Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, better known by his stage
name RZA (pronounced /'r?z?/; born July 5, 1969), is an American
Grammy-winning music producer, author, rapper, and occasional actor,
director, and screenwriter. A prominent figure in hip hop music,
he is the de facto leader of the 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 is widely considered one of the most influential and
landmark hip-hop producers of all time. He subsequently gained attention
for his work scoring and acting in films.
He has also released solo albums under the alter-ego Bobby Digital.
In addition to the Wu-Tang Clan and his solo releases, RZA was also
a founding member of the horrorcore rap group Gravediggaz where he
used the name The Rzarector.
He has also acted in several movies including Coffee and Cigarettes,
American Gangster, Gospel Hill, Life Is Hot in Cracktown, Ghost Dog,
Funny People, Derailed, Due Date and Repo Men.
In 2008, RZA was ranked number four on About.com's best hip hop
producers of all time list.
Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, RZA spent time in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania as a child, where his father had a convenience store
in the Hill District. He was named after Robert Kennedy and John
Fitzgerald Kennedy. A young RZA also spent many years living in
North Carolina with his uncle. RZA began his hip
hop career in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as a member of the
trio Force of the Imperial Master (which subsequently became known
as the All in Together Now Crew after they had a successful underground
single of that name). The group consisted of future Wu-Tang members
and his cousins GZA (then known as the Genius) and Ol' Dirty Bastard
(then known as Ason Unique, the Specialist, and the Professor).
Once this local band dissolved, both he and the GZA attempted to
kick start solo careers. With the help of GZA's friend (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.
 1992-1993: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
From this determination came the Wu-Tang Clan (named after Shaolin
and Wu Tang, a kung fu movie), formed with The GZA/Genius and Ol'
Dirty Bastard as well as with 6 others (Inspectah Deck/Rebel INS,
Raekwon the Chef, Method Man, Masta Killa, U-God/Golden Arms and
Ghostface Killah). With the Clan, Prince Rakeem started going by
the name RZA (Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah).
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, the resurgence in large part thanks to RZA's lean, gritty
and very distinctive production style.
 1994–1996: Gravediggaz and Wu-Tang solo projects: Round
As each of the group's members embarked on solo careers, 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). 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....
During this time, RZA also took part in the creation of a hip hop
subgenre called horrorcore 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 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. [Ol' Dirty Bastard] came
to his house a lot of times with me. [Method Man], 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.
 1997: Wu-Tang Forever
The success of Wu-Tang Forever, which hit number one on the charts
after selling 600,000 in its first week, also marked the end of RZA's "five
year plan"; at the group's inception, he promised the group
if he had total dictatorial control of the Wu-Tang empire, it would
conquer the hip hop world within five years.
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.
 1998-1999: Gravediggaz and Wu-Tang solo projects: Round two
During the 1998–2000 period RZA ceased to produce every Wu-Tang
solo album as he had done previously, but continued to contribute
usually one or two songs on average to each record as well as receiving
an Executive Producer credit.
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
RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo was an 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 mixed reviews at best.
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.
 2000: The W
After helming another Wu-Tang group album titled The W (his production
on which received much praise) and providing narration to a Clan
greatest hits album titled The RZA Hits, RZA released another Bobby
Digital album, 2001's Digital Bullet. Digital Bullet was an attempt
to develop Bobby Digital further, and the album followed a loose
story arc which saw the character becoming more "enlightened" and
more disillusioned with hedonism as the album went on.
 2001-2004: Post The W solo projects
In 1999 the RZA moved into composing film scores. His first work,
Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), earned praise;
he also had brief cameo in the film itself, as a fellow samurai wearing
camouflage. The experience was positive and, as he noted during an
interview on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, the work with traditional
musicians gave him the desire to learn how to read and write music.
The critical success of the Ghost Dog soundtrack led to further
work. RZA created and produced the original music for Quentin Tarantino's
Kill Bill series, as well as Blade: Trinity, and Soul Plane. 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, 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
 2005-Present: Solo projects: Round three
RZA at the 2007 Eurockéennes.
In 2005 RZA released the long-gestating book The Wu-Tang Manual,
an in-depth discussion of the Wu-Tang terms, Wu-Tang members, merchandise,
movies and inspirations. RZA continued to act in and score movies
such as Derailed, Blood of a Champion and Miami Vice. He also contributed
two bonus tracks for the reissued soundtrack to the Luc Besson film
Unleashed, starring Jet Li. In 2006, as a producer, he contributed
to five tracks on Method Man's latest album 4:21... The Day After
and also executive produced the project.
In late January 2007 he announced that he was working on a fourth
album titled, Digi Snacks, which continues the further adventures
of Bobby Digital. The album was released on June 24, 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.
Before signing with SRC Records in early 2007, RZA was flooded with
offers from Bad Boy Records, Aftermath Records, Interscope and Def
Jam among others for the Wu-Tang Clan super-group.
