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Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan is a New York City–based hip-hop musical group. Wu-Tang Clan consists of nine American rappers. Among its members are multi-platinum selling solo artists, multi-platinum record producers, Grammy winners, TV and film stars, screenwriters, product spokespersons, business owners and, most recently, major motion picture composers. The Clan featured nine MCs until the death of Ol' Dirty Bastard in 2004.

One of the most critically and commercially successful hip hop groups of all time, Wu-Tang Clan rose to fame with their uncompromising brand of hardcore rap music. Since their debut, they have introduced or launched the careers of numerous other artists and groups, and already in 1994 there were credited to be over 300 Wu-Tang Clan affiliates, known as the Wu-Tang Killa Bees, consisting of rappers, producers, and record label CEOs.

History

Foundation and name

The founders of the Wu-Tang Clan were cousins RZA, GZA, and Ol' Dirty Bastard, who had previously formed the group Force of the Imperial Master (later known as All in Together Now after the release of a popular single by that name.) The group attracted the attention of some notable figures in the industry, including Biz Markie, but did not manage to secure a record deal.

All In Together Now was never signed to a record label. See, me, GZA and ODB had a crew called FOI: Force Of The Imperial Master, nahmean? We made a song, called ‘All In Together Now', which became famous on tapes throughout Brooklyn, Staten Island, New York, all the way down to Miami. I remember Biz Markie, when he was famous and I wasn't famous, and he was like: "Yo! I heard that shit! Your song with Ason Unique and the Specialist". I was the Scientist. So we never got signed as a group back then. We never had a serious record deal under that title.

After the crew dissolved, GZA (then known as The Genius) and The RZA (then known as Prince Rakeem) embarked on their solo careers with Cold Chillin' Records and Tommy Boy Records respectively, but to little success. Their frustration with the workings of the hip hop music industry would provide the main inspiration to Wu-Tang Clan's revolutionary business plan. According to The Wu-Tang Manual, at the group's inception, RZA promised the members that if he had total control of the Wu-Tang empire, it would conquer the hip-hop world within a dynastic cycle, after which he would relinquish his total control. Wu-Tang Clan was gradually assembled in late 1992 from friends and accomplices from around Staten Island, with RZA as the de facto leader and the group's producer.

The name "Wu-Tang" is derived from the name of the mountain Wu Dang (Wudang Shan) in northwest Hubei Province in central China with long history associated with Chinese culture, especially Taoism, martial arts and medicine. The RZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard adopted the name for the group after seeing the Kung fu film Shaolin and Wu Tang, which features a school of warriors trained in Wu-Tang style. The group's debut album loosely adopted a Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang theme, dividing the album into Shaolin and Wu-Tang sections. The album also features several samples from the film directed by Kyle Ray Stuck.

The group has also developed various backronyms for the name (as hip hop pioneers like KRS-One and Big Daddy Kane did with their names), including "We Usually Take All Niggas' Garments," "Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game" and "Wisdom, Universe, Truth, Allah, Nation, and God".

The fascination with the Chinese culture is born of out of the "Asiatic black man, a term a part of the Five Percenter teachings, also known as the "original man" which is featured on The 5% Album. The album is a solo record from Brand Nubian member Lord Jamar in collaboration with Wu-Tang Clan members and affiliates as well as other artists. The second track on the album is titled "Original Man" featuring Raekwon.

Enter the Wu-Tang

The Clan first became known to hip hop fans, and to major record labels, in 1993 (see 1993 in music) following the release of the independent single "Protect Ya Neck", which immediately gave the group a sizable underground following. Though there was some difficulty in finding a record label that would sign Wu-Tang Clan while still allowing each member to record solo albums with other labels, Loud/RCA finally agreed, releasing their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), in late 1993. This album was popular and critically-acclaimed, though it took some time to gain momentum. The success of Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers established the group as a creative and influential force in early 1990s hip hop, allowing Ol' Dirty Bastard, GZA, RZA, Raekwon, Method Man and Ghostface Killah to negotiate solo contracts. RZA mentioned on wuforever.com:

We reinvented the way hip hop was structured, and what I mean is, you have a group signed to a label, yet the infrastructure of our deal was like anyone else's ...we still could negotiate with any label we wanted, like Meth went with Def Jam, Rae stayed with Loud, Ghost went with Sony, GZA went with Geffen,feel me?....and all these labels still put "Razor Sharp Records" on the credits.. ..Wu Tang was a financial movement. So what do you wanna diversify....? ..Your assets?

First round of solo albums

The period between the release of Enter the Wu-Tang and Wu-Tang Clan's second album is considered to be "the greatest winning streak in rap history. The RZA was the first to follow up on the success of Enter the Wu-Tang with a side project, founding the Gravediggaz with Prince Paul and Frukwan (both of Stetsasonic) and Poetic. The Gravediggaz released 6 Feet Deep in August 1994, which became one of the best known works to emerge from hip hop's small sub-genre of horrorcore.

It had always been planned for Method Man to be the first breakout star from the group's lineup, with the b-side of the first single being his now-classic eponymous solo track. In November 1994 his solo album Tical was released. It was entirely produced by The RZA, who for the most part continued with the grimy, raw textures he explored on 36 Chambers. The RZA's hands-on approach to Tical extended beyond his merely creating the beats to devising song concepts and structures. The track "All I Need" from Tical was the winner of the "Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group" at the 1995 Grammy Awards. This approach would continue throughout the first round of solo projects from the Clan members. Ol' Dirty Bastard found success in early 1995 with Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, which saw the 36 Chambers sound become even rawer and rougher-edged.

