Robert F. Diggs (born July 5, 1969), better known as RZA (pronounced [ˈɹɪzʌ]), is an American music producer, rapper, and occasional actor. A prominent figure in hip hop music, he is the de facto leader of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan. He has produced almost all of Wu-Tang Clan's albums as well as many Wu-Tang solo and affiliate projects. He subsequently gained attention for his work scoring and acting in films.
He has also released solo albums under the alter-ego Bobby Digital, who concerns himself only with the lawless aspect of the male power fantasy: women, drugs, alcohol and shooting guns. In addition to the Wu-Tang Clan and his solo releases, RZA was also a founding member of the rap group, Gravediggaz, where he used the name, The Rzarector.
After recently releasing the latest "Bobby Digital" album, Digi Snacks, RZA is currently working on the upcoming sequel to Raekwon's mafioso rap classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.... He has also confirmed he has co-produced a track on the upcoming Dr. Dre album Detox. He is also working on a kung-fu movie, entitled Man with the Iron Fist, in which he is writting, directing, as well as starring in.
Once this acclaimed local band dissolved, both he and GZA attempted to kick start solo careers. With the help of GZA's friend Melquan (then owner of Jamaica Records) they both secured single deals with album options at successful labels, GZA going to Cold Chillin and RZA to Tommy Boy. GZA ultimately released the Words from the Genius album, but RZA's stint at Tommy Boy ended with only the EP Ooh I Love You Rakeem to show for it when he went to jail soon after its release. GZA's album flopped, and the two cousins became determined to conquer the hip hop industry on their own terms. Throughout most of his youth he enjoyed watching various kung-fu movies and purchasing countless albums which he would later sample in most of his music.
Early on, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and I used to watch kung fu movies, leave the theater, do some kung fu fighting, get on the train, keep fighting, and then run into MCs and musically battle them like it was a kung fu fight. That was my weekend habit.
When we could afford VCRs, we got all the kung fu movies we could get our hands on and watched three or four a day. We were smoking blunts, drinking beer, watching movies, making demo tapes. To this day, at least four times a week, a kung fu flick is in my DVD player. And I’m still DJing, making beats, making songs, and fucking with kung fu movies. I’m still the same kid when it comes to those things.
As said in a Film Comment interview.. (May/June 2008)
After the single "Protect Ya Neck," which was driven by a raucous RZA-produced beat, made the group into underground sensations, the group released their debut LP Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The album, which only cost $36K to produce, eventually went platinum, and was heralded by hip-hop fans as a classic. Enter the Wu-Tang revolutionized hip hop and helped bring the East Coast back into the spotlight after Dr. Dre's G-funk had come to dominate the rap scene, in large part thanks to RZA's lean, gritty and very distinctive production style.
As each of the group's members embarked on solo careers, The RZA continued to produce nearly everything Wu-Tang released during the period 1994–1996, producing in both the hip-hop producer sense (composing and arranging the instrumental tracks) and in the wider music producer sense (overseeing and directing the creative process as well as devising song concepts and structure in addition to being responsible for a recording’s final sound). Indeed, The RZA's rule over the Clan at this time is described in 2004's Wu-Tang Manual book as "a dictatorship."
His sound was to develop from the raw, minimalist sounds of Method Man's Tical and Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers to more cinematic and expansive soundscapes driven by string sections or thick layers of synthesizer on Ghostface Killah's Ironman, GZA's Liquid Swords, and Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.... All of the group's albums during the period from 1994 to 1996 are highly regarded by critics and hip-hop enthusiasts.
During this time, The RZA also took part in the creation of a hip-hop subgenre called horror-core with the Gravediggaz, an off-and-on hip-hop supergroup including Frukwan of Stetsasonic, Too Poetic of the Brothers Grym, and Prince Paul who released the critically acclaimed album 6 Feet Deep in 1994. As part of the Gravediggaz, he went by the name The RZArecta. In reference to RZA's start with the group he mentions:
When it came time for the Gravediggaz, Prince Paul was thinking about putting a group together. He wanted to get some good MCs. Poetic was another dope MC who was underrated out in Long Island. He had one single out on Tommy Boy that didn't take off, but he was a dope MC. As the Grym Reaper, you know how many dope lyrics he dropped. Frukwan, one of the top lyricists out of Stetsasonic. He and Paul were friends already. He told him about me. He said, "I know this one guy who is super-dope."
