Given Name: Robert Fitzgerald Diggs
Aliases: Prince Rakeem, Bobby Digital, Bobby Steels, The Abbott, Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah, The Rzarector
Occupations: Producer, Rapper, Author, Director, Actor, Screenwriter
Early Life: RZA grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn in an one bedroom apartment along with his mother and 10 other siblings. He captured an interest in hip hop at a very early age and first heard a rap record at the age of 8. One of his first involvements in the game began when he created a hip hop group with his cousins GZA and ODB.
Studio albums: Bobby Digital in Stereo (1998), Digital Bullet (2001), Birth of a Prince (2003), Digi Snacks (2008)
EPs: Ooh I Love You Rakeem (1991), Only One Place To Get It (2014)
Collaborative albums – Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (1994), Gravediggaz – The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel (1997)
From 1993-2013: 30 albums executively produced
Soundtracks: Ghost Dog (1999), Kill Bill Vol. 1 Original Soundtrack (2003), Kill Bill Vol. 2 Original Soundtrack (2004), Soul Plane (2004), Blade: Trinity (2004), The Protector (2005), Blood of a Champion (2006), Afro Samurai: The Album (2007), Babylon A.D. (2008), Afro Samurai Resurrection (2009), The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
Career highlights: RZA is credited as one of the founding members of Wu-Tang Clan, which he helped form after he signed his first deal with Tommy Records. He took leadership of the group and played the biggest role in the group’s production of music, while also rapping. With his executive production behind Wu-Tang’s first album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), he then went on to play this role in a majority of their albums. RZA has always been well-sought after for his production skills. He has made tracks for the rest of the Wu-Tang members in addition to likes of Notorious B.I.G. and also Jay Z and Kanye West. Alongside this, RZA also has clocked up a very respectable discography as a solo artist from; he released his first solo effort Bobby Digital in Stereo in 1998.
His production skills have also been utilized in numerous soundtracks including the "Kill Bill" volumes. RZA has also taken up acting roles in the past in films such as "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," "Due Date," and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."
Sound: RZA has been known by his peers for his distinct sound when making records with the way his chops up samples, and speeds up and slows down tracks.
Strengths: It comes as no surprise that RZA’s main strength in music is his exceptional production skills which has spread his influence throughout hip hop and into movies as well. The RZArector should also be credited for his acting skills, we've seen him featured in movies and on television since 1999.
What’s Next: RZA was most recently featured in the film "Brick Mansions," and also plays a role in the TV series which has just hit our screens, "Gang Related." On the music front, RZA and Raekwon have been reported to have reunited after a light feud as they look to release a new Wu-Tang album in July 2014.
Given Name: Corey Woods
Aliases: The Chef
Occupations: Rapper, Label Owner of ICEH20 Records
Studio albums: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), Immobilarity (1999), The Lex Diamond Story (2003), Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II (2009), Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang (2011)
Collaborative albums: Wu Massacre – with Method man & Ghostface Killah (2010), The Tonite Show (with DJ Fresh) (2013)
Mixtapes: The Chef Vs. The Butcher (with CHOPS) (2004), The Vatican Mixtape Vol. 1 (2006), The Vatican Mixtape Vol. 2 The DaVinci Code (2006), Heroin Only (2006), The Vatican Mixtape Vol. 3 House of Wax (2007), Cuban Revolution (2009), Blood on Chef’s Apron (2009), Staten Go Hard Vol. 1 (2009), Coke Up in da Dollar Bill (2010), The Vatican Mixtape Vol. 4 (2010), Cocainism Vol.2 (2010), Trouble Makers (2011), Unexpected Victory (2012), Lost Jewlry (2013)
EPs: Dope on the Table (2011)
Compilation albums: The Babygrande Recordings (2009)
Early Life: Raekwon grew up in Brooklyn with his mother. He soon moved to Staten Island and lived in the Park Hill Projects. He grew up influenced by the crime around him and quickly started drug dealing.
Career highlights: Along with his success in Wu-Tang, Raekwon released his first solo album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx in 1995 after signing a deal with Loud Records a year before. Raekwon went onto work with a number of artists including Allure and Fat Joe. He also worked with many producers for his fourth album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II including Busta Rhymes, Dre as well RZA. The album was well received by the industry and fans.
Sound: Raekwon is known for his gangsta rap, being a specialist in the Mafioso style.