In 2007, he did the score of the Japanese anime Afro Samurai starring
Samuel L. Jackson. He recently and quietly released an instrumental
album entitled, The RZA-Instrumental Experience, and worked with
Raekwon on his highly anticipated Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. Talks
are on between System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian and RZA regarding
a collaboration between the two artists called Achozen. RZA has
stated in an interview that he is involved in the project. A
self-titled album, Achozen, was set to be finished in mid-January
2009 but as of late 2010 had not yet been released. The first single
RZA performing with Wu-Tang at the Virgin Music Festival.
RZA announced on September 10, 2008 that a partnership with global
digital music group The Orchard will market Wu's extensive catalogue
worldwide in digital and physical formats. The deal includes 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.
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 being launched 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. ”
He has also confirmed that he will be solely-producing Liquid Swords
II with GZA, which is tentatively due in Fall 2010. Also, it
has been reported that RZA has been in Hawaii working with Kanye
West on the latter's fifth album, Dark Twisted Fantasy.
RZA has also formed a musical alliance with System of a Down's Shavo
Odadjian, Kinetic 9 and the Reverend William Burke from Chicago for
the band Achozen. Music from Achozen also appears on the major motion
picture, Babylon A.D., on which Achozen song "Deuces" is
heard blaring at the introduction of the film. The four principal
members feel that their unique sound is not only spiritual in nature,
but a new genre of "heavy hip hop", not "rap-metal".
Achozen's first live show was at the Key Club in LA in December 1,
2006. On Friday, November 13, 2009 the second Achozen track "Salute/Sacrifice" was
released exclusively as a free download on Odadjian's online art
district and networking site, Ursession from the upcoming Achozen
debut album. The Achozen album was anticipated to be released
in mid-2010  but no firm release date had been scheduled by the
end of 2010.
 Various Wu-recording labels
Since the early 1990s, several 'various Wu recording labels' were
established. The earlier labels are believed to be dissolved. The
connection that RZA had to these labels were unknown.
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.
* Wu-Tang Records
* Razor Sharp Records
* 36 Chambers Records and Wu Music Group
* Wu-Tang International
 Mentality and leadership
This section contains too many quotations for an encyclopedic entry. Please
help improve the article by removing excessive quotations or transferring
them to Wikiquote. Help is available. (December 2009)
RZA promoting The Tao of Wu, a book describing the philosophy of the Wu-Tang.
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, he would then
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, 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 oversaw 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 relinquished his dictatorship,
thus taking complete control of fewer solo projects between group
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.
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. ”
Unlike the average hip hop musician, he has shown little or no concern
about illegal downloading, for he feels that it has little impact
on the music industry:
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 the 1990s, the Wu-Tang Clan was one of the first hip hop acts
to have a clothing line. However, throughout the following years
to the 2000s, nearly every hip hop act has followed suit and created
their own clothing line. In response, RZA spoke on his views on the
oversaturation of the hip hop clothing market:
Yeah. That's what happens. It's good and it's bad. It's helped a
lot of hip hop artists. It's fed them more than the record business,
in some cases. It's bad, too, because you have companies like Mecca,
Akademiks, Karl Kani, FUBU. FUBU's almost gone already, it feels
like. You got a lot of these other companies disappearing because
of hip-hop. It's a really strange thing. But I think it's good for
hip-hop, because one thing that's better — don't take this
politically, or no shit like that — we all grew up with Polo
and Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger and all that. I can respect Andy
Hilfiger, because he did reach out to the hip hop community, but
Tommy, the most he ever did for hip hop was send some free clothes
to Grand Puba. But now blacks have a choice, and we design our own
styles. And they're copying us, so it's ironic. ”
 Film career
In addition to working behind the scenes on movie scores, RZA has
been active on-screen as well. He has made cameo appearances as himself
in numerous major motion pictures throughout the course of his career
such as Be Cool, Scary Movie 3, Don't Be a Menace to South Central
While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. RZA has also made cameo various
appearances in the films Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Rhyme & Reason.
His acting career began to rise in the mid 2000s alongside fellow
Wu-Tang member and cousin GZA in one segment of Jim Jarmusch's Coffee
and Cigarettes opposite Bill Murray. He and GZA have also made appearances
on Chappelle's Show and Upright Citizens Brigade.
He followed up with a big role in the hit 2005 film Derailed. The
same year, he served as the Artist in Residence for the Los Angeles
Rza was also given the duties of producing the soundtrack to the
Afro Samurai series and movie.
Originally, he was offered the role of "Brown" in The
Departed (2006), but turned it down because of scheduling conflicts.
His biggest acting role to date, is in American Gangster by Ridley
Scott, as "Moses Jones" whose real-life name is "Edward
He performed cameo roles in Funny People, Gospel Hill, and Life
Is Hot in Cracktown. He was also said to be attached to friend Quentin
Tarantino's Kill Bill project in one way or another, featuring as
a solo artist on the soundtrack to Kill Bill 1 and selecting some
other songs for the soundtrack too. In 2010, RZA appeared in the
science fiction action film Repo Men.
In 2010, he appeared in the comedy film Due Date alongside Robert
Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, and directed by Todd Phillips.
RZA appeared as a wrongly convicted felon in the pilot episode of
RZA at The New Yorker in 2005.