Late 1995 saw the release of the group's two most significant and well-received solo projects. Raekwon the Chef's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... was a diverse, theatrical criminological epic that saw The RZA move away from the raw, stripped-down beats of the early albums and towards a richer, cinematic sound more reliant on strings and classic soul samples. Lavish living and the crime underworld are referenced throughout, with the mystique of the Wu-Tang Clan deepened by the adoption of crime boss aliases and the crew name Wu-Gambinos. The album introduced a flurry of slang words to the rap lexicon, and many artists have gone on to imitate its materialism. It featured Nas, who was the first non-Clan MC to appear on a Wu-related album. GZA's Liquid Swords had a similar focus on inner-city criminology akin to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, but it was far darker, both in GZA's grim lyrics and in the ominous, foreboding production that saw The RZA experimenting more with keyboards than ever before. The two 1995 solo albums remain widely regarded as two of the finest hip hop albums of the nineties.

Ghostface Killah released his own debut, Ironman, in 1996. It struck a balance between the sinister keyboard-laden textures of Liquid Swords and the sentimental soul samples of ...Cuban Linx, while Ghost-face himself explored new territory as a lyricist. It was critically acclaimed and is still widely considered one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums. Although the 1994–1996 albums were released as solo albums, The RZA's presence behind the boards and the large number of guest appearances from other Clan members (Raekwon and Ghostface's albums only had two or three actual solo tracks each and both included many tracks that included other Clan members) means they are usually considered as to be all-round group efforts.

Wu-Tang Forever

With their solo careers firmly established, the Wu-Tang Clan reassembled to release the highly-anticipated Grammy-nominated multiplatinum double album Wu-Tang Forever in June 1997, debuting at number one on the Billboard Charts. This event was featured in a CNN roundup for the extraordinary sales the group achieved without a mainstream sound or commercial appeal. The album's first single, "Triumph," was over five minutes long, featured nine verses (one from each member plus Cappadonna and excluding O.D.B.), and no hook or a repeated phrase. The sound of the album built significantly on the previous three solo albums, with The RZA using more keyboards and string samples, as well as, for the first time, assigning some of the album's production to his protégés True Master and 4th Disciple. The group's lyrics differed significantly from those of 36 Chambers, with many verses written in a dense stream-of-consciousness form heavily influenced by the teachings of the Five Percent Nation. According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold over 8.3 million copies to date worldwide.

Wu-Tang Forever also marked the end of The RZA's "five year plan". After ...Forever's success, The RZA ceased to oversee all aspects of Wu-Tang product as he had done previously, delegating much of his existing role to associates such as Oli "Power" Grant and his brother Mitchell "Divine" Diggs. This move was designed to expand Wu-Tang's reach in the industry and take advantage of financial opportunities for the group. In keeping with this move, an array of Wu-Tang products (both musical and otherwise) were to be released over the next two years.

Following Wu-Tang Forever, the focus of the Wu-Tang empire largely shifted to the promoting of emerging affiliated artists (referred to by the fanbase as "Wu-Family"). The group's close associate Cappadonna followed the group project with March 1998's The Pillage. Soon after, Killah Priest (as with Cappadonna, a close associate of the Clan), released Heavy Mental to great critical acclaim. Affiliated groups Sunz of Man (of which Killah Priest was a member) and Killarmy (which included The RZA's younger brother) also released well-received albums, followed by Wu-Tang Killa Bees: The Swarm—a compilation album showcasing these and more Wu-affiliated artists, and including new solo tracks from the group members themselves. The Swarm sold well and was certified gold.

There was also a long line of releases from secondary affiliates such as Popa Wu, Shyheim, GP Wu, and Wu-Syndicate. Second albums from Gravediggaz and Killarmy, as well as a greatest hits album and a b-sides compilation also eventually saw release.

Second round of solo albums

While this round was very commercially successful, it was not as critically acclaimed as the first. The second round of solo albums from the Clansmen saw second efforts from the four members who had already released albums as well as debuts from all the remaining members except Masta Killa. In the space of two years, The RZA's Bobby Digital In Stereo, Method Man's Tical 2000: Judgement Day and Blackout! (with Redman), GZA's Beneath the Surface, Ol' Dirty Bastard's Nigga Please, U-God's Golden Arms Redemption, Raekwon's Immobilarity, Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele and Inspectah Deck's Uncontrolled Substance were all released (seven of them being released in the space of seven months between June 1999 and January 2000). The RZA also composed the score for the film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, directed by Jim Jarmusch, while he and other Wu-Tang members contributed music to a companion "music inspired by the film" album. Wu-Tang branded clothing and video games were marketed as well. The Wu Wear clothing line in particular was massively influential on hip hop culture; initially started as merely a way to make money from the demand for bootleg Wu-Tang shirts, it evolved into an extensive collection of designer garments. Soon, other hip hop artists were making similar ventures and by the mid 2000s a clothing line was almost a prerequisite for hip hop superstardom, with clothing lines launched by Ludacris, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, Busta Rhymes, Nelly and more.

The avalanche of Wu-Tang product between 1997 and 2000 is considered by some critics to have resulted in an oversaturation that was responsible for Wu-Tang's drop in popularity, or at least in critical regard, during that time. Reviews such as Melody Maker's writeup on Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele in January 2000 which began "Another month, another Wu-Tang side project" revealed critics' exhaustion at the Clan's prodigious output. The overall reception for the second round of Clan member solo albums was decidedly mixed if largely positive, and they did not live up to their pre-...Forever forebears critically; however, the Wu was selling more albums than ever.

Occasional albums would still receive critical acclaim (Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele for one, which is regarded as one of the best solo efforts from the Clan) while Method Man and ODB remained popular in their own right as solo artists, and Wu-Tang remained as a well known force, but they had seemingly lost the ability to excite the music world in the way they had throughout the mid 90s.

Many fans and critics also bemoaned the lack of The RZA's input on the post-...Forever solo albums, which were mostly produced by the Wu-Element producers, other lower-ranking affiliates, or by outside producers such as the Trackmasters or the Neptunes.