Strengths: The Chef definitely has an untestable ability in providing rich narratives of the streets. He brings the fact of the gangsta life to you but at the same time can be wildly abstract.
What’s Next: Raekwon is due his release his sixth solo album this year, Fly International Luxurious Art.
Latest Track: "Call Of Duty" feat. Akon
Given Name: Lamont Jody Hawkins
Aliases: Universal God, Golden Arms, Four Bar Killer
Occupations: Rapper, Beatboxer
Early Life: U-God grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn but moved to Staten Island during his childhood. At a very young age, he started beat-boxing. The rapper was also good friends and grew up with Method Man, Raekwon and Inspectah Deck. U-God was mentored in rap by Cappadonna. Using drug money, U-God also put himself through college studying Business Management before Wu-Tang really kicked in.
Releases: Golden Arms Redemption LP (1999), U-Godzilla Presents the Hillside Scramblers (with The Hillside Scramblers) (2004) – collaborative album, Mr Xcitement (2005), Dopium (2009), The Keynote Speaker (2013)
Career highlights: Although U-God did not feature heavily on Wu-Tang’s debut effort 36 Chambers, as he was doing time in jail due to possession of narcotics, he made an impact on the group’s second album Wu Tang Forever. U-God’s distinct voice also made him instantly recognizable to fans. U God was the eighth member to release music as a solo artist when he dropped his first effort Golden Arms Redemption (1999). Following that he has gone on to release three more solo records.
Sound: U-God is known for his ability to alternate his sound between gruffy and smooth. His style is rhythmic yet distinctly bass-like.
Strengths: U-God’s rap skills are pretty dope. Although he didn’t appear much on Wu Tang’s first album, his cameo appearance on "Protect Ya Neck" stands out and is often claimed by many to be the best verse on the track.
Ol' Dirty Bastard
Given Name: Russell Tyrone Jones
Aliases: O.D.B., Ason Unique, Osirus, The Specialist, Dirt McGirt, Big Baby Jesus
Age: Died age 35 in November 2004
Occupations: Rapper, Producer
Studio albums: Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (1995), Nigga Please (1999), Message To The Other Side: Osirus Part 1 (2009)
Live albums: Free To Be Dirty! Live (2005)
Mixtapes: Osirus (2005)
EPs: O.D.B.E.P. (1996)
Compilation albums: The Dirty Story: The Best of Ol’ Dirty Bastard (2001), The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones (2002), The Definitive Ol' Dirty Bastard Story (2005), In Memory Of... Vol. 3 (2007), The Last Tape (Greatest Hits) (2011)
Early Life: ODB was born and raised in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York. Growing up poor, his family was often on welfare support. He was close to his cousins, RZA and GZA as a child. Together with their love for martial arts and hip hop, they formed the group Force of the Imperial Master, which soon became All in Together Now, and later Wu-Tang with the addition of the others.
Career highlights: Ol’ Dirty Bastard quickly gained his own distinct identity within Wu-Tang with his crazy flows. He released his first solo album in 1995 with Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, which brought him several hits including “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. The album went platinum. He also featured on the remix for Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”. ODB also helped Wu-Tang hit success with their second album Wu Tang Forever which featured the bizarre track including ODB’s ranting, “Dog Shit”. In 1998, the rapper also launched his own clothing line, My Dirty Wear. Sadly much of ODB’s career was plagued with heavy drug abuse, erratic behaviour, and run-ins with the police.
Sound: ODB’s sound was known to many as being unpredictable. He rapping style was half-sung, half-rapped, with the use of free associative rhyming.
Strengths: ODB is one of the founding members of Wu-Tang. His rapping style was unusual, but his erratic style and behaviour attracted a very solid fan base. Later his talent and his abilities in music were constantly disrupted by incidents and jail sentences.
Given Name: Clifford Smith
Aliases: Meth, Mr Mef
Occupations: Rapper, Actor, Producer
Studio albums: Tical (1994), Tical 2000: Judgement Day (1998), Tical 0: The Prequel (2004), 4:21…The Day After (2006)
Collaborative albums: Blackout! (with Redman) (1999), Blackout! 2 (with Redman) (2009), Wu-Massacre (Ghostface Killah & Raekwon) (2010)
Early Life: Method Man was born in Hempstead, Long Island. As his parents split up during his childhood, his time was spent separated between living with his mother in Staten Island and residing with his father in Long Island. It was in Staten Island that Meth met GZA, ODB, and RZA.
