Disheveled musicians unite! After zipping by The Rapture in the opening round with his unkempt folksy style, Pete Seeger now faces Staten Island’s original grimy, dirt-sodden rap troupe, who themselves dispatched Rammellzee to get to this stage of the showdown. With both artists embracing a stubborn anti-establishment stance, things could get heated.
Wu-Tang Clan: “C.R.E.A.M.”
The Wu in a superbly grimy nutshell, “C.R.E.A.M.” fuses a vintage soul sample (The Charmells’ “As Long As I’ve Got You”) with rugged-but-tight raps about overcoming personal and worldly struggles (including “stick-up kids, corrupt cops and crack rocks and stray shots”). Most brilliantly, it also invokes a rap acronym that actually works!
Pete Seeger: “We Shall Overcome”
Seeger’s take on the Civil Rights signature tune “We Shall Overcome” is rousing in its self-determined sentiment without ever schlepping over into the realm of the empty soundbite. Legend even has it that Seeger was the one who flipped the lyrics from “we will overcome” to the more unified “we shall overcome.” Aside: It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine RZA sampling and looping up the song’s elegiac vibe.
Longevity: Baring the occasional decent album cut, the Wu as a group entity haven’t really clicked since their ’90s glory days—although individual members are still active on the rap circuit to varying degrees of success. Seeger, however, doesn’t just beat the Clan in terms of career length; his take on “We Shall Overcome” was recently invoked by the great unwashed of Occupy Wall Street.
Innovations: Seeger’s career runs through many a social and political era, during which he’s always found a way to convey his message. During their initial burst on to the scene the Wu blazed through with a blast of innovations: Changing the way rappers sign recording contracts; looping up sped-up soul samples; coining silly Mafia-inspired nicknames; manufacturing shoddy branded clothing; wearing bathrobes paired with oversized medallions; and loosing a rapper called Shorty Shitstain on the world. If it’s a numbers game, the tie goes to the Wu.
Starpower: For a bunch of raggedy rap renegades, the Clan have made pretty decent inroads into Hollywood and the mainstream, not least with Method Man’s film roles (which include a spot as a bufoonish bellhop in Garden State), and RZA’s mug popping up all over the spot. Seeger’s musical reputation is solidified, buy you’re more likely to see one of the Wu hawking toothpaste in a TV ad than the folk singer.
Intangibles: It’s long been rumored that the FBI have kept case files on the Wu-Tang Clan, and recently Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s record was released to the public. Seeger was also monitored by the shady powers that be, having been blacklisted during the McCarthy chamber.
Likely winner: The Wu—if only because they’ve always had an immense online fan base, and the Internet is for the children!