Peace to the Gods and Earth's. The spiritual head and the sharpest sword of the Wu, Popa Wu, formerly known as Freedom Allah recently made the transition. Born in Brooklyn's infamous Coney Island in 1957, Freedum's formative years in the 1970's saw a shift in the Nation Of Islam's strength in New York, with the Gods & Earths emerging along with other, smaller factions throughout the city. He also called Bed-Stuy home and always utilized the legendary neighborhood formally as home base.
Legend goes that at a show early in the group's career, Asun (already going by various aliases, most notably Ol' Dirty) proclaimed that Freedum was the Father of the Clan and a new alias for 'Popa Wu' was born. His first featured on record is the outro "North Star", the gem tucked all the way at the end to bookend "Only Built For A Cuban Linx" as he observes the young Chef's evolution at the time. The purple tape wouldn't feel the same without Papa Wu to close that chapter.
A year and change later, the God surfaces on Ghostface's "Ironman" intro to "Black Jesus". I'll never forget this most marvelous recording was released a few days around my thirteenth birthday. Though my culture does not throw bar mitzvah's for ones entry into teenagedom, instead I immediately grasp onto the words of the elder as an informal rite of passage into manhood.
Towards the heart of the album that went from "Motherless Child" to "All That I Got Is You", Papa Wu lands right in the middle of this quadrant building with Ghost on man and the war of his higher and lower natures. Ghost and anyone with an open ear gains a newer level of understanding.
The apex for the witty unpredictable collective would arrive a few months later on the Wu's second release, "Wu-Tang Forever". The summer equinox of 1997 was emotionally set ablaze already with the recent losses of titans 2Pac + Notorious B.I.G., the latter third of the decade establishing itself within the genre as a battle of higher minded consciousness of the older guard vs the radio friendly more dance oriented joints that the likes of Bad Boy or So So Def lead with.
"Triumph" as the first released single perfectly sets the stage for anyone who had to stop everything, hit play and within ten seconds are bombarded with the intensity of a thousand suns tearing through the speakers. 85% poison animal eaters, worship what they know not, easy to be lead to the left and difficult to be lead to the right; the 10% who feed off the ignorance of the 85 for their own gains and the 5% (which feels much closer to 1% 23 years later), truly aware and living Asiatic Black Man. And he can only go but so far without his Black Woman.
"The universe is not complete without the sun, moon and stars; that's Man, Woman and child." - Papa Wu, "Wu-Revolution (1997)
7 minutes would pass before the remainder of the Clan would emerge on the album's second track but the tempo was set, lines drawn in the sand on where they stood among hip hop's elite during this period.
Freedum would go on to appear on many other Wu affiliated recordings, took the knowledge of the Gods across the globe and continued to stay linked to the youth at home...not counting his 20 seeds. As recent as a year or two ago, he had plans in starting new initiatives to further link the elder and younger generations.
Freedum's impact from those who have supported the Wu prior to their debut 1992 or just discovered them from a playlist yesterday will continue to raise the God up as he begins his path as a powerful ancestor. I will definitely being carrying some of his grand library's worth of wisdom that was picked up over the course of our paths crossing.