Had this stuck in my head ever since Wu’s widely ballyhooed appearance on The Daily Show. The Larry Sanders Show isn’t very widely remembered now but it was pretty big in ’98, and as I was an impressionable 18yo Wu-Stan at the time this particular episode stuck with me ever since.
The clip above is only a part of the episode, but it has all the salient points – the network brings on Jon Stewart to guest-host, Stewart turns out to be something of a wildcard and books the Wu, white awkwardness and concerns about scaring the Mid-West audiences ensue. The scene where co-host Hank meets The Clan (actually it’s RZA, Cappa and Killarmy) is a particular highlight.
This was great satire when it aired and remains a valuable time capsule of how rap and rappers were viewed by the mainstream media at the time. Watching it in 2014 also creates some poignant ‘then and now’ moments. The question of ODB’s absence resonates tragically in light of his storied legal troubles and untimely death. The absence of the other members also strikes an inadvertent chord about the group’s later fractured relationship and their notorious inability to get all the members in one room (granted they managed it for last week’s appearance.) On a lighter note, the brief off-hand reference to RZA doing a movie has become weirdly prophetic considering his forays into Hollywood, while the actual movie he was likely referring to in the clip has become a lost holy grail among his fans.
The main difference is of course in the music. In 2014 I am still a huge Wu fan, but even so I would have to admit that by now they have become something like a legacy act. They still make good music here and there, but there is an obvious difference between the medley performed in the clip, a combination of ‘And Justice For All‘ and ‘The Pillage‘, and the single they debuted on The Daily Show. The new song is not bad, the verses are actually rather nice, but the edge that made them a possibly dangerous unknown quantity for the Larry Sanders showrunners has clearly dulled.
I’m not too mad about that, it’s natural. People mellow out with age, they are not the same rappers they were back then, and I’m not the same Wu-Stan either. It’s good to see the group still doing things, good to see Stewart still supporting, and it’s cool that they can still come together at least in some measure. For the rest we will always have ’98.