Perfect Song Friday is a recurring feature in which a perfect song is highlighted on Friday. If you would like to suggest a song for Perfect Song Friday, please start your own blog.
This Friday’s Perfect Song: “Triumph” by Wu-Tang Clan
This is probably where the concept of “perfect” falls apart. I don’t think anyone who takes the Wu-Tang Clan seriously – or gives serious consideration to their influence and power – can make the case that “Triumph” is the group’s best song, or even it’s 10th best song (maybe not even it’s 20th?), and yet it remains my favorite of their songs, largely because it was the first song I was exposed to.
I grew up in a suburb of Western New York, where there were no rap music stations and my exposure to people who liked rap music was limited until well into my teenage years (it was basically my older brother and a couple other doofuses who watched Rap City), so any song that made a mark on me was going to have to do so through a music video. The “Triumph” video is not especially good, but it contains a lot of things to engage the attention of an 11-year-old: people turning into swarms of bees! Method Man in a WW1 German helmet! That woman dancing in the cage at the end! Giving sight to the blind!
And so, over time, image and visual presentation helped to burn the audio into my mind. I became aware of a more aggressive style of rap, certainly harder than the kiddie pop-rap discs in my parents collection (shout out to Kris Kross, shout out to Vanilla Ice, shout out to MC Hammer). To this day, I can recite the first two minutes of this song from memory. To this day, this is what comes to my mind when I think of a posse cut. To this day, this is what comes to my mind when I think about the diaspora of rap styles and subject matter, how they might fit together or create jagged mountain ranges between them (you can hear one on this song, forming in real time, after Masta Killa completes his verse about “the mind that travels in rhyme form” only for Ghostface to begin his verse “Hey yo, fuck that.”). As far as an on-ramp into what rap can be, you can do a hell of a lot worse than “Triumph.” That’s a kind of perfection, even if it isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of greatness, but you wouldn’t come to the Wu-Tang Clan for cleanliness, anyway. You come for the mess.