I don’t fancy myself a hardcore hip hop head anymore, but I do like some phat beats and tight rhymes. It’s hard not to appreciate such matters growing up in New York City during the ’90s when rap was at its pinnacle. Onyx slammed. EPMD broke up, but we still rocked their records. Snoop and Dre conquered the charts. Mobb Deep created a new level of hardcore. But it was the 10-man team from the borough of Staten Island that changed everything.
Wu-Tang Clan dropped the seminal Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers in 1993, fusing New York City-style underground tracks with smart lyrics, street knowledge, and Asian martial arts and philosophies. The crew, nearly a dozen deep, announced that each member would break off to drop a solo album, stampeding the industry in a revolutionary way. The best solo effort was Raekwon the Chef’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, a mob-strong album that saw Wu deep dive into street tales over producer RZA’s most varied and experimental productions.
But does this have to do with Castlevania?
The album’s first single was “Glaciers of Ice,” a track featuring Rae, Ghost, and Masta Killa flowing over only what can be described as aural insanity. Listen.
I was tuned into NYC’s Hot 97 the night that Funkmaster Flex unveiled “Glaciers of Ice” over the radio airwaves. The collective hip hop populace lost it. Not only was the track absolute fire, but radio callers (as well as my friends and me) were thoroughly convinced that RZA sampled Castlevania to create what sounded like an organ from hell. We couldn’t remember which particular Castlevania game that the sample came from, or the specific level music, but we were certain the “Glaciers of Ice” had part of its origin in a video game.
RZA is known for digging through the crates, grabbing obscure samples, chopping them up, and sometimes distorting them. This is a crew that referenced anime and martial arts flicks, so this had to be a Castlevania sample, right?
The official samples are:
- “Bless Ya Life” by KGB (Klik Ga Bow)
- “Children, Don’t Get Weary” by Booker T. & the MG’s
- “Guillotine (Swordz)” by Raekwon
Castlevania is M.I.A. That doesn’t mean, however, that it wasn’t used. It could’ve went unlisted for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting other producers to know the sample origin, or to avoid potential lawsuits for not clearing the sample with Konami. It doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things, really.
It was the hot topic of the discussion the next day. My boys and I analyzed the track for hours trying to discover its Castlevania origins. This led to us playing Castelvania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, and Super Castlevania IV in hunt of the sampled composition. We never found it.
I can look back now and realize that it wasn’t just the sample hunt that intrigued us, it was the validation. The validation that our hobby, one frequently seen as the activity of basement-dwellers, was cool, exciting, and revolutionary.
Just like Wu-Tang Clan.