Chamber Music

About the Wu-Tang (in 36 Pieces)

Will Ashon

Published: 1 November 2018
Trade Paperback, Demy PB
135x216mm, 384 pages
ISBN: 9781783784035

Other Editions


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Published: 7 November 2019
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 384 pages
ISBN: 9781783784042

Ebook Available

About the author

Image of Will Ashon

Will Ashon is the author of Strange Labyrinth (Granta, 2017) and two novels. He previously ran BIG DADA records where his artists included Roots Manuva, MF DOOM, Kate Tempest and Diplo. More about the author


Chamber Music is an eclectic triumph; a scholarly, exhilarating account of a group and its times’



[A] clever, provocative, ambitious thrill-ride of a book, an investigation of the divergence between mainstream history and subcultural history, official truths and alternative facts... Ashon's work is as lyrical, as complex, as unapologetically intellectual as the best works of modern literature... Ashon travels the globe tracking the provenance of words, gestures and rituals which characterise hip hop culture. And for those of us who relish great music journalism, Ashon is up there with all the heavyweights ... Full of sound and fury, Chamber Music signifies everything that suddenly feels not just important but roaringly urgent about black American culture. This is its time... A knockoutJane Graham

An unputdownable delight...Highly recommended for fans of inventive music hackery’

BrilliantGilles Peterson

Each of these chambers contains wonders of history, destiny and mythology. Enter the Wu-Tang (in 36 Pieces) is hiphop as race and class politics, as music and as poetry on the move. Through Ashton's vibrant textured prose we watch in awe as these young men seize on whatever the culture has to offer, sampling leftovers and legacies, making themselves into ferocious artists’ Margo Jefferson

Exhilarating. A new kind of in-depth fandom’ Eoghan O'Sullivan

I loved it. Passionately written, diligently researched, lovingly rendered. A breathtaking effort that is as broad in its scope as all books about albums should be.’ Kate Tempest

‘A collage of disparate but enticing fragments, like Wu-Tang's music - rich with sampling, allusions, oblique references and confusing tangents. It's ambitious, flawed and a lot more fun than any straight album biography would be’ Dan Hancox

‘A more consciously artful...take on the creation of the hip hop collective's debut studio album. But it's all the other things it takes in - black religious fundamentalism, a history of minstrels, Hong Kong's wuxia cinema and pornography and the Mafia on New York's 42nd Street - that will keep you reading’ Teddy Jamieson

‘A remarkable achievement and the sort of writing this landmark album deserves. Unconstrained, relentless and deeply moving for fans of Wu-Tang. Just plain dope.’ Guy Gunaratne

‘An awesome slice of hip hop history’ Jeffrey Boakye

‘An eclectic tribute to the album, Chamber Music; About the Wu-Tang (In 36 Pieces), which covers everything from the urban geography of New York to the history of jazz’

‘Like the work of art it takes as its subject, Ashon's book is stylistically loaded, reckless, funny, naked, thorough, thoughtful, mysterious, devastating, unrelenting, and compassionate. One of the most rewarding pieces of hip-hop criticism ever writtenJeff Chang, author

‘One of the most essential pieces of rap writing since Nelson George himself. Five mics.’ Nikesh Shukla

‘Over 36 chapters, Ashon does a bravura job at presenting an archaeology of the Wu-Tang Clan, digging around the group to situate it within the larger structures of American society and culture... the prose flows like blood at a murder scene... engaging and edifyingLiam Cagney

‘Will Ashon has come up with something really special

‘Will Ashon's dazzling study gets to the heart of hip hop, pop culture and the history of contemporary America. EssentialMatt Thorne

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