â€˜I zag while others zigâ€™
By Nick Edwards
Published: January 19 2008 01:04 | Last updated: January 19 2008 01:04
At a Los Angeles airport, fiancÃ©e by his side, RZA, the rapper, actor, soundtrack composer and producer of the legendary hip-hop outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, sits with his new baby on his knee. The erstwhile Robert Diggs is trying to fit in a rare family break while promoting his bandâ€™s first album in seven years, and talking to me with his mobile phone pressed to his ear.
Itâ€™s 15 years since WTC released their legendary debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). â€œWe were like a whole youth group or boysâ€™ home,â€ RZA (pronounced riz-ah) says fondly of the original nine-strong band made up of friends and family from Staten Island, New York. Their music depicted the dirty heart of America in the 1990s, in the same way that the gangster films of Martin Scorsese or Brian De Palma did for the 1970s. A flurry of classic solo releases from other band members â€“ GZA/The Genius, Raekwon, ODB (Olâ€™ Dirty Bastard), Ghostface Killah and Method Man â€“ followed, though they are generally considered collective Wu-Tang releases as they were all produced by RZA and featured all the group members.
Their gritty raw sound dominated hip-hop during this period. To the wider world, the horrific depictions in their lyrics of the fresh blood of a crime scene or a sexually debased act summed up all that was bad about hip-hop, and Gangsta rap in particular. Yet the multilayered lyrical style, which embraces references from mythology and politics, literature and graphic novels, always underpinned by producer RZAâ€™s ground-breaking techniques, gave fans of the genre an experience of depth and soul far beyond that of their contemporaries.
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