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Video Breakdown: Wu-Tang Clan’s “Triumph”

Posted by Jose Ho-Guanipa on 01/22/10 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, Videos, Video Breakdown, Wu Tang Clan
Everyone has their own tastes and preferences, but it’s safe to say that there probably isn’t a hip-hop fan alive that doesn’t love Wu Tang and what they did for hip-hop in the '90s. They were the ultimate hip-hop group of their era and injected a much needed boost of grittiness, lyricism and raw charisma into the industry that was lacking in mainstream hip-hop at the time (and probably now as well). Whether it be the intricate yet stripped down beats of RZA, the swagger of Method Man or the outright lunacy of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, everyone had their favorite Wu Tang member. After their groundbreaking and highly successful "Enter The 36 Chambers" they fired back with "Wu Tang Forever". Accompanying the leading single off the album, "Triumph", was a high concept big budget video directed by a then little known director named Brett Ratner.

While the general consensus may be somewhat unfavorable in regards to Brett Ratner’s skills as a filmmaker (*cough* "X-Men 3") no one can deny that Triumph is a hip-hop music video masterpiece that has withstood the test of time and still impresses visually and especially creatively when compared to most of the videos out today. Ratner may have ruined one of the biggest comic book movie franchises in existence (or not) but the son of a Cuban/Jewish Miami socialite for whatever reason had a strong affinity and knack for understanding hip-hop culture and directing excellent video early on in his career.

He was able to hit the nail on the head when he was given the opportunity to direct the video "Triumph" for the infamous Wu Tang Clan. The song itself is a nonstop lyrical assault with no chorus and no hooks, just nonstop lyrical attacks and verses from each Wu member. Similarly to the song, the video is relentless in its nonstop delivery of visually interesting effects and vignettes tailored to each member. While it was only released in 1997, the computer graphics and special effects on "Triumph" still hold up well to today’s much higher standards for visual effects. The ludicrous nature of the video and the off the wall sensibility of it make it not only stand out visually but narratively as well. Where else do we get to see ODB jumping off the top of a building, Inspectah Deck glued to the wall of a skyscraper like Spiderman, Method Man the ghostrider leading a flaming motorcycle gang, and many more lasting pictures; these are all images Wu Tang fans and music fans in general will remember for years to come if they were around during the release of this album and video.

It’s not easy to fill six minutes of a music video with an interesting story and exciting visuals but Ratner accomplishes it effortlessly in "Triumph". As mentioned before the video is a barrage of interesting imagery and eye candy. It does not follow the any traditional conventions of hip-hop videos, either. There are no cars, girls or any other clichéd visuals one comes to expect from rap groups, especially one of the popularity and magnitude of Wu Tang. Instead the group and the director deliver creative, irreverent imagery that incessantly changes with each member/character of the group and leaves the viewer wanting more. We wouldn’t want to be clichéd ourselves but I have to say that the video for this 1997 Wu Tang single really was a “Triumph”.

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