At the same time, I was also trying to do Wu-Tang. I was trying to start my own company and stuff, so when Paul called me up and invited me to his crib in Long Island and told me his idea for forming this group, I thought it would be an honor to be in a group with him. But I told him, "I'm also producing a group, and I'm also part of a family that I'm building." He said, "Yo, that's crazy." We would talk a lot of times. ODB came to his house a lot of times with me. Meth, too. We all would just go there and try to find ways to get out of the streets. Me, I was trying to get out of the ghetto. Paul had a lot of respect for me, so he helped me break out of it. I think he liked that I was so dark, but I didn't know I was dark.
After Forever's success, RZA ceased to oversee all aspects of Wu-Tang product as he had previously, delegating much of his existing role to associates such as Oli "Power" Grant and his brother Mitchell "Divine" Diggs, and giving each Clan member more individual control. This move was designed to enable the Wu-Tang empire to expand further and further into the fabric of the hip hop industry, and in accordance with this an extremely large amount of Wu-Tang music was to be released over the next two years.
This had already to some extent begun on Wu-Tang Forever, which for the first time featured RZA delegating a small number of beatmaking duties to other producers in the Wu-Tang camp, such as his proteges True Master and 4th Disciple who are known as the Wu-Elements, and Clan member Inspectah Deck.
During this time, he also began work on two solo albums, entitled The Cure, and RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo. Although he released his first solo effort titled RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo in 1998, he ironically stated in a interview with The Source Magazine that he originally wanted to release "The Cure" first. Believing that the timing was not right he decided to release RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo as his solo debut album instead. In the march 2000 interview he stated:
I had to put out Bobby Digital instead of The Cure because if I didn't do that I would've suffered two things. First, I would have revealed where I was musically too soon. Wu-Tang is the perfect medium to expose anything new because I got the most people coming together to buy it. For me to expose it for my own self, I don't think that would've been a wise thing for me to do. I might've caught more people than Bobby Digital caught, but I still wouldn't catch the magnitude of what the Wu-Tang could catch. Maybe this year or next year the game may be different. The Cure is so intimate in writing that you gotta live that Cure shit. I was living like Bobby Digital in '98, '99 na'mean? So if I put " The Cure out, then I wouldn't even be able to get on stage and perform it for ya'll cause I'd be lying."
RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo was a well-received experimental concept album featuring him rapping as his hedonistic, fun-loving alter-ego Bobby Digital and showcasing a unique keyboard-driven sound RZA called "digital orchestra", receiving mostly positive reviews.
"The Cure album currently remains unreleased and incomplete, due to further work and development being continued into the new millennium. It is now said to be RZA's final solo album. Within the same year, a mixtape known as "Formula For The Cure" was compiled and released by Dreddy Kruger, without RZA's approval and consent. The mixtape was meant to be as a prequel of some sorts to the final solo album.
The term viral in viral marketing was originally used to describe the spread of artist's names and music. It is another byproduct of the street teams model, more so online street teams. The same as those that were instrumental in helping to make Wu Tang a successful global brand. The term virus or viral was used in correlation to the term meme. A meme being a unit of cultural information transferred from one mind to the next. In order to get an artist's meme out quickly, Burchett believed you had to get other people to propagate that message, in various places, in large numbers. This idea came from discussions between Rolando Bell, Lottman and Sokol. They discovered the best way to do this was to offer products to people. They realized that people will work for product if it's a good product, something they desire. He eventually tried to test this same theory online and offer product in exchange for promotions while still maintaining a strong profit margin. The test proved to be successful after the first 6 weeks of promotions they had accumulates over 5,000 people for their online street marketing team. Each of those 5,000 loyal customers then kept a certain amount of product and sold the rest. This allowed the building of loyal marketing teams in a rapid fashion. The total number of online street members reached a total of 100,000 people worldwide.
The critical success of the Ghost Dog soundtrack led to further work. The RZA created and produced the original music for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series, as well as Blade: Trinity, and Soul Plane. The RZA was nominated for four different awards for the work he did on the Kill Bill vol. 1 and 2 soundtracks, winning one.
This is one of my biggest adventures and one of my [best] feelings. We watched Kill Bill in Manhattan. At the premiere, that happened, but you know, that's Hollywood. But in Manhattan, a theater, just a bunch of kids coming from wherever New York, inside a movie theater and the movie's coming on. They don't even know that I'm the man with the music, and when it said, "Original Music by The RZA," we hear the audience clapping. And they didn't clap for nothing else, because the movie's just coming on. I was like, 'Wow, what the fuck is that about?' That's different. It actually might be something special. You never care who did that... Once you see who stars in the shit, you don't read "edited," you don't read all that. You be eating your popcorn and it go right by you. But, for somebody to see that and then clap, that's a different thing right there. That felt pretty pleasing.
