Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

This isn't a Game: Why Wu-Tang Clan ruled at Raggamuffin

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The day was marred by a last-minute line-up change, but Raggamuffin did something amazing: it got Wu-Tang Clan to New Zealand. Chris Schulz was there.
Wu-Tang Clan performing at Raggamuffin. Photo / Raggamuffin Facebook
Wu-Tang Clan performing at Raggamuffin. Photo / Raggamuffin Facebook

"F*** you Game," wrote one. "It's bullshit," said another. "I wouldn't have come if I knew," spat a third.

It's hard to disagree. When The Game failed to show for his 5pm slot at yesterday's Raggamuffin festival, it was his third MIA at a New Zealand concert since 2007 - and surely the last time any promoter in their right mind tries to bring the Compton gangster rapper back.

Add The Game's absence - organisers claimed he'd missed a flight from Dubai, he said he hadn't been let through Customs - to the festival's 2016 line-up woes that included the earlier pulling out of Cee-Lo Green and axing of Beenie Man, and, as those Facebook comments show, dark clouds were hovering over Raggamuffin's second Auckland event.

Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium in Auckland today. Photo / Doug Sherring
Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium in Auckland today. Photo / Doug Sherring

Which is a crying shame. Because not only did impressive crowds show up to enjoy the sweltering sun, the festival's well-organised amenities, and a solid line-up of reggae and old school-rap at West Auckland's Trusts Stadium, Raggamuffin achieved something amazing: it got Wu-Tang Clan to New Zealand.

Well, it got seven of the group's original 10 members on stage, with RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon and U-God performing alongside DJ Mathematics. Considering the New York rap collective's beefs with each other are legendary and that they've never been to New Zealand before, watching the iconic group walk on stage together at 8.15pm with smiles on their faces was nothing short of a hip-hop miracle.

Forget Raekwon slamming their 2014 album A Better Tomorrow. Forget Ghostface Killah's vicious battle with Martin Shkreli. Forget that fans can't even hear their latest album, the one-off Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. This was a set to remind fans that back in 1993, Wu-Tang Clan's punishing rhymes and collective aggression changed the rap game.

Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

Much of today's show was based around their classic debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and the menacing minimalism of Cream, Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F*** Wit and Clan in Da Front were delivered with the group's members swapping microphones and staring each other down like the rap battle songs that they are.

Warning: the following video contains explicit language

Wu-Tang Clan at Raggamuffin IX. A once-in-a-lifetime experience

Posted by Raggamuffin Festival New Zealand on Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ghostface Killah, the man blessed with a voice that doesn't quite match his presence, was the group's centrepiece, a hulking menace whose sizzling opening to Bring Da Ruckus wasn't just a set highlight, it should go down among the finest things seen at a rap show in New Zealand.

The crowd at the Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
The crowd at the Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

They were having fun too, spraying the front rows in champagne, moshing along to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, making up entire verses about New Zealand and blasting through Ol' Dirty's Shimmy Shimmy Ya in tribute to the rapper.

When it came time to go, they didn't want to leave, with GZA ordering the mics switched back on for a space-age rap poem that reminded that they might be past the 20-year mark, but this Clan is still full of surprises.

Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

Earlier, Xzibit, a rapper few have seen since his days making teenage car wet dreams come true on MTV's Pimp My Ride, enjoyed a late afternoon slot with a crowd so large and rowdy even he seemed surprised by it, while Macy Gray delivered a spirited evening performance that ended with an elongated version of I Try that may have irked waiting Wu-Tang fans.

The night ended with a seemingly obligatory performance by one version of UB40, but some seemed annoyed that it wasn't the one that played at the last Raggamuffin in 2014, fronted by the group's original singer Ali Campbell.

Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
Raggamuffin Music Festival at Trust Stadium, Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

For those shuffling out Trusts Stadium's gates early to their dated reggae rhythms, the day was undoubtedly owned by Wu-Tang Clan. If it wasn't for The Game's no-show, their thumping rap anthem Triumph would have been a great way to sum up this year's Raggamuffin too.

Raggamuffin
Where: Trusts Stadium, Auckland
When: Saturday, February 20

- nzherald.co.nz

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