The W

The group reconvened once again to make The W, though without Ol' Dirty Bastard, who was at the time incarcerated in California for violating the terms of his probation. Though incarcerated, ODB managed to make it onto the track "Conditioner" which also featured Snoop Dogg. ODB's vocals were recorded via the telephones used for inmates to talk with visitors. The W was mostly well-received by critics, particularly for The RZA's production, and also gave the group a hit single with the uptempo "Gravel Pit", part of a trilogy of videos where the group would visit different eras with a time traveling elevator, which also included "Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)" and the internet exclusive (due to excessive gun violence) "Careful (Click, Click)", which were then followed by "I Can't Go to Sleep" featuring Isaac Hayes. The album would go on to reach double platinum status.

Shortly before the release of The W, ODB escaped custody while being transported from a rehab center to a Los Angeles court and was considered a fugitive. At a record release party for The W, ODB, his face hidden by an orange parka, was not recognized until introduced to the crowd. With police officers present outside, ODB performed briefly and then fled, fearing capture. Six days later ODB caused a commotion signing autographs in a McDonald's in South Philadelphia. Unaware of who was causing the ruckus, the manager called the police. When the cops arrived, ODB mistook them for fans until they drew their guns. ODB fled the restaurant but was stopped while trying to start his vehicle. After presenting a fake ID, he admitted who he really was and was arrested.

Iron Flag

In 2001, Wu-Tang Clan released their fourth album, Iron Flag, to luke-warm reception. It contained hit single Uzi (Pinky Ring) and guest appearances by artists such as Public Enemy's Flavor Flav.

Third round of solo albums

RZA's release of Digital Bullet (as Bobby Digital) in 2001 marked the beginning of a small wave of solo releases in between The W and Iron Flag which also included Ghostface Killah's Bulletproof Wallets and Cappadonna's The Yin and the Yang. GZA's release of Legend of the Liquid Sword in late 2002 marked yet another wave that continued for the next two years. The wave included Cappadonna's The Struggle, Method Man's Tical 0: The Prequel, Raekwon's The Lex Diamond Story, Ghostface Killah's The Pretty Toney Album, Inspectah Deck's The Movement, and Masta Killa's No Said Date. It was perhaps the least successful wave yet, with only No Said Date and The Pretty Toney Album gaining any significant attention. Ghostface's album continued the trend of his releases each selling less than the one before it despite mostly good reviews. Masta Killa's album was well received by both the hardcore fanbase and critics for its attempt to return to the classic Wu sound, though as an independent release, it expectedly did not catch on commercially.

Method Man's album sold very well despite both negative reception from both critics and fans. Even Method Man himself went on to bash the album, stating that the situation (management transition) going on at the time with Def Jam caused the poor outcome.

U-God dispute

In early 2004, U-God apparently left the group in disgust. A DVD titled Rise of a Fallen Soldier was released detailing his problems, which were mostly with his treatment by The RZA, who he claimed had hindered his success as a solo artist. He also formed a new group of young protegés called the Hillside Scramblers, with whom he released the album U-GODZILLA presents the Hillside Scramblers in March 2004. The dispute culminated in a heated phone conversation between The RZA and U-God on live radio, which ultimately saw the two reconcile.

Live and best-of albums

2004 also saw the unexpected return of the Clan to the live stage. They embarked on a short European tour before coming together as a complete group for the first time in several years to headline the Rock the Bells IV festival in California. The concert was released on CD shortly afterwards under the name Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 1. They also soon released a music-video greatest hits album named Legend of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Death of ODB

Ol' Dirty Bastard collapsed at approximately 5:29 p.m. on November 13, 2004 at Wu-Tang's recording studio, 36 Chambers on West 34th Street in New York City. He was pronounced dead less than an hour later, just two days shy of his 36th birthday. His funeral service was held at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center.

ODB was scheduled to perform in a Wu-Tang reunion concert at Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey on the night of his death. The members were unaware, as was the audience at the concert, that he was dead; it was assumed that ODB was a no show once more. Wu-Tang has paid homage to their member on more than one occasion. In August 2006, one of his sons came out at a Wu-Tang concert at Webster Hall and rapped "Brooklyn Zoo", along with his mother. Also during a concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom the Clan brought his mother out on stage while the entire occupancy sang along to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya."

ODB's career in Wu-Tang was marked by wild and criminal behavior. At the 1998 Grammy Awards, he protested the Clan's loss (in Best Rap Album) by interrupting Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech for her Song of the Year award. ODB was also arrested several times for a variety of offenses, including assault, shoplifting, wearing body armor after being convicted of a felony, and possession of cocaine. He was also in trouble for missing multiple court dates. In late 2000, Ol' Dirty Bastard unexpectedly escaped near the end of his rehab sentence, spending one month on the run as a fugitive before showing up on stage at the record release party for The W in New York City. Ol' Dirty Bastard managed to escape the club but was later captured by police in a McDonald's parking lot in South Philadelphia and sent to New York to face charges of cocaine possession. In April 2001, he was sentenced to two to four years in prison.

Once released from prison, he signed to Roc-a-Fella Records. A posthumous official mixtape titled Osirus featuring many new songs was released in March 2005, while ODB's Roc-A-Fella album A Son Unique was originally to be released in 2005, but had numerous delays. It was to be released on November 7, 2006 to commemorate the second anniversary of ODB's death, which occurred on November 13, 2004, but was delayed again.

VH1 Hip Hop Honors

Moments before the Clan was set to perform at the 2006 Hip Hop Honors, things turned violent with an altercation involving Oli "Power" Grant and a former associate who was suing the group.

