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Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, better known by his stage name RZA ( ; born July 5, 1969), is an Americanmarker 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 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 rap group Gravediggaz where he used the name The Rzarector.

In 2009 he released The Tao of Wu, a book detailing the philosophy of the Wu Tang and his worldview. He is currently working on a kung-fu movie, entitled Man with the Iron Fist, the second in which he is writing, directing, as well as starring in. He has made cameos in several movies including Coffee and Cigarettes, American Gangster, Gospel Hill, Life Is Hot in Cracktown, and Funny People.

Life and career

1969-1991: Early life & career

Born in Brownsville, Brooklynmarker, New Yorkmarker, RZA spent time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker as a child, where his father had a convenience store in the Hill District. A young RZA also spent many years living in North Carolina with his aunt. 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 acclaimed 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 inmost of his music. brenda

As said in a Film Comment interview. (May/June 2008)

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 . 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.

1994–1996:Gravediggaz and Wu-Tang Solo Projects: Round One

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:

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 beats on average to each record as well as receiving an Executive Producer credit.

He also reformed with the Gravediggaz for the album The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel, a calmer and more mature album than their horrorcore-oriented debut.

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:

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 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. 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.

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 UKmarker's Skinnyman, Francemarker's Saïan Supa Crew, Germanymarker's Xavier Naidoo and Italymarker's Frankie Hi-NRG MC) entitled The World According to RZA, which was successful in many countries, despite not being sold in the United Statesmarker.

2005-Present: Solo Projects: Round Three

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 American adaptation 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, is set to be finished in mid-January. The first single is "Dueces".

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. 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 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:

After releasing the third "Bobby Digital" album, Digi Snacks, RZA has completed work on the upcoming sequel to Raekwon's mafioso rap classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., as well as the second installment of the Afro Samurai soundtrack.

Various Wu-Recording labels

Since the early 1990s, several "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.











Mentality and Leadership

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, 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 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 releases.

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 .

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:

In the same interview, he also mentioned his lack of concern of illegal downloading of his own music, for he simply wants to be seen and heard:

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:

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:

Film career

Acting

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 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.

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 LA Film Festival.

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 as "Moses Jones". American Gangster is a 2007 crime drama film directed by Ridley Scott starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

He recently performed cameo roles in Funny People, 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.

He was recently cast in the comedy film Due Date alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. The film is to be directed by Todd Phillips.

Directing

Very little is known about his directing history, although he once directed and starred in an unreleased Bobby Digital movie. It hasn't seen the light of day, due to feeling that it wasn't good enough. In regards to the movie, he said:

However, there is a brief Bobby Digital film trailer, which can be seen on youtube.com. He was once asked about directing:

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. In regards to the movie, Eli said:

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 the 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 well known for having multiple aliases, for different lyrical styles and personalities: Prince Rakeem, The Abbot, Bobby Digital, Bobby Steels. 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 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, 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:

Controversies

In 2000 the Village Voice ran a story about the FBImarker 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 The 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 The 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:

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:

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.

Production style and influence

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; for instance, he created the piano part to "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" after watching the Thelonious Monk documentary, Straight, No Chaser.

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:

In response, RZA himself has spoken quite positively of the comparisons:

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 Beatles song being covered is "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" for the 8 Diagrams album. It was titled "The Heart Gently Weeps" and features Erykah Badu, John Frusciante, Dhani Harrison, Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Raekwon The Chef.

Discography



References

External links




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