Another Sunday Night Sample, and another blog staining the genius of RZA. (Cue eye rolls). But I don't care.
Wu-Tang was so far ahead of their time it makes me sad when listening to songs like this today.
You could listen to an entire "album" from one of today's hottest rappers, and outside of maybe J Cole or Kendrick Lamar, you wouldn't hear the level of vocabulary and rhyme schemes displayed on this song, "Triumph".
"Triumph" was featured on Wu-Tang's 1997 album Wu-Tang Forever. It was the lead single off the album, released in February 1997.
The song has no hook. But it does have an intro and interlude from Ol' Dirty Bastard and features verses from the other eight Wu-Tang members, as well as Cappadonna.
Fun Fact: This is the only Wu-Tang song every member is a part of.
RZA broke down the production on the record. He divulged that they recorded “Triumph” in Los Angeles. Musically he combined his new Yamaha keyboard V71 series with his ASR-10, MPC and Nord lead keyboard. His goal was to make a track with classical sounds, but based in hip-hop with a touch of soul. While the drums meet classic hip hop, the strings added a new element.
...I did 'Triumph' ....radio and video stations was telling me it was too long... ..I had to edit it.. ..I told them... ...take it as is... ..or they won't get nothing, feel me? ...Next thing you know, we did the impossible: We got a 6 minute song on the radio... 6 minutes man, that's serious, its unheard of.. ...a 6 minute video... I started creating it in New York. And didn’t finish it until sometime in California. It was one of the first times that I combined three different beat machines together.
Inspectah Deck's opening verse is regarded as one of the best in rap history. For good reason. To think it almost didn't even appear on the song, or the album is crazy.
Vlad TV - Inspectah Deck — whose opening verse is one of the most-heralded in hip hop history — he acknowledged that using his “Triumph” verse twice helped his legacy, as it was originally recorded for Tony Touch’s 50 MC’sVol. 1 tape. RZA made the beat at around 5 a.m., as he and Ol Dirty Bastard were the only ones up. Inspectah Deck explains he could hear the kicks and snares from his room. He knew it was a smash-hit. He got up and asked to get on the record. Later that day the rest of the group had jumped on as well, because his verse was so outstanding.
Method Man gave a famous rundown to Complex on the making of the song. Would have given anything for these recording sessions for this album to have been documented because it would be must-watch tv.
Complex - Method Man: It was a lot of energy in the room when we did ‘Triumph.’ We did it at Ray Parker Jr.’s studio. I remember we had two studios in there, so some dudes would be over here doing this and some dudes would be over there doing that. But in the beginning, we were all in one studio doing ‘Triumph.’
Deck went first, killed it. I went in and did my verse. It was the same order [as recording ‘Protect Ya Neck’]. Nobody was moved around. As far as Ol’ Dirty goes, once we hit Cali you couldn’t find that nigga. When we got him in the studio, we tried to throw him in as much shit as we could.
Dirty, he was the motherfucking star. He was able to handle all the cameras and all that, he was ready for all that shit. Not saying that I wasn’t, I enjoyed what I did. I wasn’t walking around uncomfortable all the time.
‘Triumph’ was like, all the pressure of the name being bigger than the group and everybody smelling themselves and thinking they were bigger than they really was. You can hear all that on ‘Triumph.’ By the middle of the album, focus was being lost.
I’m speaking for myself, not my crew. My focus was lost by the middle of the album and my heart just wasn’t in it like it used to be. I don’t regret anything that I did, but I wish I would’ve been a little more focused on the shit that really mattered at that point in time.
I started feeling uncomfortable around the cameras. I started feeling uncomfortable around crowds and in party atmospheres. I just didn’t like it. You can get a moment of clarity when you’re at your highest point—when you’re fucked up and you high and something hits you like an epiphany. My epiphany was seeing all these motherfuckers doing the same thing every night in every club and in every video.
It became like, ‘What the fuck is this frivolous bullshit?’ It’s like going in the club and knowing what somebody answer is gonna be when you say, ‘What’s up my G?—‘Everything is all good’ or ‘It ain’t nothing to a playa.’ I did not want to be a part of that shit no more.
All I was talking about was smoke this, party that, and all this shit. Is that really what this shit is about? I’m not really about that shit. I want to do something different. I don’t want to conform and be the same like the rest of these motherfuckers.
In terms of production and sampling, RZA dug up some incredible songs to use. He took “Just Found Me” by The Rance Allen Group, and its multiple elements of soul, disco and funk.
The classic Wu-Tang voice dubb samples come from “To the Garden of the Temple” from the 1983 film Duel to the Death.
Besides the mind-blowing lyrics and production, “Triumph” was famous for it's insane (at the time) music video.
Music videos in the 90s were almost more important than the actual album. Videos were such a huge part of marketing that labels and groups allocated massive budgets to them in similar to album production costs.
Videos were also a way for musical acts to "flex" back then.
If you could drop a shit load of money, get celebrities to appear in them, get the hottest girls or the most expensive cars in them you were big time.
It turned into a game where videos eventually became mini-action blockbuster films.
"Triumph" the music video was the perfect example.
They got Rush Hour director, (and noted scumbag) Brett Ratner behind the camera for it. It was one of the most expensive music videos of the time costing just under a million dollars to produce. The video begins with breaking news: a massive swarm of killer bees attacking New York. Ol Dirty Bastard is up on a skyscraper surrounded by police helicopters and officers with their guns drawn.
Fun fact- ODB wasn’t actually in the video. Always a wild card, Ol’ Dirty didn't feel like filming the video since he didn’t have an official verse, he left the set before filming began. It forced Ratner to get a stand-in.
Inspectah Deck is seen climbing the side of the building when “ODB” jumps off, as the bees follow in his path. Meanwhile, Method Man and the other Clan members arrive on motorcycles, shooting fireballs at the bees.
During GZA’s verse there is a brief cut to the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, At the end of the video, the bees make their way to a club where Ghostface and Raekwon are rapping, with Quincy Jones making a cameo.
Complex- Ratner told Complex: It was the first million dollar rap video.* When Steve Rifkind asked me, I said, ‘Are you sure about this record? There’s no chorus!’ He says “Trust me, its gonna be the biggest record of the year. Only Wu-Tang could pull this off.‘ So, I set up the video — Joseph Kahn was my cinematographer.
It’s a five day shoot, and it’s crazy. The greatest fuckin' experience, they’re eating mushrooms the whole time. Ol' Dirty never shows up. I was like, Oh my god, this is fucking insane! The most fun I ever had.
Besides spending almost a million dollars on the music video, Wu-Tang went weeks over schedule. As Raekwon told MTV in a contemporary making-of featurette, “It’s like if a little kid were to picture it, it would be like a big hype magazine, like a comic book or whatever, with the bangingness in it, though.”