While initial reports stated that Nick Brown was along for the ride and got arrested for possession of cocaine, the group had issues with VH1's security staff, an actual confrontation took place between True Master and Power in a VIP area of the venue, said Power. "I ain't even gonna glorify that to no type of degree, but the bottom line was, yeah, you know there was a minor little altercation over there," Power said. "I see him and he's in the VIP on the strength of Wu-Tang so I kind of reacted, be it right or wrong...fuck!" The brief altercation between the two men resulted in a tense situation and ended with Power leaving the Hammerstein Ballroom. "I ain't even have to leave. I just stood there and talked for, like five or ten minutes. I made sure the rest of my people was able to stay because I told them, 'look if it was anything then let it be my problem. . Let them go ahead and finish doing what they do.' I walked out the front, girls started taking some snapshots. No charges have been pressed against Oli "Power" Grant or anyone else affiliated with the Clan in relation to this incident.

Resurgence and 8 Diagrams

2005 saw the release of RZA's first book, The Wu-Tang Manual, plus the release of U-God's second album Mr. Xcitement and GZA's collaboration with DJ Muggs, GrandMasters.

On March 28, 2006, Ghostface Killah released the cocaine-oriented Fishscale to critical acclaim. The whole Clan, including Cappadonna and the deceased ODB, appeared on "9 Milli Bros." Much acclaim was also directed towards the variety of topics Ghost addresses, from grand crime dramas based on the lives of drug kingpins (as in "Kilo"), to the frantic lives of street hustlers ("Shakey Dog"), childhood ("Whip You With a Strap"), love ("Back Like That", "Jellyfish"), and pure surreality ("Underwater"). The album also ventures into genre exercises, approximating a club banger with "Be Easy" and battle rhymes with "The Champ." Ghostface also released More Fish in December of 2006 to decent reception.

Method Man came back with his critically acclaimed 2006 album . He was heavily featured in the media due to his displeasure with Def Jam's handling of his project, and despite not having any promotion or airplay the album still debuted in the Billboard Top Ten. Method Man also made the decision to fall back from Hollywood, and now only does acting work for projects being handled by close friends. 2006 also saw the release of Masta Killa's second studio album, Made in Brooklyn, to lukewarm reviews. Ol' Dirty Bastard's posthumous album, A Son Unique, is scheduled to be released on the Damon Dash Music Group in 2007 as well. On June 25, 2006 Inspectah Deck released an official mixtape titled The Resident Patient, a prelude to his soon to be released album, tentatively titled The Rebellion.

The summer of 2007 was the originally planned release for Raekwon's long-delayed sequel to his 1995 debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, named Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. The album was to be released on Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records. It was also planned to be executive produced by Busta Rhymes (informally) and the RZA, with RZA handling most of the production, including the first single, as well as tracks from Dr. Dre, among others. Raekwon credits Busta Rhymes for getting his head back in the zone to write "Cuban Link material", as well as getting RZA,Jabberwocky, Dr. Dre and himself in the same studio together. Raekwon remained one of the most active members of the Clan. He continues to put out material via mixtapes and the internet. Raekwon has also assembled a crew of up-and-coming Staten Island rappers called Ice Water.

RZA explained the collaboration between he and Dr. Dre is like "yin and yang" when it comes to their styles. "The album is gonna attract all the gangstas, nigga; all the thugs and everybody is going to be listening to this shit," says RZA of the album.

In the process of recording and dropping these projects, Wu-Tang has networked with several outside producers and artists as of late: DJ Muggs through GZA; MF DOOM through Ghostface Killah; Pete Rock through several of the members; Erick Sermon and Redman through Method Man, the former of which co-executive produced 4:21; the now-deceased J Dilla through Ghostface and Raekwon, and Busta Rhymes and Dr. Dre through Raekwon, during his tenure on Aftermath.

In December 2006, Wu-Tang Clan signed a one-album deal with Steve Rifkind's SRC Records, whose now-defunct Loud Records released the group's four previous albums. This album was titled 8 Diagrams and has been recently released on December 11, 2007. RZA announced January 2007 that he will be releasing another Bobby Digital album this summer as well, which he has already begun work on. He will be using the album primarily to put over lesser-known Wu-Tang Clan affiliates such as Freemurder, Killa Sin, Black Knights and others. The album is tentatively titled DigiSnacks.

Raekwon had a major presence on mixtapes and hit single remixes such as Fabolous's Make Me Better and Wyclef Jean's Dolla Bill featuring Akon and Lil Wayne for which a video was shot with all four rappers. His highly anticipated Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II album has yet to hit shelves, but he insists that he is just waiting for the right time to drop his masterpiece. In a recent interview with Billboard.com, Raekwon said that though the album was "99% complete", he had put everything on pause to work and eventually release the newest Wu-Tang album 8 Diagrams.

GZA will be releasing a tell-all DVD named Wu Tang Revealed, featuring footage of the Clan dating back to the nineties, as well as his sixth album, Pro Tools, which will be released by Babygrande Records. There is also talk of a Wu-Tang album without RZA, to be entitled Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang; as of now, Ghostface and Raekwon are helming the project, though it is not known which other members will be on it.

Business Deals

In September 2008, Rza announced that he had inked a deal with digital music company the Orchard to release the Wu-Tang Clan's back catalogue worldwide digitally, for the first time. In addition to forthcoming material, the Wu-Tang Clan's catalogue includes 13 previous releases that have been previously unavailable digitally, including recordings by the group as a whole, U-God, Wu-Syndicate, Killarmy, Shyheim, West Coast Killa Beez, Black Knights and others, and will be available online beginning September 23. "The time is right to bring some older Wu material to the masses digitally," said RZA, de-facto leader of Wu-Tang Clan. "Our fans have been dedicated and patient and they're hungry to hear the music that has set us apart from so many others. Hip-hop is alive in Wu Music, and with The Orchard, we've got a solid partner that understands our audience and is committed to doing all they can to help us reach the fans. I'm definitely looking forward to working with them to see what else we all come up with. There's much more to come."

Documentary

Gerald K. Barclay directed the Wu-Tang documentary, entitled "Wu: The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan", which will premiere on BET on November 13, 2008 and will replay many times until November 16, 2008 before its DVD release on November 18, 2008.

