Nashville’s renowned Ryman Auditorium has an official history tracing as far back as 1892, starting off as a small tent with a religious purpose in 1890. The Ryman’s duration as a gospel tabernacle lasted slightly over 50 years until 1943 when this establishment gained its possibly best-known association with the Grand Ole Opry. From 1943 into the early 2000s, the Ryman pushed through dramatic highs and lows – from being picked up by the Grand Ole Opry to being left behind by the Grand Ole Opry, from uniting enormous crowds for sold out shows to lying dormant for years, from birthing bluegrass music to erasing the Ryman’s physical existence with intentions of demolition, and fortunately reaching the highest of highs once becoming adopted and renovated by Gaylord Entertainment in the 1980’s. The history of this gigantic church-like structure engulfed me as I stood within feet of the Ryman itself, preparing to witness yet another historical event waiting to be engraved into the Ryman’s 127-year-old legacy. On June 9th, 2019, Ryman Auditorium would host the Wu-Tang Clan for the very first time on their 25th-anniversary tour.
Although I’ve been a fan of Wu-Tang since I was in middle school, the Clan’s origin goes back to before I was even born. Originally formed in 1992 by Staten Island’s Robert Diggs (RZA), the worldwide influential hip-hop group consisting of the RZA, the GZA, Old Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah, and M-E-T-H-O-D Man have never reached a dull period in their 25-year existence. Wu-Tang didn’t waste any time on their debut record either, the record that has been said to be one of the most influential hip hop records of all time, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), released roughly one year after congregating. Although each member may have become known because of their association with Wu-Tang, each member owns a unique, rugged style which only made sense when each of the Clan’s members started working toward solo careers.
From 1997 to 2017, Wu-Tang pushed forward to release several more studio albums even after the unfortunate passing of ODB. Major collaborations arose throughout the Clan such as Raekwon and Nas or The Notorious B.I.G and Method Man, also inspiring artists like Kanye West in the early 2000s. What would hip hop be without butting heads too, as there were feuds between the Clan and other artists, from the known altercations between Ghostface and Mase to members of G-Unit. Wu-Tang even broke into other industries including fashion with “Wu Wear” and the film industry, both of which played a role Sunday night at the Ryman.
A teaser for RZA’s new movie “Cut Throat City” was shown as the lights dimmed, soon followed by RZA’s lone appearance as he briefly spoke to the crowd and transitioned into “Bring da Ruckus.” I could’ve sworn the crowd’s roars grew louder every time a member appeared from behind the curtains. Wu-Tang kept the crowd interested, to say the least, while they handed their mics to front row fans, shaking hands while spitting verses, Method Man called out a fan who was wearing a Wu-Tang shirt and playing on their phone during their set (which received a noticeable reaction), and bringing fans on stage for the last song. Several bottles of champagne were sprayed over the crowd, but why not? And the best part in my opinion? ODB’s legacy was able to live throughout this show as his son, appropriately known as Young Dirty Bastard, filled in for his verses, keeping ODB’s wild energy alive as he jumped into the crowd while singing “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
In the end, Wu-Tang Clan brought 2,300+ people together for the love of music, so don’t be frustrated that hip hop shared a home with country music history. Instead, be glad these genres were able to coincide and help build onto an ever-growing history.