Career highlights: Method has no doubt been a very important player for Wu-Tang. On their debut album, he was granted a solo track, “Method Man”. The rapper also benefited from the group’s contract which allowed each of them to pursue solo careers as well as being a part of Wu-Tang. In 1994, Meth inked a deal with Def Jam Records becoming the first Wu member to release a solo record which was titled Tical. Method Man also went onto to work with some huge players in the game jumping on tracks for Biggie, 2 Pac. Meth went on Jay Z’s Hard Knock Life Tour. His profound work with partner Redman led to a very successful album Blackout! The rapper has also had success in the acting world starring in "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "The Wire" and films such as "Belly," and "How High."
Sound: Method Man has always been known for exhibiting impressive talents as a lyricist. He is imaginative with his rhymes with his low, deep voice and relaxed flow.
Strengths: Meth is extremely creative when it comes to his pen skills, being quite particular with his writing approach. The star’s popularity and success in no doubt clear from him being the first to breakaway into a solo career. Method Man has also been able to extend himself rather successfully into acting, whilst also featuring in a few music videos such as for Alicia Keys’ “I Ain’t Got You”.
What’s Next: Meth continues to tour overseas with partner Redman.
Given Name: Elgin Turner
Aliases: Noodles, Jamel Irief, High Chief
Studio albums: No Said Date (2004), Made In Brookyln (2006), Selling My Soul (2012)
Live albums: Masta Killa Live (2010)
Early Life: Masta Killa was born in Staten Island. At a young age he was very much into B-boying but not quite an avid MC. Rapping was something that came later in life, and was built on while he was being mentored by GZA.
Career highlights: Masta Killa was the very last member to join Wu Tang Clan. He only appeared on “Da Mystery of Chessboxin” as he was incarcerated at the time. He contributed his rapping talents to a host of solo records made by his group members such as Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and GZA’s Liquid Swords. He was the last Wu-Tang member to bring out his own solo project, No Said Date which contained production from RZA. The record received much praise and was a piece of work that Killa took some years to make. Since then he has released two more solo albums the most recent being Selling My Soul in 2013. He has also made a number of guest appearances on tracks by other Wu-Tang members as well as other artists such as Kurupt, Slick Rick, and Public Enemy.
Sound: Although Masta Killa picked up rapping quite late, he has carved out a sound that is smooth and steadily paced with the inclusion of intellectual lyrics.
Strengths: Killa showed his talent on Wu-Tang’s second album with his outstanding lines. The rapper comes across as the serious and mysterious one in the Clan but this is because of his focus on his craft, "I know I seem serious and quiet to a lot of the fans. That's because I take my work seriously. It's not a game” (Wu-Tang Corp).
Given Name: Jason Hunter
Aliases: Rollie Fingers, Fifth Brother, Rebel INS
Occupations: Rapper, Producer
Studio albums: Uncontrolled Substance (1999), The Movement (2003), The Resident Patient (2006), Manifesto (2010) Czarface (2013)
Early Life: Deck grew up in the Park Hill Projects in Clifton Staten Island. He attended school with a few of the Wu members. He was raised by his mother after his father died when Deck was just six years old. The rapper came from a musical family.
Career highlights: Inspectah Deck played an important role on Wu-Tang’s first offering Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). He is the second most featured member on the record, appearing on “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Protect Ya Neck”. This has always given Deck a relatively high profile amongst fellow members, not to mention his crucial role on subsequent albums. Deck wrote the group’s hit “Triumph” and also played a role on production for his fellow Wu mates. The rapper released his own solo material quite late, dropping Uncontrolled Substance in 1999.
Sound: Inspectah Deck is known for his lyrical abilities having offered many verses in Wu-Tang’s discography. He has always been impressive for his flow and rhyming techniques which is so aptly displayed in tracks such as “Triumph”.
Strengths: Deck’s strengths lie in his rapping abilities and his lyricism, but he has also carved out a place for himself in the production world.
What’s Next: Inspectah Deck is due to release an album with 7L & Esoteric this year titled, Czarface 2.
Given Name: Gary Grice
Aliases: The Genius
Occupations: Rapper, Songwriter
Studio albums: Words from the Genius (1991), Liquid Swords (1995), Beneath the Surface (1999), Legend of the Liquid Sword (2002), GrandMasters (2005), Pro Tools (2008), Dark Matter (2014)
Early Life: From a young age, The Genius would often attend block parties, meeting up with his cousins RZA and ODB. Growing up, he would carefully study the game. In their early group, All in Together Now, they performed in local shows rapping, DJing, travelling between Brooklyn and Staten Island and New York City to get together. GZA signed a deal with Cold Chillin’ Records very early on before the formation of Wu–Tang.