Influence

Wu-Tang has influenced many current-day hip-hop acts in the areas of rapping, production technique, subject matter and image. Among these contributions have been RZA's sampling style, certain Clan members' mafioso rap personas, usage of slang terms, and the tendency of artists to run in tightly-knit groups.

Production

According to himself, RZA tries to have no more than 20–25% sampling on any given record, something starkly different from many other major hip hop groups. He uses "the sampler more like a painter's palette than a Xerox. Then again, I might use it as a Xerox if I find rare beats that nobody had in their crates yet." He played much of the piano himself, with Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk as major influences; for instance, he created the piano part to "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" after watching the Thelonious Monk documentary, Straight, No Chaser.

RZA's production technique, specifically the manner of chopping up and/or speeding or slowing soul samples to fit his beats, has been picked up by currently popular producers, most notably Kanye West and Just Blaze, the two main producers behind Roc-A-Fella Records. West's own take on RZA's style briefly flooded the rap market with what was dubbed "chipmunk soul," the pitch bending of a vocal sample to where it sounded as though the singer had inhaled helium. Several producers at the time copied the style, creating other offshoots. West has admitted that his style was distinctly influenced by the RZA's production, and RZA has acknowledged his influence in an issue of Scratch magazine, saying he wished he had produced "Jesus Walks" and "Breathe", two 2004 hits produced by Kanye West and Just Blaze, respectively. Said by Kanye West:

Lyrics

Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... helped (with the likes of Kool G Rap) popularize the Mafia theme in rap music that remained widespread for more than half a decade. The landmark album touted a lifestyle patterned on drug dealing, regrets of living in harsh conditions, and partying (including popularizing the Cristal brand of champagne) which Nas, Mobb Deep, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, No Limit Records, and other popular artists all borrowed and/or expanded upon these themes at points in their respective careers.

The Wu-Tang Clan's slang has long been a staple of their music, wherein members would blend Five Percenter terms, Kung Fu/oriental words, and comic book and street terms to create their own nicknames for actions, people, places and things (such as the christening of Staten Island as "Shaolin Land" and money as "C.R.E.A.M."). Though all the members indulge in this, Raekwon and Ghostface have been the most notorious for it.

Image

Before the Wu-Tang Clan's debut in 1993, few popular rap music acts operated in groups, and at nine main members with several affiliates, the Wu was the largest around at that point; the only popular groups coming close to that size at the time were Public Enemy and the Death Row Records roster. Since that time, several collective-sized groups have gained popular status, including Dipset, the Dungeon Family, D12, and No Limit Records; though the Wu-Tang Clan may not have been directly responsible for the formation of these groups, they helped encourage popular acceptance of the idea. They were also among the first to start the trend in hip-hop of diversification; specifically, the hip-hop clothing line with Wu-Wear, which was later picked up by Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z and Puff Daddy, among others.

FBI infiltration

The Wu's influence is so extensive that the FBI has investigated them and even placed an informant within the group's circle. Due to Caruso's criminal past he was prohibited by law to associate with felons (which many members of the Clan are) or leave the state of New York; these restrictions were later lifted in return for his providing information on the group. The federal government looked the other way and allowed Caruso to tour the country with Wu-Tang in exchange for reports on Wu-Tang's involvement with gunrunning and the Gambino crime family.

Caruso was subsequently fired from all duties regarding the Wu-Tang Clan's business when these allegations came to light. RZA forced Cappadonna to fire him as his manager. In spite of this, Caruso still works with Ghostface and is on his new poker team.

Syndication

Wu Tang management

Oli "Power" Grant and RZA's brother Mitchell "Divine" Diggs are the controversial executives who have been handling the business side of the Wu Tang empire since 1997, and are responsible for large amounts of products such as Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style and Wu Wear which were released in the late 90's and early 2000s. The two stay behind the scenes for the most part but do occasionally step into the public eye. Oli "Power" Grant is a childhood friend of several clan members.

Oliver "Power" Grant has also acted in numerous films including Belly, Black and White, When Will I Be Loved and others. He also won the 24th Annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, beating out seventeen other celebrity and professional drivers. "Power" was mentioned in Raekwon's lyrics in the street anthem "Incarcerated Scarfaces", saying "Peace to Power and the whole unit."

Mitchell "Divine" Diggs has been mentioned in several songs by Wu-Tang members, such as by RZA in his song "Brooklyn Babies" with "My big brother Divine he push the Benz well", and Raekwon in the song "The Turn" with "Divine got me, nigga, the boss, he pop me".

Method Man however has voiced his displeasure with Mitchell "Divine" Diggs of the Wu-Tang management, "Number 1 on my shit list right now is Divine from Wu-Tang management. He took something major from me that he had no intention of giving back."

Collective appearances

Members of the group have appeared in several Comedy Central shows, most notably two appearances on Chappelle's Show. The first was in episode 107, in a sketch titled "Wu-Tang Financial," in which The RZA and GZA run an investment firm, lampooning the over-saturation of hip-hop endorsed brands (which Wu-Tang were guilty of at one point). The second appearance was in episode 201, in the sketch "Racial Draft 2004," in which the group is drafted to become ethnically Asian. Various members have also appeared in episodes of Upright Citizens Brigade and Crank Yankers. On the latter, they performed "In The Hood" in puppet form.

Several members appeared in Scary Movie 3 (with many other rappers) in a scene where, originally coming to save the day, they end up arguing with other rappers until guns are drawn and everyone shoots each other to death.

Several members, including Raekwon, Inspectah Deck and Method Man, appeared as themselves in the movie Black and White.