RZA directed and starred in an unreleased Bobby Digital movie, saying
I still got it. I made it. Actually, I did like two 45-minute episodes.
The Bobby Digital character, he's a superhero at one point, right.
But then he's also just this fucking guy in the streets at another
point. I did one episode based on, like, '89. I did one episode that
was supposed to be like 10 years later. I've still got a lot of faith
in the character. I'm hoping to maybe get a comic-book deal or something.
I have these people talking to me, stuff like that. ”
He was once asked about directing:
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
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. "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. ”
Man with the Iron Fist. Directors Quentin Tarantino
and Eli Roth are involved, according to several movie Web sites.
In regards to the movie, Eli said:
This movie will have everything martial arts fans could want, combined
with RZA's superb musical talent. This project has been his dream
for years, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. And fans should know
that yes, there will be blood... This ain't no PG-13. ”
He is also co-producing a movie remake of The Last Dragon, with
Samuel L. Jackson assuming the role of Sho'nuff. John Davis of Davis
Entertainment and Gordy's son Kerry Gordy, along with RZA are set
to produce. Penning the screenplay as well as producing is Dallas
Jackson, who heads up the urban family label DJ Classicz with Davis.
Rihanna is rumored to appear in the movie as Laura Charles.
 Various names and aliases
RZA is known for having multiple aliases, for different lyrical
styles and personalities: Prince Rakeem, The Abbot, Bobby Digital,
Bobby Steels, the Scientist, Prince Delight, Prince Dynamite, Ruler
Zig-Zag-Zig Allah. During his time with the Gravediggaz, he went
by the name the Rzarector, which is for waking up the mentally dead.
 Personal life
He was once affiliated with the Nation of Gods and Earths but has
stated 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, Confucianism, and Christianity as stated
in his book The Wu-Tang Manual as well as Hinduism which he talks
about thoroughly in The Tao of Wu in order to expand his spiritual
growth. He has gone on to state that Qur'an, The Bible, and Lotus
Sutra are three of his favorite books stating that each of the three
contain enlightenment. One of his favorite hobbies consists of watching
martial arts films, and he is considered to be an "encyclopedia
of martial arts films", due to his vast knowledge of the genre.
His second well-known hobby is chess, for he is a director of development,
and champion of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. He was
once married, and believed to have 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. ”
Along with a number of members in the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA is vegetarian.
In 2000 the Village Voice ran a story about the FBI infiltrating
the Wu-Tang Clan through a criminal-turned-informant named Michael
Caruso, who got a job as the personal manager for Ghostface Killah
and Cappadonna. Several other members of the group did not like Caruso,
however his ties with Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna got him into
the inner circles of the Wu. 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, however these restrictions
were lifted in return for providing information on the group. The
federal government turned their head and allowed Caruso to tour around
the country with Wu-Tang as long as he was kicking back info on their
involvement in 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, 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 RZA himself.
Fox News reported that in mid-2007 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 RZA, claiming it was contradictory
due to RZA's felony record, FBI investigation, ties to the Gambino
family and his music lyrics. RZA referred to the investigation
in one of his lyrics, "Plus, feds had one ad saying I gun traff'
/ I sold 20 million records bitch, some laugh."
In a recent interview with MTV he stated, in response to 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
Recently he was accused by several members that he mishandled money.
While in the UK, 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". 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 ever 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
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! ”
 Production style and influence
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He has stated that 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". According
to himself, RZA tries to have no more than 20 to 25% of the latter
type of sampling on any given record, something starkly different
from many other major hip hop groups. He played much of the piano
himself, with Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk as major influences.
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
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.
In 1997, Icelandic avant-pop star Björk commissioned RZA a
remix for her "Bachelorette song". In addition, RZA was
later featured on a TV biography about Björk called Inside Björk.
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,
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. ”
In response, RZA himself has spoken quite positively of the comparisons:
All good. I got super respect for Kanye. He came up to me about a
year or two ago. He gave me mad praising and blessings... For people
to say Wu-Tang inspire Kanye, Kanye is one of the biggest artists
in the world. That goes back to what we say: 'Wu-Tang is forever.'
Kanye is going to inspire people to be like him." After hearing
Kanye's work on The Blueprint, RZA claimed that a torch-passing had
occurred between him and West, saying, "The shoes gotta be filled.
If you ain't gonna do it, somebody else is gonna do it. That's how
I feel about rap today." ”
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 4:21... The Day After.
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. ”
The Beatles song being covered is "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" for
the album 8 Diagrams. It was titled "The Heart Gently Weeps" and
features Erykah Badu, John Frusciante, Dhani Harrison, Ghostface
Killah, Method Man and Raekwon.
In a recent 2010 radio interview with UK hip hop station Conspiracy
Worldwide Radio, RZA spoke in great detail about the homemade, candid
ethos of much of his classic work, including the organic creation
process behind ODB's debut album.
Main article: RZA discography
* Ooh I Love You Rakeem (1991)
* Bobby Digital in Stereo (1998)
* Digital Bullet (2001)
* Birth of a Prince (2003)
* Digi Snacks (2008)