The early ’90s brought about a lot of change in the music industry as hip-hop started to earn its wings and become marketable in the mainstream. One group that helped propel that evolution was the Wu-Tang Clan. They were convinced Loud/RCA to sign them as a group while allowing each solo member the freedom to work with whatever label they wanted to on their respective releases.
Then, of course, came Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which is, of course, one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. The mastermind behind it all, the RZA, proved to an already-lucrative hip-hop business that they needed to rethink how they went about conducting business. And just as he did nearly 20 years ago in music, he is now convincing all of Hollywood that the Wu-Tang ideology is worth buying into.
It has been a long time coming for the RZA, but it looks like his hard work is starting to make the same impact it once did during the original rise of the Wu. Although he’s been far from absent since that time, the last few years have served as a reinvention of the Wu-Tang brand as a whole. And leading the way is the RZA.
One could target the 2007 Wu-Tang album 8 Diagrams as a major low point for the group as a whole. The album received solid reviews, and I personally found it quite enjoyable. But the drama surrounding the artistic disagreement during the creative process and touring efforts made it clear the group wasn’t as strong as it once was. It appeared the solo success and respective egos of the likes of Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Method Man and more made it more difficult this time around to knock out a record of true impact.
For the most part, how could you blame a guy like Raekwon? He was busy recording Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II. And Method Man? Dude was making appearances in major studio films like Red Tails. Let’s not forget Wu-Massacre and the scattered “group” albums that, really, didn’t feature a majority of the Shaolin Monks. The fact of the matter was, everyone was busy doing other things, and 8 Diagrams came from a place that just wasn’t as organic as 36 Chambers or Wu-Tang Forever.
And who was the first to be blamed for this slow and steady demise? RZA. The leader always goes down first, but maybe it wasn’t the RZA that needed to be blamed entirely. After all, it was his vision that led this crew of heavyweights to where they are today, maybe they needed to trust the guy like that had in the first place. As RZA himself described the Wu-Tang situation, “this is organized confusion.”
So the story went, as all of the Wu-Tang members continued to crush it on the solo circuit, RZA continued to trudge along as well. But his musical career just wasn’t as powerful without the foundation behind him. He released the mediocre solo album Digi Snacks in 2008 on Koch, but it appeared the man’s passion was shifting towards film, soundtracks and other creative outlets. Proving that his methodology wasn’t just some gimmick, though, he has carried on his Wu-Tang ideology through each and every project he’s worked on. Even if he wasn’t directly working with the Clan as a whole.