“From the slums of Shaolin…the Wu-Tang Clan strikes again.” With this one phrase, the Wu-Tang Clan etched their place in Hip Hop culture’s Mount Rushmore. Delivering metaphorical, thought provoking, revolutionary lyrics and concepts, the Wu-Tang Clan is the best Hip Hop Group of all time. Though their style was uncanny and unpredictable, they adorned the masses with tales of street life in Staten Island, more popularly referred to as ‘Shaolin’ and personal tales of failure as well as triumph.
With a 20-year track record, the Wu-Tang Clan is undeniably the greatest Hip Hop group of all time.
Bursting on the scene in 1993 with their smash album, “Enter the 36 Chambers,” the Clan introduced nine members who were from rival projects in Staten Island, but banded together under a producer named the Rza. The Rza, and his cousin, Gza, moved to Staten Island from Brooklyn and begun producing and rapping on a small scale level. While Rza and Gza were responsible for the musical portion of the super group, Oliver Power Grant and Divine Mitchell Diggs, Rza’s brother took the background approach and focused on molding the group into an actual brand and business.
In 1993, the group released the smash single “Protect Ya Neck.” The rest, as they say, is history. Following the single’s success, the group recorded and released their debut album, “Enter The 36 Chambers” which sold over two million copies in the United States alone. The group drew much inspiration from vintage Kung Fu movies and principles, even adopting names that reflected ancient Kung Fu Masters.
Following their debut album’s success, a cult-like following began to form and the Wu-Tang Clan had helped remove Staten Island from the “forgotten borough” category. The Wu-Tang Clan was the first and still to this day, only Hip Hop group that managed to assemble nine members who had once been adversaries, with completely different rhyme styles, patterns, and techniques and achieve critical acclaim as well as notoriety. Each member has distinct diction, wordplay, style, and personality, helping make the group marketable around the world. Having nine members, gives fans the opportunity to choose their favorite while still enjoying the group’s work altogether. Their dedication to reaching a multitude of people is second to none and worthy of far more praise than they actually receive.
In response to their highly successful debut album, the Wu-Tang Clan gained fans, notoriety, and needless to say, an interesting story to give to the youth of their often looked over borough on how dreams are attainable. Staying true to their roots, and vowing to never forget where they came from, the Wu-Tang Clan helped develop other solo artists and groups such as KillaArmy, KillaBeez, American Cream Team, WU-Latino, Wu South, as well as the Brooklyn Zu. Never forgetting how far they came, the group continued to put out their own solid bodies of work that included, “Wu-Tang Forever,” “The W,” “Iron Flag,” “8 Diagrams,” and their most recent album; “A Better Tomorrow.”
While the artists of the Wu Tang Clan made the music, the business mastermind Oliver Power Grant saw to it that the group was well rounded and able to capitalize off their musical success. No other Hip Hop group had ever established their own clothing line or video game. Power ultimately made that happen. Not only furthering the rap group, but also pushing the culture forward and making sure that the Wu Tang Clan would be remembered for much more than catchy rhymes, unorthodox names and concepts. In 1995, the Wu Wear line launched and had immense success. With the musical success of the group, Wu Wear was carried in Macy’s, Rich’s, D.E.M.O., and their own four signature Wu Wear Stores located in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Norfolk.
In an even more unprecedented move, On October 31, 1999, the video game Wu Tang: Shaolin Style was released on the Sony PlayStation. Each member was featured in the game that centered on fighting, an ode to the Kung Fu movies that inspired the members. The game sold about 200,000 copies and even was followed with a special edition PlayStation controller that was limited to 36,000.
The Wu-Tang Clan’s appeal spread far past their native of Staten Island, N.Y. In total, their six albums collectively sold more than six million copies. Wu-Tang Clan critics cite that the group’s lyrics were often hard to understand and coupled with poor production. The members being members of the 5 Percent Nation or Nations of the Gods and Earth often mixed in teachings and lessons passed down from their elders. Rza handled much of the production for projects and has received critical acclaim for his musical ear as well as teaching himself how to produce with no formal training or advanced technology.
20 years after the band’s formation, the group has remained an influential part of Hip Hop. The members have also enjoyed solo success stemming from albums to movie roles. Today, the members are still active in the hip hop scene and continue to produce solo works of art. There are talks of a full-length documentary and global tour to coincide with their latest collective, “A Better Tomorrow” that released in late December to commemorate the 20 year anniversary of their first album.
What the Wu-Tang Clan did for Hip Hop History has yet and may never be duplicated. Their courage to reach farther than music, into clothing lines, video games, and movies has set the blueprint for both solo artists as well as artists from every genre of music. In the immortal words of Hip Hop’s greatest group…Protect Ya Neck Kid.