New York City is set to host the 60th Annual Grammy Awards this Sunday. This will mark the first time in 15 years that the ceremony is not hosted in Los Angeles.
More importantly, this year’s Grammys will also mark the 20th Anniversary of Ol’ Dirty Bastard rushing the stage to declare “Wu Tang is for the Children.” In commemoration of one of the greatest moments in American history, I declare El Michels Affair’s rendition of the ODB classic “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” as song of the day.
The night of the 40th Annual Grammy Awards, Wu Tang lost Best Rap Album to Puff Daddy. Later that night, as Shawn Colvin was announced as the winner of “Song of the Year,” ODB aka Dirt McGirt aka Big Baby Jesus aka Russell Tyrone Jones took the opportunity to express his displeasure with their loss grabbing the mic and championing the 36 Chambers.
This was more than a decade before Kanye rushed the stage on Taylor Swift1 ; while it wasn’t the first time somebody interrupted an awards show, it set the precedent for doing so.2 It’s an iconic moment that completely embodies the essence of ODB. From his spastic delivery to the way his bars dragged into each other without ever sounding cluttered, ODB was an enigma on the mic that found a surprising equilibrium with RZA’s simple but effective production that gave the spotlight to the emcee.
El Michels Affair are no strangers to the 36 Chambers. The band toured as the backing band for several Wu Tang members throughout the mid-aughts. Their brand of neo-soul jazz revival has the same nonchalance and fluidity of a RZA-produced track while establishing a larger-than-life, almost cinematic feel. In 2009, they released a collection of Wu Tang Clan instrumental covers, culminating with a rendition of ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
The song starts out similar to the original with isolated keys tapping the melody, but then out of nowhere, the group drops a bomb of horns, blasting your eardrums like a call to arms. The woodwinds lay down the bass while the brass mimic the keys in a higher octave and a ride cymbal cruises through the verse. A child-like chant comes through with the verse repeating the first two lines before getting out of the way for the return of the horns. While this is no substitute for ODB’s terror raid, the horns compensate with an overwhelming sense of bravado that provides an appropriate stand-in.
The song then retreats to a softer reprise of the key intro before psyching you out and coming back full force with the refrain, this time accompanied by children chanting “Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang,” proving that ODB knew what he was talking about when he said “Wu Tang is for the Children” 20 years ago. RIP.
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