Happy Birthday, RZA!
Although the Wu-Tang Clan has seen better days, it's still a noteworthy accomplishment to be considered the leader of one of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time. RZA will forever be "the Abbott" of the Wu. The producer, born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, turns 46 years old today (July 5).
After finding some minor success with his cousins GZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard, he teamed up with five more of his childhood friends to form the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. The collective made an immediate splash with their classic 1993 debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and its subsequent solo releases: Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, GZA's Liquid Swords, Method Man's Tical, Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers and Ghostface Killah's Ironman.
RZA's production was at the center of all of these albums. With six straight classics and Wu-Tang Forever, RZA had one of the greatest producer's winning streaks of all time until Kanye West came along. On one hand, RZA and the Wu-Tang's bizarre kung-fu flick sampling wasn't like anything heard before in hip-hop. On the other end of the spectrum, through the Shaolin grittiness, RZA's brittle and morphed soul sampling gave the grimy aesthetic a sense of humanity.
The Wu-Tang empire crumbled down with last year's in-cohesive project A Better Tomorrow, which was preceded by public feuding between group members. But RZA had plenty of success outside of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The studio maverick scored music for the anime television show Afro Samurai and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill trilogy. RZA also produced songs for West, Talib Kweli and Earl Sweatshirt. The veteran producer also landed acting gigs in such flicks like Martin Scorcese's The Departed, American Gangster and Repo Men.
Although the Wu-Tang may be broken beyond repair, at least one of the greatest producers to ever do it is doing fine.
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