Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is one of the greatest rap albums ever made. Over the course of 12 songs (13 if you include the Skunk Mix of "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man"), the nine-man Shaolin-bred collective offers a variety of clever posse cuts ("Da Mystery of Chessboxin" and "Protect Ya Neck," among others), introspection ("Can It Be All So Simple" and "Tearz"), produces new slang terms ("C.R.E.A.M.") and does it all while sandwiching in samples from classic kung-fu movies.

You didn't just listen to this album so much as get drawn into the world of Wu-Tang through it. The album introduced the characters and the narrative arc that would define the group and its member for years to come. RZA, the musical mastermind. Method Man, the charismatic lead. Raekwon and Ghostface, two street scholars. Ol' Dirty Bastard, an uninhibited enigma. Inspectah Deck, a rapid-fire lyricist. GZA, the wise elder-statesman. Masta Killa, a reserved poet. And U-God, a unbridled ball of energy.

We'd come to know each of these members intimately through music in the next 20 years, but their introductory group effort is still, without a doubt, their finest piece of work to date.

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