In the beginning of 2003 he also produced a few tracks for The Mindscape of Alan Moore.
His third solo album is titled, Birth of a Prince,which was released in 2003 under the name RZA, (see 2003 in music) and spawned the single We Pop. The album itself featured a mix of lighthearted Bobby Digital tracks and more lyrically highbrow RZA tracks. In 2003 he also released an album of collaborations with international rap and R&B musicians (including the UK's Skinnyman, France's Saïan Supa Crew, Germany's Xavier Naidoo and Italy's Frankie Hi-NRG MC) entitled The World According to RZA, which was successful in many countries, despite not being sold in the U.S..
In 2005 RZA released the long-gestating book Wu-Tang Manual, an in-depth discussion of the Wu-Tang's virtues, vices and philosophies. RZA continued to act in and score movies such as Derailed, Blood of a Champion and Miami Vice. He also contributed a bonus track for the reissued soundtrack to the Jet Li film Unleashed. In 2006 he contributed five beats to Method Man's latest album 21 and also executive produced the project.
In late January 2007 he announced that he was working on a fourth album tentatively titled, Digi Snacks, which continues the further adventures of Bobby Digital. The Album is scheduled to be released at June 24th 2008. The albums first single, "You Can't Stop Me Now" (featuring Inspectah Deck), was released in March 2008 in preparation for a planned release in Summer 2008.
He has also stated that the long-delayed " The Cure" album will now be his final solo album, for he will end his career as MC and move on with his movie directing career. The album will feature deeper lyrics and guests ranging from Zack de la Rocha to Isaac Hayes.
He recently and quietly released an instrumental album entitled, The RZA-Instrumental Experience.
Currently he is working with Raekwon on his highly anticipated Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II . He has also recorded with the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and is set to contribute to Cannibal Ox's upcoming album, along with Pete Rock and El-P.
Talks are on between System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian and RZA regarding a collaboration between the two artists called ACHOZEN. GZA has stated in an interview that he is involved in the project.
RZA has announced on September 10, 2008, that a partnership with global digital music group The Orchard, which will market Wu’s extensive catalogue worldwide in digital and physical formats. The deal include new material and 13 previous Clan releases that have been unavailable digitally from the Wu-Tang Clan, Killarmy, Wu-Syndicate, Shyheim, U-God, Black Knights, and West Coast Killa Beez. Wu-Tang's Viral marketing began as a study of promoting an artist online globally. Having organizations in 27 countries, The Orchard is one of the world’s largest music distribution organizations. RZA explained that the deal was a natural progression needed to make sure that fans will have continued access to Wu’s catalogue in the ever-changing music industry. Also launching is the online video channel Wu Music Tube, a forum focused on allowing the artists to speak directly with their fans. In the ensuing months, Wu’s music and video catalogue will also be featured by various brands and ad agencies in marketing and promotion programs around the world. Wu Music Group’s catalogue will be available worldwide for downloads on September 23. RZA told AllHipHop.com:
“The time is right to bring some older material to the masses digitally. 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.”
Other record labels were later founded in the early 2000s, and are still active in the present. Very little is known about these labels, other that the fact that RZA produces music on them. It is unknown if RZA is CEO, or has high position within these labels, considering that he was never known to have a CEO position of any recording label.
According to The Wu-Tang Manual, at the group's inception, RZA started what he called the "5 Year Plan" in which he asked the other 8 members of the Clan for 5 years of life, hard work and good lyrics. He promised the members that if he had total control of the Wu-Tang empire, he would "take them to the top", and conquer the hip-hop world within a dynastic cycle. Afterwards, then he would relinquish his total control. He described this five year period "as a dictatorship". RZA's "five year "dictatorship" was completed after the successful release of Wu-Tang Forever.
As each of the group's members embarked on solo careers, The RZA continued to produce nearly everything Wu-Tang released during the period 1994–1996. He was in control of producing composing, arranging, overseeing, directing, and possibly naming songs. He was over the creative process as well as devising song concepts and structure, in addition to being responsible for a recording’s final sound. All of this was the majority of his "dictatorship." He began doing this on a reduced extent around the time that he relinquised his dictatorship, thus taking complete control of fewer solo projects between group releases.