The RZA, Cappadonna and affiliate group Killarmy made an appearance in the "Adolf Hankler" episode of the HBO sitcom The Larry Sanders Show. In the episode, the group are booked to perform on the show-within-the-show by guest host Jon Stewart, who then comes into disagreement with the show's network over whether or not the Clan are "too urban" for the show's audience. In one of their two scenes, the group is seen rehearsing the song "And Justice For All" and in the other scene, they are awkwardly conversing with the show's sidekick character Hank Kingsley, who asks where 'Dirty Old Bitch' is.

In 2003, The RZA and GZA appeared in the Jim Jarmusch movie Coffee and Cigarettes, in the sketch "Delirium" with Bill Murray.

In late 2006, Wu-Tang was honored as one of the premier and influential rap groups by VH1's 2006 Hip Hop Honors with other influential performers: Afrika Bambaataa, Beastie Boys, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Rakim and Russell Simmons. During their performance, Lil Jon portrayed the late Ol' Dirty Bastard.

The Clan (sans O.D.B.) performed "For Heaven's Sake" on The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show shortly after the release of "Wu-Tang Forever".

Method Man has appeared in the show Burn Notice as hip hop mogul and tough guy, Valentine.

The RZA

In 1999, The RZA made a brief appearance in Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, a film he also scored. RZA starred with fellow rapper Xzibit in the movie Derailed.

The RZA scored the first film of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga. RZA has gone on to score several more productions including Blade: Trinity, Afro Samurai, The Protector, Freedom Writers and several others.

RZA has appeared in American Gangster, a 2007 crime drama film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe as well as in Coffee and Cigarettes with fellow Wu-Tang member, The GZA in a scene also featuring actor Bill Murray.

RZA also produced all of the music to a Japanese style cartoon Afro Samurai, which also featured other artists such as GZA (Also from Wu-Tang), Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane and Q-Tip.

Method Man

Method Man has had recurring roles in critically acclaimed television shows such as HBO's The Wire in which he plays the character Cheese, HBO's Oz, The Twilight Zone,Third Watch, and the recurring character of Drops on CSI. He hosted a series on MTV for a brief period called Stung and has made numerous appearances as himself on TV shows such as Mind Of Mencia, Chappelle's Show, and others.

He also co-starred with Redman in his own Fox sitcom called Method & Red in late 2004; however, after only a short time on the air, the show was put on hiatus and never returned. Method Man later complained in the press about Fox's influence on the show's style, claiming that "there's been too much compromise on our side and not enough on their side" and bemoaning the network's decision to add a laugh track. Before the show even aired, he told fans not to bother watching it.

His first prominent role came in 1998 with the film Belly along with fellow rappers Nas and DMX. He has since added many credits to his name, including roles in the films Garden State and One Eight Seven, with starring roles in the feature films such as How High, Soul Plane and others. He also played a small role in the 1997 film "Cop Land" starring Sylvester Stallone.

On March 27, 2007 Redman confirmed on BET Rapcity that the sequel to the movie How High is currently being written, by Dustin Lee Abraham, who also wrote the first movie.

He had a guest appearance in the music video for the 2003 "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys, where he played the role of her boyfriend. Beanie Sigel also called upon Method Man's acting skills for his 2005 video "Feel It in the Air", where Method Man played an undercover cop leading an operation against Sigel.

Method Man has fallen back from pursuing more acting roles after the situation with his sitcom on Fox left a bad taste in his mouth, and now mostly just acts if the project is being handled by a friend of his, as was the case with CSI and The Wire.

The "torture" verbal exchange between Method Man and Raekwon the Chef, on the track "Method Man" on the Wu-Tang Clan's debut album was parodied on the "Hip-Hop News" sketch of Chappelle's show, during the "Lost Episodes"

Most recently Method Man appears in the film The Wackness as a Jamaican drug dealer and on "Burn Notice" as a record label CEO.

Raekwon

Raekwon has appeared in a number of movies. He was recently the focus of a VH1 "RockDoc" about blood diamonds, where he along with Paul Wall and others visited Sierra Leone, West Africa. During the shooting of the documentary, Raekwon became the first American rapper to perform in Sierra Leone.

Video games

All nine members of the group were featured in the game Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, released for the PlayStation on October 31, 1999, as well as a special collector's edition controller. Ghostface Killah and Method Man, as well as collaborators Redman and Keith Murray, also play themselves in all three games in the Def Jam series, Def Jam Vendetta, Def Jam Fight For NY, and Def Jam: Icon. Method Man is a huge fan of video games himself and has publicly stated that he loves playing SOCOM online with other PS2 users, and is even part of an online clan ("KMA/Kiss My Ass"). His Socom 2 name is "ICU". He has a fellow SOCOM player featured on a skit on his album 4:21. Several tracks by Clan members and affiliates such as Method Man, Ghostface, Cappadonna, Trife, DJ Mathematics and others were featured in the 2006 game Saints Row. A video game from Acclaim, 9Dragons, also sports the name Wu-Tang Clan in one of the ingame branches. In EA's Army of Two, Salem talks about Wu-Tang in the mission on China asking Rios who the best member is. Salem says it's RZA but he says Ghostface Killah is pretty good himself. In the ending cut scene, a reference is made to the song "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing to F' Wit" when Salem says "Survey says?" and Rios replies "Your Dead," the referenced lyric is "Survey said, you're dead."

Clothing line

Oli "Power" Grant, 37, was one of the first to move from music to clothes. The executive producer of the Wu-Tang Clan, Grant started making clothes in the early 1990s, with little success. ("I'm a black kid from the projects," he explains. "People didn't take it too seriously.") But then, in 1995, with the platinum success of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), suddenly the manufacturers that earlier wouldn't extend Power credit saw the potential. Power opened four Wu Wear stores, in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Norfolk, Va., the line is carried in Macy's, Rich's, and d.e.m.o, among others; Power says he did $10 million in 1998.

1997 saw the release of Wu-Tang's multi-platinum double-LP Wu-Tang Forever which launched the clothing line, Wu-Wear, to all new heights.

