by Wu-Tang Clan
The RZA produced the entire Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album, introducing the world to what became his signature production style. His productions are generally cinematic and stripped down: they force the listener to be attentive to the song the way they would to a movie. He is known for sampling organs and piano, gangster and kung fu films, and old soul music to create a claustrophobic, back-room-in-a-mobster-film kind of feel.
In the case of "C.R.E.A.M.," the memorable piano sample is actually pulled from a 1966 record by The Charmels, a girl group who recorded with Stax Records in the infant days of soul music. Like the clever use of slang by Raekwon, the RZA makes you work for it a little, using just enough of the song to create the sound he wants but not quite enough to make the source of the sample obvious to the uninitiated. As the Village Voice wrote in 1994, the RZA "refers to the soul hook like a preacher citing the gospel by chapter and verse, leaving the faithful to fill in the rest. He conjures dublike r&b ghosts, plinking out dusted piano notes like Dr. Dre on 'Deep Cover.' At his best he's hard but never brutal, relaxed and mean at the same time-- a trick that's paid off for Wu-Tang just as it has for Snoop and Domino."
The Charmels' cheery soul sample becomes a thing of awesome darkness in the RZA's hands, backed by a simple, repetitive, laid-back beat that serves mostly to highlight the up-close-and-personal performances by Method Man, Raekwon, and Inspectah Deck. The mood is stark and the song gives off a sense of doom that skirts on a sense of humor, much like a trailer for a good action movie. The RZA's long production career is now a legendary one, with the likes of Kanye West citing him as an influence (and working with him on some of West's most lauded recent tracks). The RZA's list of production credits is already impressive, and his work on this earth is far from over.