A case for flying your freak flag
The weirdos from Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the rap scene in the early 1990s with the critically-acclaimed ‘Enter The Wu-Tang,’ a gritty, soul music and martial arts film-sampling explosion from New York’s little brother borough. Around the same time, France saw its first wave of homegrown hip hop beginning, perhaps best exemplified by the crew from Marseille, IAM.
Both Wu-Tang and IAM were outsiders, almost alien to the environment in which they lived. The sprawling members of the New York crew were devotees of chess, comic books, and various forms of eastern philosophies, often referring to their borough of Staten Island as ‘Shaolin Island.’ In southern France, far from its glamorous capital, most of IAM’s members took on the names of Egyptian pharaohs. Their geographical alienation was even more literal: they shortened their hometown to ‘Mars’, staking their claim as extraterrestrial invaders.
Both of these crews created their own niche, championing the marginal in an industry that values the packaged. In the late nineties, they found one another despite the ocean that divided them. IAM travelled to New York City in 1997 to record their new album, reaching out to one of Wu-Tang’s founders, RZA, for help navigating the process. By the end of the album, the French rappers’ recordings had features from a number of Wu-Tang affiliated artists, in addition to samples from the aforementioned ‘Enter The Wu-Tang.’ The resulting album, ‘L’École du Micro d’Argent’ (The School of the Silver Mic), is considered the best French hip-hop album of all time. The two collectives would go on to collaborate once again in the early 2000s, and their identities are intricately linked to this day.
Let your freak flag fly, and it allows others to do the same. Bring your originality and individuality to the world, and help others feel the confidence to find their voice. You never know the impact you can have by representing yourself authentically, and you may find yourself surprised by those who you inspire, and those who inspire you.
Photo from Youtube
Published: March 31st, 2016