The RZA is one of the most iconic names in the hip-hop industry. When you think Wu Tang you think RZA and vice versa. He’s moved from being a rapper in a huge rap group to becoming one of the best producers in the game to eventually stepping in front of the camera to act. With two movies out in theaters including Brick Mansions, I felt it was time to reintroduce you to rapper RZA with ten interesting facts.
When you think of summer you think of beaches, pool parties and loud music. Though summer is home to major movie blockbusters, summer is also the home for the newest hip-hop and R&B releases. Everyone lives on a soundtrack that’s playing in their head to get them through the day. Music is life and influential and it’s the reason why we [the writers] contribute to SoSoActive.com. Here are five of my most anticipated summer releases.
The argument has been made for years now that Hip Hop, both as an art form and as a product, has become extremely disposable. Success is based on the new, the hot, and the right damn now. Digital albums are downloaded, listened to maybe two or three times, and then dragged to the proverbial computer trash bin, never to be heard again. So when it was announced by legendary Hip Hop group Wu-Tang Clan that they would be creating and selling only one copy of its forthcoming album, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, it’s painfully obvious that more than a few Hip Hop fans, both old and new, were left scratching their heads, or were probably dismissive of the idea.
But digging deeper into the story, the Clan’s intentions become clearer. “We’re about to sell an album like nobody else sold it before,” says RZA, legendary producer and the mastermind behind the original concept of the Wu-Tang Clan. “We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of music… The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years… yet its doesn’t receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it’s been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free.”
So it’s a matter of making music that is something to be valued again. Inspired by Jay Z’s Samsung campaign and Nipsey Hu$$le’s Crenshaw mix tape campaign, the Clan is looking to continue it’s legacy of going against the grain of the modern music sales and distribution model. Here are a few reasons why it could breathe new life into Hip Hop.
IT MAKES FOR GREAT CONVERATION ABOUT WHAT HIP HOP CAN BE
The idea of what Hip Hop is continues to evolve as time passes. With this new venture, Wu-Tang is contributing to the conversation in more ways than one: Hip Hop as art, Hip Hop as a valuable commodity, and Hip Hop as an idea that stands the test of time.
IT EDUCATES NEWER GENERATIONS ON THE CONCEPT OF ART
Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby” video is a great modern example of Hip Hop as art, and Wu Tang is taking that idea a step further. Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will reportedly be housed in an engraved silver-and-nickel box that’s handcrafted by British-Moroccan artist Yahya, whose works have been commissioned by royal families and business leaders. If that’s not art and commerce, than what is?
IT ADHERES TO THE TRADITION OF WHAT HIP HOP IS
Ever since it was created as an art form based on the ideals of community, solidarity, peace, unity and fun back in the day, Hip Hop has held a tradition of challenging establishment ideals. Wu-Tang has always been the epitome of these ideals, and this new album project and all that’s gone into really is just an extension of those same ideals.
IT SIMULTANEOUSLY GOES AGAINST THE CURRENT STATUS QUO
Wu-Tang Clan is by no means a bunch of new jacks. They’ve seen 20 years worth of ups and downs in the music industry. And the current ideals of giving music way for free and albums being disposable seem not to jive very well with them. True, it’s the way of the music world, but these men know their worth and are putting the proper price on it. Can’t really do much else but respect that.
IT’S VINTAGE RZA AND WU-TANG IDEOLOGY
If you’ve ever read The Wu-Tang Manual by RZA, then this project shouldn’t surprise you. He spent years developing the concept of the group, sometimes walking the streets for hours talking to himself for the purpose of creating the group. Judging from all of the success the Clan has had over the years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the same thing were done with this new project.
I read several articles last week about the 20-year anniversary of Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. The articles were decent, but I felt like I could give my own spin.
20 years ago a Hip- Hop group released an album that would not only change Hip-Hop, as we knew it, but the music business for rappers as well. Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers was the debut album for The Wu-Tang Clan. Remember the post last week where I told you to brand yourself? They did just that. With 9 members in the group they based their names (The RZA, The GZA, Masta Killa, Raekwon The Chef, The Ghostface Killah, U-God, Inspector Deck, The Ol’ Dirty Bastard, The Method Man) and themed their whole movement on old Kung-Fu movies. They claimed their home town to be Shaolin, which on a map the city is called Staten Island, New York.
