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Monday, November 24, 2014

Watch Ensemble Mik Nawooj Take On Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M."

Posted By on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Ensemble Mik Nawooj - PAT MAZZERA
  • Pat Mazzera
  • Ensemble Mik Nawooj
Covering Wu-Tang Clan — especially in a manner that does the seminal hip-hop crew justice — is no small task.

So what have we learned from composer JooWan Kim, the founder and director of Ensemble Mik Nawooj? Having an entire classical orchestra, plus singers, rappers, DJs, and producers who all believe in the elasticity of music — that genres like "classical" and "hip-hop" don't have to be etched in stone — really helps.

EMN, the orchestra the South Korea-born, Berklee- and S.F. Conservatory of Music-educated Kim founded in 2005, has been reimagining classic hip-hop songs for nearly a decade. But the support his work recently received from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which commissioned new takes on six Wu-Tang tracks for the YBCA's "Clas/sick Hip-Hop" series last month, seems to have helped push the group into the national spotlight. 

And with good reason: EMN doesn't just cover songs, as Kim explained to the Wall Street Journal, which premiered a video today for "C.R.E.A.M." The group — which has a rotating lineup of players but most often includes at least a flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, a Soprano opera singer, upright bass, drums, and two MCs — approaches well-known songs like fresh experiments, and the results are compelling. 

“The idea was not just to cover, but to take the DNA of the pieces, if you will, and rebuild the piece, build something new," Kim, who lives in Oakland, told the WSJ. The video, for "C.R.E.A.M.," features MCs Do D.A.T and Sandman rapping original lyrics over a string- and keys-heavy arrangement that makes the song feel fantastically urgent, almost haunted, while the composer and a diverse cast of other performers take turns confronting the camera in front of a blank space — each adding a powerful element as the operatic backup vocals build the track's drama. Check it out below. 

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About The Author

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is SF Weekly's former Music Editor.


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