Method Man was unhappy with the decision to bring Wu Tang into the fashion world with Wu Wear, despite the brand being a major money-maker for the group. "When Wu-Wear started making shoes and sneakers and pants, it was shoddy material. I never rocked that shit."

There is currently a partnership between Wu Tang and the Alife NYC clothing group for an exclusive series of custom sneakers, t-shirts, hoodies and other accessories for both men and women. The collection is called "A Wu-Tang Life".

Relationship with other rappers

50 Cent

Ghostface had a non publicized feud with 50 Cent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On 50 Cent's track "How to Rob" insults were aimed at many high-profile rappers, including Wu-Tang. In the early 2000s the argument made it on to wax with skits titled "Clyde Smith" on Supreme Clientele featuring a low-pitched recording of what most fans believe to be Raekwon's voice derisively making fun of 50 Cent's behavior and his methods of attracting attention to himself, believed to be aimed at 50 Cent. The skit also joked at other unnamed "gangster rappers" in New York. 50 Cent took offense and came back with a short track dissing Wu-Tang Clan, and Ghostface in particular. 50 rose to fame, both he and Ghostface talked in interviews with SOHH.com and Hot 97 Radio about the supposed argument, both saying that the argument was never that serious and nothing major had happened.

A supposed diss song, "Who the Fuck Is 50 Cent", which circulated the web in the beginning of 2001 was rumoured to be by the Clan, but was proven to be recorded by Polite of American Cream Team (Raekwon's then–side project).

G-Unit member Tony Yayo has alleged that Ghostface had a ghostwriter for his critically-acclaimed album Supreme Clientele. In an interview with spin.com, Yayo claimed that Far Rockaway native Superb, who guested on the album, wrote a majority, if not all, of the lyrics. In an interview with hiphopdx.com Raekwon, who also appears on the album, responded saying: "He (Tony Yayo) know damn well he (Superb) ain’t write that fuckin’ album. I don’t even wanna get into shit like that, because it just makes me upset that muthafuckas be running they mouth all kinda ways. But at the end of the day, I think Ghost gonna have to really say what he gotta say. However, in a November, 2007 interview with Rhapsody Music, Ghost responded with "…'Perb (Superb) is Rae’s (Raekwon) man. He been in the studio a few times while we’re doing shit. He ain’t write shit. All ‘Perb contributed was a couple of lines that you could put in the air. When we write, we all do that. “Say this one right here” or “Put this one right here.” We all catch lines with each other ‘cause you in the studio. You got niggas around you that write. Even if he did write a verse, he could never make an album of mine. He couldn’t make an album, you feel me? I made Supreme Clientele what it is. Those are my stories, based around whatever they’re based upon. It’s me. I can’t see what songs ‘Perb wrote. He ain’t write “Mighty Healthy” or “One” or “Apollo Kids” or “Cherchez LaGhost” or “Saturday Nite” or “Malcolm.”. U-God called Tony Yayo "a bitch" in an interview with Undergroundhiphop.com, and threatened to beat him down when he sees him, but said that no diss tracks will be recorded.

Mase

After badmouthing Wu-Tang at a concert, Bad Boy recording artist Mase had a run-in with Ghostface and his entourage at a club in New York City. There was some sort of physical altercation between Mase's and Ghostface's camps, and Mase left the incident with a broken jaw. Kanye West is among several rappers who have made reference to the incident, rapping "...if you could feel how my face felt/ You would know how Mase felt..." on his single "Through the Wire". Shyheim also referred to the incident in a freestyle, with the line "The Empire State, where Ghostface retired Mase". In the June 2007 issue of Hip Hop Connection magazine, Wu-Tang affiliate Cilvaringz stated that Ghostface had in fact done time in jail for "beating up" Mase.

Puff Daddy

In 1998, ODB rushed onstage unexpectedly during Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech for "Song of the Year" at the Grammy Awards, and began complaining that he had recently purchased expensive clothes in anticipation of winning the "Best Rap Album" award that he lost to Puff Daddy. Before being escorted off-stage, he implored the audience, "I don't know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best. I want you all to know that this is ODB, and I love you all. Peace!" His bizarre onstage antics were widely reported in the mainstream media. Dirty made it known on The Howard Stern Show that he meant no disrespect to P Diddy, but that feelings were hurt on Diddy's end. Later that night Diddy's bodyguards would physically threaten ODB, but Dirty insisted to his friends and family in attendance that no violence breaks out. Following the award show, Howard Stern asked Dirty about the incident with Diddy's bodyguards on his radio show, but Dirty wouldn't play up the incident as he didn't want to shine a bad light on hip hop because of one minor altercation.

Ghostface appeared on the 2002 Bad Boy Records release, We Invented the Remix, along with P. Diddy on the remix to the song "Special Delivery." Ghostface even gives Bad Boy Records a shout out for inviting him on the track when he raps "Bad Boy, thank you for this special delivery." Diddy was one of the executive producers for Method Man's 2004 album Tical 0: The Prequel, although Meth later voiced his displeasure with the final product. "On the third LP, it was suggested to bring in Harve Pierre and P Diddy. Who am I to argue? Puff knows how to sell some records. But that wasn't the direction to go in, and I know that now. In 2006, Method Man also called out Diddy's decisions on the posthumous Notorious B.I.G. album Duets: The Final Chapter, saying that Biggie never would have rocked with some of the sub-par rappers featured on it. He also brought up the fact that he was the only other rapper that Biggie chose to feature on his debut album Ready to Die.

