Wu-Tang Clan at Harvard University "Yardfest," April 18, 2008
MARVELOUS IMPROBABILITY: The Wu’s Harvard gig was a study in WTF.
Some 45 minutes into the Wu-Tang Clan’s afternoon performance in Harvard Yard, Raekwon took a moment to describe his audience: “College disco-ass dorm niggas. Educated motherfuckers.” For the couple hundred boozy students who were packed up against the stage, there could have been no higher compliment. For the couple thousand others looking simply to enjoy a hot dog in the late-afternoon sunshine as part of “Yardfest,” the remark, like so much about the Wu, was deeply confusing.
Up front with the faithful, however, there was good feeling all around as the legendary Staten Island rap group toured their 15 years worth of musical swordplay. Ghostface Killah, the magnificent sparkplug, took the stage by himself, priming the crowd for what would quickly become a big, friendly party. No Method Man (shooting a film elsewhere) and no RZA (he and the rest of the Clan haven’t been on good terms lately), but no matter. The Wu ambled all over the stage, trading lines, distributing DVDs, high-fiving. Sometimes it didn’t work — Masta Killah will think again before asking Harvard kids to finish his lines on “Grab the Mic”; sometimes it did. The old capitalistic call-and-response (“Make money money/Take money money money”) was full-throated and enthusiastic. Wealth speaks across all kinds of cultural divides, especially those involving the Ivy League.
For a minute there, you could have almost convinced yourself that this was a rap show like any other. Six or seven mini-skirted undergraduates had scattered themselves amid the Clan’s backstage posse, and someone in my general vicinity lit up a joint in the ripening afternoon light. But no number of groupies and no quantity of weed could have concealed the marvelous improbability of this concert’s existence. “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothin’ to fuck with!” went the chorus, as tire swings hanging from the trees traced lazy circles in the background. Sometimes life is so wonderfully strange.
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