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The Wu-Tang Clan is unquestionably one of the greatest hip hop groups ever. Their 1993 debut LP 'Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' cemented them as a major force in the genre and ignited an enduring New York City rap revival that still thrives today.
RZA, the group's de facto leader, is an accomplished multi-hyphenate who has made a name for himself as a rapper, producer, filmmaker and actor. AllHipHop recently spoke with him about why versatility is so essential in his artistic pursuits.
Wu-Tang Clan are widely considered as hip hop's iconic group. They made a name for themselves in the early 1990s with the release of their groundbreaking debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which forever altered the landscape of music forever.
RZA is an accomplished producer and one of the greatest rappers in the business. His ability to craft music that resonates with listeners on a deep level is truly remarkable; not only does he appeal to his core fanbase, but also appeals to a wider audience as well.
RZA has always taken great care to safeguard the Wu-Tang legacy. He's assumed a role of cultural guardian, guaranteeing that their stories remain authentic and passed down for future generations.
His actions demonstrate his respect for the Black community, understanding how important these stories are to them. Unfortunately, many White historians lack firsthand experience with these cultures and thus cannot accurately reflect upon them.
That is why he chooses to write about the Wu-Tang Clan and their culture rather than simply from a Western perspective. His goal is to preserve their legacy and guarantee they remain an important part of hip hop's story for decades into the future.
Listening to a Wu-Tang Clan album, it's impossible not to be inspired by their martial arts references and cinematic aesthetic. These MCs were brought together under producer RZA's guidance, creating an original sound that draws inspiration from both reality and fiction.
There are many reasons for this, but one of the most significant is because it enables artists to craft songs that truly transcend time. Ghostface Killah in particular excels at crafting catchy melodies that convey intense emotion without becoming overly sentimental. His lyrics are effortless yet still easy-to-sing along with.
The Wu-Tang Clan's martial arts-inspired logo may not have been designed by an official art director, but it would go on to become one of the most iconic hip hop brands ever. RZA and his group of ten used it as a representation of their sonic, lyrical and visual aesthetic developed during the late 80s and early 90s.
Wu-Tang's aesthetic was heavily influenced by Hong Kong action cinema, using it to craft their storyworlds and set the mood for their music. In those movies, heroes often retreated to snowy mountainous regions in order to practice martial arts - often using Wu Dang mountains in Hubei Province as a backdrop. It's no surprise then that GZA took his second solo album Liquid Swords here as it perfectly captures this mystical atmosphere.
In addition to reimagining their own music with these themes in mind, the Clan also heavily borrowed from classic kung fu films like The Five Venoms and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin - films RZA attended as a kid. These movies combined martial arts philosophy and other elements into their stories, creating an enduringly captivating narrative that resonated with members of the Clan.
The Wu-Tang's iconic status as a cultural icon stemmed from their unique blend of rap and kung fu music. Their 1993 debut 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)' became an instant classic, inspiring an East Coast rap revival with its raw soundscape and uncompromising lyricism.
Each new release from the Clan further refined their kung fu aesthetic and expanded their mythos. Albums like 'Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version' showcased their high-impact verbal feats, with tracks like 'Brooklyn Zoo' and 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya' cementing them as timeless classics of their genre.
Versatility is a critical element of rap songwriting. It allows rappers to customize their style for different audiences, which is essential in an industry that constantly seeks new opportunities. In an increasingly non-standard formulaic world of rap songs, rappers must find unique ways to stand out from competitors and stay ahead of the pack.
One of the most fascinating, yet rewarding, aspects of Wu-Tang is its capacity for change. RZA, RZA RZA is unofficial tinkerer and producer extraordinaire; he's an accomplished musician with roots in classic-funk who appreciates sound manipulation. He truly understands and enjoys this process!
The Wu-Tang Clan began as a collective group of breakdancing students in the late 1980s. Their unique blend of freestyle rap has since become an iconic form of cultural expression that has touched millions around the world.
Wu-Tang members are still relatively young and have plenty of interests to keep them occupied. RZA boasts an impressive list of acting awards as well as his directorial debut. Deck, on the other hand, has built a long and distinguished career as a lyricist, producer and MC. Inspectah Deck stands out among rappers due to his intricate rhymes combined with superior production values on numerous solo albums; one which particularly caught the attention of critics was Uncontrolled Substance from 1999.
Recently, RZA visited Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club to discuss his creative process as a contemporary artist with hosts Angela Yee and Mikey D. During their conversation, the Wu-Tang Clan founding member stressed how versatility is key in his various groups' work.
The Wu-Tang Clan, formed in the late 1990s by rappers from Staten Island, was a major force in hip hop during that era. They released multiple albums and achieved chart success with numerous songs.
One album stands out as a landmark in the Clan's history: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Not only is it an iconic achievement in hip hop music, but also music and culture generally.
Producer Harry Fraud helped RZA craft a dark and brooding soundscape that was heavily inspired by Hong Kong action films. This created an enigmatic and unsettling aesthetic which would eventually shape the overall lyrical and musical approach of the Wu-Tang Clan collectively.
He infuse his style of rap with a strong dose of martial arts philosophy and imagery, creating an original sound unlike any other rap group.
This was an enormous success and helped pave the way for other hip hop groups to break through to mainstream success. Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Salt-N-Pepa and Snoop Dogg were just a few of the artists responsible for shaping American hip hop's sound.
Despite their success, the Clan was not always harmonious. There were some internal disagreements and creative missteps along the way, but they never lost sight of what made them great.
Their music featured hard-hitting bangers and slow burning boom bap tracks, elevating g-funk to new levels of mastery.
RZA's clever business strategy allowed him to bring the members of Wu-Tang Clan out there and let them do what they do best. The results were extraordinary - platinum plaques sold for millions, creating a wave in music that was unheard-of at the time.