The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G. claimed he was heavily influenced by the Clan. Method Man was the only guest rapper on his debut album Ready to Die. Raekwon and Ghostface also made similar claims about being influenced by Biggie and even referred to him as an "icon". RZA produced "Long Kiss Goodnight" off Biggie's Life After Death album and Biggie was featured on the Ghostface and Raekwon track "Three Bricks" off of Ghostface's 2006 release, Fishscale. Ghostface and Raekwon subliminally dissed B.I.G in several songs, most notably on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx' "Shark Niggaz (Biters)" skit, where the pair make angry reference to the use of Nas' cover art aesthetics (a portrait of the artist as a young child or infant). Nas referred to this episode in his song "Last Real Nigga Alive", featured on "God's Son", where he confirmed the tensions between Raekwon, Ghost and the Notorious B.I.G., stating: "...that's when Ghostface said it on 'The Purple Tape'/Bad Boy biting Nas album cover, wait...". (Note: On "Ice Water" off of "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..." Raekwon says "To top it all off, beefin' for White/pullin' bleach out, tryna throw it in my eyesight". Biggie subliminally responded to this line on "Kick in the Door" by saying "Fuck that, why try? Throw bleach in your eye"). The RZA referred to the beef in his book, "The Wu Tang Manual". He recalled a concert featuring both Wu-Tang and Biggie, where Ghostface and Raekwon were "under the influence" and angry at Biggie over some comments in The Source. RZA went on to say that Raekwon, Ghostface, and Biggie were traveling with large entourages that night, and thanked God that the two sides hadn't found each other in the building because it would have gotten ugly.

Members

  • Ghostface Killah (born Dennis Coles, 1970) - He has a very distinctive, almost abstract style of rapping, and is known for his ability to write lyrics extremely quickly. He is arguably the most consistent member of the group, having released his debut album Ironman to critical acclaim, he also played a big role in Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.... Mainstream hip-hop press credits his second album Supreme Clientele with "saving the Wu", and later enjoyed similar success with The Pretty Toney Album (2004), Fishscale (2006), and More Fish (2006).
  • GZA (born Gary Grice, 1966) - He is the oldest member of the group as well as the most experienced, having begun rapping in 1976, when hip hop was still a local New York phenomenon. He was also the first to release an album, Words from the Genius, which was released in 1991 on Cold Chillin'/Reprise. He is known for his laid-back flow and complex use of metaphor, containing references to Samurai films, chess and 5 Percenter teachings. Liquid Swords, his Wu-Tang debut album, is often considered among the group's best work, only perhaps challenged by Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
  • Inspectah Deck (born Jason Hunter, 1970) - He was one of the star members of the group, gaining attention by providing stand-out performances on both Wu-Tang albums and on other member's solo albums as well as being a popular guest rapper in 1997 and 1998. He is considered by many in the fanbase as the stand-out member on Wu-Tang Forever, although his later solo albums failed to live up to the high expectations. Inspectah Deck is known for his ability to deliver complicated rhyme-schemes and switching up his flow multiple times throughout the verse on any given song. He is also a successful producer, providing beats for many artists both in and out of the Wu-Tang family such as Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Big Pun, Prodigy and others.
  • Masta Killa (born Elgin Turner, 1969) - He was the only member not already an experienced rapper at the time of the group's formation, and was extensively mentored by GZA during his early days with the group. He was largely absent on the group's first album due to his being incarcerated, though he did contribute the stand-out final verse to the track "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'." He was also the last to release a solo album, though when he finally did release No Said Date, it was generally well received and considered one of the best post-2000 Wu-Tang releases.
  • Method Man (born Clifford Smith, 1971) - He was the youngest member of the Wu-Tang Clan and the first to release a Wu-Tang solo album with Tical, his career went on to become the most successful in the group with platinum sales and a Grammy for I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need with Mary J. Blige. He has also had a significant acting career with many film and television credits to his name, most notably the comedy film How High and the sitcom Method & Red, both co-starring with Redman, with whom he also made an album in 1999 titled Blackout!. Method Man's friendship with the Notorious B.I.G. and P Diddy is credited for preventing more heat between Biggie, Raekwon and Ghostface.
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard (born Russell Jones, 1968–2004) - Arguably the most unusual and erratic member of the group, his wild behavior drew significant media – and often police – attention. Along with Method Man, he was among the most popular members of Wu-Tang with high sales and guest spots with industry giants like Mariah Carey. He collapsed in Wu-Tang's recording studio on November 13, 2004 and was pronounced dead less than an hour later, with a later autopsy confirming an accidental drug overdose to be the cause of his death.
  • Raekwon (born Corey Woods, 1970) - Nicknamed "The Chef" for having "lyrical flavor", as well as his skills at 'cooking' cocaine into crack rock, his lyrics contain extensive use of New York slang and are often delivered in an aggressive, fast-paced manner. His influential solo album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... is often credited with initiating the Mafioso rap phenomenon of the mid-to-late-1990s, and is generally considered one of the best of the solo albums by both fans and critics.
  • RZA (born Robert Diggs, 1969) - The de facto leader of the group. He produced the entirety of Enter the Wu-Tang and the majority of the tracks on subsequent Wu-Tang albums. He has also produced many of the group's solo efforts, especially early on. Considered a producing pioneer, recently his popularity has transcended hip-hop. Thanks to Jim Jarmusch giving him his break with Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, he has gone on to score several Hollywood films such as the first installment of Quentin Tarantino's critically acclaimed Kill Bill, Tony Jaa 's The Protector and Ridley Scott's "American Gangster". Most recently he scored the music for the anime series Afro Samurai. Before signing with SRC Records in early 2007, RZA was flooded with offers from Bad Boy Records, Aftermath Entertainment, Interscope and Def Jam among others.
  • U-God (born Lamont Hawkins, 1970) - One of the lesser-known members of Wu-Tang, in part due to his limited exposure, from being incarcerated for most of the recording of 36 Chambers, in which he only delivered short verses on "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" and "Protect Ya Neck." He is known for delivering strong verses, and his style of blaxploitation rap. He is the only member not heavily influenced by Asian culture, stating in an interview "I ain't in to all that mystical Kung-Fu shit."

Discography

References

External links

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