The Wu-Tang Clan was once described as “the most innovative force in hip-hop” by The New York Times. But it wasn’t only the gritty and dark soundscape created by the group that was original. Less well-known is that Method Man, one of the combo’s rappers, may have been the first exponent of his genre to express solidarity with the Palestinians.
The bass-heavy track “PLO Style” appeared on Tical, Method Man’s 1994 debut solo album. Declaring that “the street life is the only life I know,” its lyrics appear to be more of a commentary on the Meth’s direct experiences of Staten Island’s housing projects than on Middle Eastern politics. But when I interviewed him recently, Meth made clear that the PLO referred to in the title is the Palestine Liberation Organization (watch the interview at the top of this page).
“Fighting for our freedom”
“The same way Wu Tang respected how the kung fu dudes was doing their thing and shit, we respected how the PLO got down,” he said. “They’re freedom fighters and we felt like we were fighting for our freedom every day, too, where we lived at.”
Meth indicated that the track was inspired by images of Palestinian resistance fighters he used to see in a New York City store.
As well as on Tical, “PLO style” was a phrase that both Meth and his bandmate Ghostface Killah used on the tracks “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber - Part II” and “Bring Da Ruckus” off the group’s debut LP Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
Released in 1993, it has been listed as one of the 500 best albums in history by Rolling Stone. According to the magazine’s rankings, it was better than The Beatles’ Let it Be.
Another rap group, Mobb Deep, has used the phrase “PLO style” on “I’m going out” — a track from their album Murda Muzik. And, of course, numerous other hip-hop artists have voiced support for the Palestinians in more recent years.
Wu-Tang’s PLO references are some of the biggest moments of Black-Palestinian solidarity in the history of music. Such an act of solidarity is an inherently political statement without being forced. And this was 22 years ago, way before anyone else was rapping about Palestine.
I couldn’t let Method Man go without telling him that my aunt is an executive committee member of the PLO. “Oh, word,” he replied. “Tell your aunt I said ‘peace.’”
Sama’an Ashrawi is a Los Angeles-based journalist and filmmaker.