Career highlights: GZA appeared heavily on Wu’s debut album, and got himself a solo track on the record, “Clan in da front”. His large presence on the subsequent albums continued, and gained him much respect. As a solo artist, despite underachieving with Words from the Genius, he made a huge impact with Liquid Swords in 1995. The record is said to be one of the best that has come from Wu-Tang. Since then, GZA has been fairly consistent with his work, releasing several solo albums. He also worked with Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs on the record Grandmasters.
Sound: GZA’s sound is recognized for his high quality lyricism, with intricate rhyming.
Strengths: GZA’s biggest strength is no doubt his rapping skills. The Source placed him on their list of "Top 50 Lyricists of All Time." Many consider him to be the best rapper in the Clan. Being the oldest member and the first to cop a solo deal, his influence in the group is well-known, dubbed by many as the “spiritual head” of the group.
What’s Next: GZA’s forthcoming album Dark Matter is due to drop this year.
Given Name: Dennis Coles
Aliases: Ghost, Tony Starks, GFK, Ghostface, Ghost Deini, Ghostdini, Ironman, Starky Love, Pretty Toney, P Tone
Occupations: Rapper, Songwriter, Label Owner of Starks Enterprises, Actor
Studio albums: Ironman (1996), Supreme Clientele (2000), Bulletproof Wallets (2001), The Pretty Toney Album (2004), Fishscale (2006), More Fish (2006), The Big Doe Rehab (2007), Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (2009), Apollo Kids (2010), Twelve Reasons to Die (2013)
Collaborations albums: 718 (with Theodore Unit) (2004), Put It On The Line (with the Tride Da God) (2005), Wu-Massacre (with Raekwon & Method Man) (2010), Wu Block (with Sheek Louch) (2012)
Compilation albums: Shaolin’s Finest (2003), Hidden Darts: Special Edition (2007), The Wallabee Champ (2008), Ghostdeini the Great (2008)
Early Life: Ghostface was born in Staten Island, New York. Growing up, he and his family were impoverished. He is considered one of the original members of Wu-Tang as he helped to bring the remaining seven members together after he roomed with RZA.
Career highlights: Whilst Ghostface Killah wasn’t one of the most known members in Wu, as a member his inclusion did help launch his own music career which gained him more recognition. His talent was showcased on Raekwon’s solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Next, Ghostface successfully released his first solo album Ironman, which was very well-received. Following this, the rapper dropped several hit records including Supreme Clientele and Fishscale. Ghost also contributed tracks to a handful of film soundtracks including Sunset Park. The rapper has also had successes in acting appearing in "Iron Man" in 2008, the TV series "30 Rock." He has also made a number of appearances in a few of Def Jam’s video games.
Sound: Ghost is known for his vivid imagination which makes him one of the best storytelling rappers in the game. His spitting is fast-paced and Ghostface’s distinct voice no doubt makes his music instantly recognizable.
Strengths: Ghostface Killah may have set out his strengths the best way when he said, "I'll make a nigga cry in a minute. I'll make you happy. I'll make a bitch wanna fuck you…Those are my techniques. And that's the advantage I have over a lot of MCs, because a lot of them is stuck so much in one way, once they try to come out of that realm, people might not take them seriously. I'm a universal rapper."
What’s Next: Ghostface is set to drop Supreme Clientele Presents... Blue & Cream: The Wally Era this year.
HNHH gives you the lowdown on one of the biggest groups in hip hop history, Wu-Tang Clan, for this week's edition of Crew Love.
Few can disagree that Wu-Tang Clan has made a huge impact on rap music. The Clan, built up of it's main members RZA, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah, U-God and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard were successful not only as a supergroup but also in many of their respective solo careers.
There are not many groups that can boast the success of Wu-Tang. Together they have released 5 studio albums, 15 singles and 19 compilation albums. These statistics do not even include the legacies that each of them have built as solo artists. It is estimated that Wu-Tang has sold over 6.5 million records in the US and 40 million worldwide. Impressive does not even begin to describe their work.
Each member of Wu played their own role and is talented in their own right, which is no doubt reflected by their solo careers. We're taking a look at the careers of the Clan's official members for this week's Crew Love.