The Wu-Tang did things that were unheard of like release singles with no chorus or hook. With 9 members you could only expect this group to fail. You would anticipate personality clashes and when it’s all said and done how do you get paid when your 1/9th of an act? This group created a whole culture. All of the members scored solo deals through different record labels. They then followed up the music with video games, books, a clothing line, movies and much more.
What did the Wu-Tang Clan accomplish you ask? Well, for starters they managed to sell records in an era where the West Coast dominated the charts. They brought the focus back to New York for rappers like Notorious B.I.G., Nas and Jay-Z to rise. They built a multi million-dollar brand and enterprise recognized worldwide. The most important thing is they managed to figure out the puzzle of how to feed 9 mouths.
Just to give you an idea of there influence their second album Wu-Tang Forever reached gold status before they ever released the lead single Triumph (which once again did not have a hook or chorus). They only released 6 studio albums as a group, but several compilations and solo albums in between. All together they have sold over 40 million copies world-wide including solo works.
I want to break down the Wu-Tang’s 9 members. Starting with the founder, creator and leader…
Released his first solo EP as Prince Rakeem on Tommy Boy records in 1991. Instead of complaining about the business after scoring a terrible record deal and becoming unsuccessful, he went back to the drawing board. He formed the Wu-Tang Clan and led them to victory. He was also a member of the group Gravediggaz around that time, which released two albums in the early 90s. RZA is the main producer of the Wu-Tang Clan. Along with producer Mathematics they produced a majority of the side, spin-off and solo albums. RZA has released 4 solo albums and has made a strong name for himself in the film industry. Among his film credits he scored the film Kill Bill. He’s appeared in several other movies and TV series. He also wrote, directed, scored, starred in and co-produced the film The Man With The Iron Fist.
The GZA was one of the first and founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan along side of his cousin The RZA. The GZA also had a record deal prior to the Wu-Tang under the stage name The Genius on Cold Chilling/Warner Bros records. He released an unsuccessful album entitled World of Genius. After the first Wu-Tang album The Genius he released six more solo albums, two of them certified gold in the US. The Source Magazine and many other publications named him one of the best lyrists of all times.
The most commercial and iconic member of the group, The Method Man has released 4 solo albums collectively selling 4 million records. He also formed a group with Def squad member Redman. The two of them released two group albums, starred in two television shows that they co-produced and a cult classic film “How High”. He also released a group album Wu-Massacre with fellow Wu members Ghostface and Raekwon.
He was known for being the first rapper to kick off all of the Wu-Tang anthems. He didn’t release his first solo album until 1999. He never reached the commercial status of his fellow Clansmen, but received critical praise for his lyricism on Wu-Tang albums. He has released 5 solo albums to date most of them were released independently. He is also a producer and has several credits on other Wu member’s albums.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Known for his unpredictable style and antics he was by far the most controversial member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He only released two solo albums before losing his life to drug overdose in 2004. He sold over two million albums and was nominated for two Grammys. He is also known for his appearance on Mariah Cary’s “Fantasy”, which inspired the movement of rappers featured on R&B records.
One of the more successful members of the Wu. Ghostface is the most consistent of the Clan when it comes to releases. He has released 10 solo albums and several collaboration and compilation albums. He has been critically acclaimed several times in his career and is set to drop his 11th album in 2014.
Known as the best-dressed Wu member, he has released 6 solo albums and is also at the top of many great MC lists for several publications. He and Ghostface are often seen together.
The least successful member of the group is known for his rhythmic deep voice. He has released 4 solo albums but has achieved none of the accolades similar to his counterparts.
The most mysterious member of the Wu-Tang Clan. You have to be a hardcore fan of the Wu to know about him. He was actually on featured on one song on the 36 chambers. He’s only released 3 solo albums and was the last to release a solo album, with his first one coming in 2004.
In conclusion, The Wu-Tang Clan may have moved away from the mainstream spotlight because most of their music is now released on independent labels but their influence on Hip-Hop will live forever!