees that travel into the sky, forming the W in front of the moon.
Taking their group name from an powerful, mythical kung fu sword wielded by an invincible congregation of warriors, the crew is a loose collective of nine MCs. A collective - who all stood on their own with successful solo projects and continued success as a super lyrical team of 9. There were so many moments to cheer for in the Black Panther film. A happy surprise was that we have multiple heroes and sheroes that we see ourselves in as well, T’Challa, Shuri, Okoye, Nakia, M’Baku, Killmonger, and many more. That’s what’s so fascinating is when you have potent individuals who exist in the same space and as a team.
Wu Tang Forever. Wakanda Forever. TRIUMPH.