On 1997, I personally tore Wu Tang Clan up. I won't forget this day, we were on the Rage Against The Machine tour bus. Everybody was becoming lazy, niggas even started not showin' up. I said "Yo! I did my shit! From this point on, do what the fuck you want. The Wu Mansion? Y'all turned that shit to a club house! From now on, The Wu Mansion is MY house. You wanna come and rock? I'll be there”, and niggas respected it. To me, it's like Mike Tyson: he got to the top of the world and shit, and he stopped trainin'. Fuck that, you must never stop trainin'. Well you can stop if you want, if you're happy, but if you wanna go further. All I did was promise to get'em to there, from this point, it's up to each of them. For that, Method Man's a good example: he took it to the movies and he went to the moon. So brothers had no success after that, nahmean? Cappadonna, see, he's drivin' a cab. Well, he's aight, we take him on tour, he makes a couple hundred grands, so… He's my man, he's hustlin'…
He has stated in several interviews that the challenges of maintaining the group are not egos, but rather timing and scheduling due to the fact that the members have families and side projects. Although he assumes leadership within the group, upon mere mention in interviews, he reacts in a modest and humble manner, and often compares the formation of the group to Voltron.
Actually, we don't deal with a leader. We deal with leadership within each other. So everybody has leadership qualities at any given moment. Anybody is prepared to take the position to do what they gotta do to make whatever gotta happen pop off. They consider me the best knower, know what I mean? So, it's like the deciding vote.
Work together? We lived together man, you know what I mean? We slobbered on each other's shoulders before. We fell asleep on niggaz heads. We've been through it for real. It's been a real life.
Unlike the average hip hop musician, he has shown little or no concern about illegal downloading, for he simply wants to be seen and heard. He was once asked if he was worried about illegal downloading of his music:
Naw, when I make music, I make it to be heard, personally. And, if somebody download it, if they heard it, then my job was delivered. Of course I love to make the money. I get million dollar album budgets, so of course there's money involved with it. But, personally, as a musician, as an artist, the first thing is to be seen and heard. If you're not seen and heard, who cares? I was talking to Jim Jarmusch and he was like, somebody see his film, the guy's happy. He don't care. He wants somebody to see his art and appreciate it and that's how I feel about my music also. I never got pissed off at the Internet kids with the downloading. In fact, I told them, 'Help yourself. Have a good time.
In several interviews, in response to the phrase "Hip Hop is Dead", he said, "How can hip hop be dead if Wu Tang is forever?" In regards of the southern dominance, rather than criticize the music, he instead spoke on the look and image of the southern artists themselves. He went on to say:
How has the South dominated hip-hop for the last four, five years without lyrics, without hip-hop culture really in their blood? Those brothers came out representing more of a stereotype of how black people are, and I think the media would rather see us as ignorant, crazy motherfuckers than seeing us as intelligent young men trying to rise and take care of ourselves.
In January 2001 Wu Creative received a web casting server from Leveious Rolando, Larry Lottman and John Sokol pioneer of DVBH video streaming technology at the time working for Pervasys a video streaming media company. X-Ray Technology was also being used to stream media in the porn industry. It's advantages at the time is that it didn't require a plugin and live streaming was possible. Live meaning from stored video source or video camera. This led to the early experimentations of web casting back and forth between California and New York with Sokol, Lottman and Rolando. The web casting server was the only video streaming unit used in the industry at that time and was based on X-Ray technology. It allowed live streaming of media without the use of plugins, which was instrumental in helping maintain traffic on the Wu Tang sites. Users tuned in on a regular basis to see Wu Tang members recording live in the studio or just fooling around. This was an early example of reality television on the internet. Before the beginnings of Wu Creative the Wutang office had no email at the Wu Tang office and none of the computers were networked. The office would even in the late nineties send courier back and forth for reviewing and signing of documents.
This new way of looking at Wu Tang Clan as a brand was echoed with Loud Records and both Wu-Tang Creative this helped to push the group over the million album sales mark. The increased traffic to the site was contributed to the non-traditional marketing efforts of Wu Tang and the increased development of contact like live web cast being run from the studios. This extra content served as a means of keeping users online for extended periods online. Gibran believed that this would increase advertising dollars on the Wu Tang sites if users stayed longer periods. Method Man Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa would wind up giving most of the performances.
