Music News

Déjà Wu

"Form another pyramid, look how we slid/All over Park Hill, Stapleton politic/On a twenty-dollar bill all in it together/You can't fuck with this stormy weather, yaknahmean?"

Indeed we do, Mr. Cappadonna, indeed we do. And similarly, when your Wu-Tang Clan protégé Masta Killa tells us that "It's Brooklawn day, Pinkhouse day/Park Hill Stapleton day" and that it's a "good thing we brought the Glock," we couldn't agree more.

For those Wu virgins who are not necessarily "picking up" what the legendary Staten Island crew is "putting down," allow us to consult the Shaolin Slumzville Wu Bible for some insight. According to the site at, which is dedicated to providing helpful definitions of such mysterious lyrics as "C-cipher" and "tical," Stapleton is defined as a "Staten Island 'hood." And while there is no specific definition in the Wu Bible for "Park Hill," "Killah Hill" is defined as "Park Hill (Staten Island 'hood)."

Evidently, the members of the eight-man rap ensemble (RIP, ODB) -- who tore out of Staten Island in 1993 with a dizzying blast of grittily eloquent street kung-foolery on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), an album that ripped the spotlight away from West Coast gangsta rap and redirected it back toward East Coast hip-hop -- all hail from two neighboring housing projects: Park Hill and Stapleton.

Great Caesar's ghost! Two adjoining neighborhoods in east Denver bear those exact same names. Surely this cannot be a coincidence. Could the quasars have possibly aligned in such a way that Staten Island and Denver are identical on some ill-crazy-stoopid Wu-intergalactic plane? Could those East/Manual 'heads bumping Wu at house parties be vibing to the music on a far more profound level than every other rap fan in the universe? Could, in fact, the Wu-Tang Clan actually be secretly spitting about D-town?

Not so much.

"As far as I know, there's no connection between the neighborhoods," comments Patricia Salmon, curator of history at the Staten Island Museum. Staten Island's Stapleton was co-founded in the 1830s by Minthorne Tompkins and William Staples, who named the burg after himself. Meanwhile, Park Hill was referred to as "Fox Hill" until the housing project bearing the Park Hill name -- the project that birthed Raekwon the Chef, among others -- went up in the '50s and the whole area took on the moniker.

Local historian Tom Noel says that Denver's Park Hill got its name from its position above City Park in 1878, after a crazy German baron named Eugene Von Winkler platted the land for a horse-racing track in 1877. Stapleton, on the other hand, was named in 1944 after Benjamin F. Stapleton, the mayor who bought the land for Denver's airfield back in 1928. After Stapleton Airport shut down and Denver International Airport opened in 1995, the new-urbanist community that replaced it kept the label.

So that's it? No Wu-wizardry? No RZA pulling crazy tiger-style supreme mathematics from inside the belly of the beast, son? No basic instructions before leaving earth from deep within the tabernacle, son? No Staten to Denver, Denver to Staten, son?

Salmon and Noel are mum.

It appears there may be no actual relation between the identically named sets of abutting 'hoods some 2,000 miles apart -- that it's just one huge coincidence. But even without any secret connections and hidden meanings -- much less any actual physical proof -- when RZA screams, "Walking through Park Hill drunk as a fuck!" you can bet that people in east Denver walk with a Shaolin strut. Son.

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Adam Cayton-Holland