Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu-Tang Clan, where to start with the Wu-Tang Clan? Wu-Tang Clan is easily the most prolific rap crew to ever hit the recording industry. Since it was formed in the early nineties the Wu-Tang Clan and it’s individual members have released dozens of albums and when you factor in all of the affiliated acts that Wu-Tang helped get noticed that number explodes, easily around fifty or more albums are associated. Truly a staggering number considering that many of those are top quality trend setting releases. It doesn’t stop with recordings though. They were one of the first rap acts to fully monetize their name and since the mid nineties they have released many products including; a clothing line, action figures even video games after their moniker. Wu-Tang’s members have gone on to become actors, producers, score movies, commentators, as a whole Wu-Tang is a spring board that helped many people find careers within and outside of the music industry.

Wu-Tang Clan was founded in 1992 in Staten Island, New York. It’s initial founders were RZA, GZA and Ol Dirty Bastard. Shortly before the same three had scored an underground hit with the song “All in Together Now” while performing under the same name. Despite their success with the NYC social scene they were unable to land a record contact and disbanded soon there after. Things would change in 1992 when the three joined forces again this time joined by some friends, Raekwon, Method Man, and Ghostface Killah. RZA(the group’s DJ) made a deal with the others that if they let me take the reins, in a production and business sense, he could guarantee the group success. He came up whit a five year plan. They would release a first album, then each member would release a solo album over the next 5 years after which they would release a final album. At the end of the five year period RZA said he would step away and let others take control, knowing that after five years all the hard work would be done and the Wu-Tang enterprise would be established. That’s a pretty ballsy stake to claim if you ask me but the others trusted RZA and he set out to do what he promised.

I think RZA’s business plan is what make’s Wu-Tang’s back story so interesting. This wasn’t the case of some kids messing around in college and creating a successful album. Wu-Tang’s success was purposeful, albums were released with a strategy behind them. RZA and the rest of the clan had been record industry outsiders that knew they could do better. They bucked the system in whatever way they could. For example, when Wu-Tang was shopping their first album around to record labels they knew they were going to be releasing solo albums in the future. With that in mind they sought after a label that would allow the solo albums to be released on other labels. This freed up the group from being married to a specific label which would in turn control them as a whole. The mothership “Wu-Tang Clan” would be tied to a specific label, RCA in this case, but the solo acts could start fresh with other labels. A very smart move, especially because they knew the potential that their solo follow up albums were to have.

So to make a long story short, in 1993 Wu-Tang released their first album, “Enter The Wu-Tang” and it was a huge success. In the following five years each member of Wu-Tang released solo albums, all to great success, some did even better then the mothership’s release. Then in 1997, five years after the release of their first album they released their second album, “Wu-Tang Forever”, which was their biggest seller to date. At this point RZA’s five year business plan was complete and he stepped away just like he said he would. Everything RZA had promised on he delivered plus some, truly a aspiring business story and a testament to RZA’s knowledge of the industry.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all of the solo albums but I’ll touch a bit on the mothership’s albums. The first two, Enter the Wu-Tang and Wu-Tang Forever are fantastic and I’d recommend them as a great starting point for anyone interested in Wu-Tang Clan. In the “The W” they faultered a bit but brought it back for their fourth album “Iron Flag”. I’m not too familiar with 8 Diagrams or Chamber Music. Wu-Tang’s sound is unique unto themselves. It’s dirty gritty NYC style rap, a little rough around the edges(especially the early stuff), a little dark but 100% honest and true to the streets they come from.

1) Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) [1993]
2) Wu-Tang Forever [1997]
3) The W [2000]
4) Iron Flag [2001]
5) 8 Diagrams [2007]
6) Chamber Music [2009]

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