Wu Tang site was averaging 9,000 -10,000 hits per month, during album sales it peaked at 500,000 hits for a two months following a releases. Without other efforts. For the launch Wu Creative designed a series of three sites for Rza which are currently defunct these were the official Wu Tang.com, WuTangfilmz.com, Bobby-digital.com. After just 6 months the site traffic increased dramatically to 3 million unique hits per month. This growth can be contributed to the efforts of Wu Tang Creative's creation of an online community, with 50+ hours of Wu Tang footage, in combination of other content and marketing techniques added and the teamwork of Loud and AKA.COM. The global street team would offer merchandise to online street team supporters on multiple levels. The site would later feature a cartoon titled "Fare Game" for the release of the Bobby Digital album release. Rza as Bobby Digital drove a high tech cab around the city and used a robot he built in the lab to help fight crime and corrupt corporations carried out the missions In addition Footage of Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog with Academy Award Winner Forest Whitaker in which Rza created the score. (as noted in The Source Magazine '2000)
His acting career began to rise in the mid 2000s alongside fellow Wu-Tang member GZA in one segment of Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes opposite Bill Murray. He and the GZA have also made appearances on Chappelle's Show and Upright Citizens Brigade.
RZA was offered the role of "Brown" in The Departed (2006), but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts.
Rza's most recent role, and possibly his biggest to date, is in American Gangster as "Moses Jones". American Gangster is a 2007 crime drama film directed by Ridley Scott starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
He has also been confirmed for roles in Gospel Hill, Repossession Mambo, and Life Is Hot in Cracktown. He is also said to be attached to Quentin Tarantino's next Kill Bill project in one way or another.
Yeah, yeah. I could do that easily. I've done it already, just haven't released them. I'm just waiting for the proper time to say, 'Okay, here they are.' But I've got about three films in the can that I did on my own. One is a total martial arts film where I have white hair and gold teeth. Like white hair all the way down, but gold fangs in my mouth. So I'm like a hermit, a Wu-Tang hermit, with the warrior clothes on and shit. And I have this special weapon, it's a Wu-Tang weapon and everybody wants it so all the people are coming to get it.
I made my albums like movies, you know what I mean? I wanted people to be able to listen to a movie in their car while they was driving,” says Diggs. “I want to start off making movies where people will know they're at a movie. Like my man Tarantino, he did that movie Pulp Fiction — classic fucking movie, man. Every time it comes on TV or cable, I have to stop and watch it. And it's based on nothing, really. There's only a few people out there that are able to do that, where it comes from nothing but the vision and imagination of the artist.
Another interesting situation is the recent postings on youtube of a kung-fu movie, which can be viewed under the title RZA's movieIt has been recently revealed that the movie's title is Man with the Iron Fist. Director Quentin Tarantino is said to be involved with the movie, as well as Eli Roth.
RZA is well known for having multiple aliases, for different lyrical styles and personalities. The aliases Prince Rakeem, Chester Benningston, The Abbot, Bobby Digital, Bobby Steels, Bobby Boulders, The Kid with Braids, The Razor, The RZA, and Prince Dynamite. During his time with the Gravediggaz, he went by the name Rzarector, which is for waking up the mentally dead.
He was once affiliated with the the Nation of Gods and Earths but has stated he that he is no longer a member of any particular group. However, he usually wears the Five Percenter Universal Flag as a necklace, and still follows Five Percenter aspects, which include the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabet. He also has taken on various aspects of Buddhism, Taoism, and Christianity as stated in his book The Wu-Tang Manual in order to expand his spiritual growth. One of his favorite hobbies consists of watching kung-fu movies, and is considered to be an "encyclopedia of martial arts films", due to his vast knowlege of many martial art films. His second well-known hobby is chess, for he is a Director of Development, and champion of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation.A practictioner of kung-fu and veganism , he was once married, and believed to have many children.
I got children of my own, you know what I mean? Domestic problems at home. If you start coming home at night from helping all your fans and people and then you’ve got problems at the house, that will kill any man’s spirit. Say you’re Bobby Digital, you’re RZA, and your girl fornicates on you—you feel like shit. ‘Who the fuck? How the fuck?’ And say it’s some nigga who sells weed—‘I’m a millionaire and you’re fucking with a regular motherfucker?’ That takes a lot from your spirit. That slowed me down, and then the passing of my mother—the two big blows of the year 2000. It really kept me back a few years—I had to go and find myself again. I never told anybody that. You got an exclusive on that one! And I think that’s enough right there.
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, however Caruso still works with Ghostface and is on his new poker team. The report rules out the majority of Wu Tang affiliated performers and focuses on those running the business aspect of the Wu empire, Oli "Power" Grant and Mitchell "Divine" Diggs (RZA's brother) and The RZA himself.
The issue was recently resurfaced by FOX News in mid-2007 after RZA attended one of Hillary Clinton's parties and donated money to her 2008 campaign. FOX News criticized the fact that Clinton took money from The RZA, claiming it was contradictory due to RZA's felony record, FBI investigation, ties to the Gambino family and his music lyrics. RZA referenced the investigation in one of his lyrics, "Feds had one ad saying I gun traff'/I sold 20 million records bitch! You make me laugh."
In a recent interview with MTV he stated, in response of the beliefs that the group would dissolve;
"Over the years some of us have grown in doubt, or maybe some of us have grown creatively in different directions. But I will say that when we do come together, a lot of things just seem to evaporate. When we get on the stage together, we can have a problem 10 minutes before we get onstage. But once we're onstage, we feel like everything evaporates.
Recently he was accused by several members that he mishandled money. While in the U.K., when questioned by radio DJ Tim Westwood, concerning the group situation, RZA said, "It's really all good, it's just different directions... Everything is back peace already." the RZA also rebutted claims that he owes group members any money. He yelled:
I ain't never, never take no money from nobody, and I don't owe nobody no money! Don't never say that! I pay all my bills. I pay all my bills. I work hard and pay all my bills. Back to the music.
In a June 2008 interview with L.A. Record, RZA elaborated on the $20,000 bullet-proof suit, car and briefcase he mentions in the Wu Tang Manual.
"1998 in Battery Park, Manhattan, and Dirty—the feds were out to kill him. I had so much love for him and shit that I wanted to help protect him, and I had a feeling overcome me that I was a superhero—somebody to help the world! So I had my brother order a Level 4 fucking vehicle—what the president rides in. You can shoot it with an AK and it keeps moving. After he hit a deer, it didn’t even dent the car! The deer flew way in the air and not even a dent on the paint! It was a Suburban. I still got it. It weighs nine tons. It’s parked at my brother’s house in New Jersey. And the suit I built but one of my employees sold it to a drug dealer. Some drug dealer in Brooklyn got it. That’s funny! A $20,000 suit—Level 4 bulletproof and knife-proof. You couldn’t stab or shoot me. Head to toe. It had a few other toys I don’t like to talk about. I don’t wanna describe it too much—that nigga who got, he got it! I had a briefcase to go with it as well—to block bullets! We were just buggin’ out!
RZA has stated Ennio Morricone, Mark E. Smith, Syl Johnson, Marley Marl, Augustus Pablo and Danny Elfman as musicians he is fond of and has taken influence from. During the Enter the Wu-Tang period, RZA's production consisted mainly of stripped-down, frenetic piano loops and finger-snaps with heavy bass and drums, though he experimented with more melodic sounds on the album's "Method Man" and "C.R.E.A.M." He also began incorporating skits consisting of clips of old kung fu movies.
The next two solo albums from the Wu, Method Man's Tical and Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, featured versions of the same style of production from the RZA; the former delved somewhat into old soul records and became somewhat bouncy rather than quite as gritty, while the latter was at times even more simplistic than the group's debut.
On Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and GZA's Liquid Swords, RZA would immerse his beats in dark, sinister soul sampling, pioneering the technique of speeding up or slowing down samples to fit the beat. He also fully realized the potential of the skit, using samples from John Woo's film The Killer to string the Cuban Linx album together into a loose storyline.
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 speeding 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:
Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time... We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement. From slang to style of dress, skits, the samples. Similar to the [production] style I use, RZA has been doing that.
Subsequent Wu group albums saw RZA become even more experimental, usually with soul samples as well as the layers added his beats. Around 1997 he began tutoring 4th Disciple, True Master and Mathematics in production. The early-mid 2000's have seen him move more toward smoother and more tightly-assembled productions, where the melody, drums, bass and other elements play more off each other than they previously had in his beats.
His Bobby Digital albums introduced tweaked-out new age elements to his sound; these have incorporated themselves more fully into his beats on newer albums such as Method Man's .
The way I produce now is I produce more like a musician," RZA said. "In the old days, I produced more like a DJ. I didn't understand music theory at all. Now that I do understand music theory, I make my music more playable, meaning not only could you listen to it, you could get someone else to play it. Before, you couldn't even write down Wu-Tang music. I think almost 80 percent of this record can be duplicated by a band, which is important for music, because that means 10 years from now, somebody can make a whole song out of it and cover it like how I'm covering the Beatles song.