The importance of kung fu films is signaled by the group’s first album title, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
As author Shea Serrano notes in The Rap Year Book, the Wu Tang Clan is “now regularly cited as the greatest, most influential rap group of all time” (97). The RZA (aka Robert Diggs) is a founding member and the driving force behind the group.
- The RZA, The Tao of Wu, 1-7 and 52-63
[PDF available in GA View “Content”]
- Wu-Tang Clan – Da Mystery of Kung-Fu (youtube.com)
[Watch the first 8:45 minutes]
- Wu-Tang Clan Kung Fu Movie Samples – Part 1 (youtube.com)
If the radio interview embedded below does not play in your browser, you can follow the link in this sentence to go directly to the On Point web site.
- Bring da Ruckus (Wu Tang Clan, 1993)
- Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’ (Wu Tang Clan, 1993)
- C.R.E.A.M. (Wu Tang Clan, 1993)
Note that this guide is not meant to replace careful study of all the assigned reading, listening, etc. Instead, this guide highlights some of the important ideas and information in the texts. To do well on our tests, quizzes, and class discussions, you will need a thorough knowledge of all the texts.
In the On Point interview, the RZA offers a nice summary of the broader horizons that martial arts movies brought to his life:
When we watched TV in those days in America, there wasn’t a lot of channels… TV programming was limited. When you see a martial arts film, you had a chance to see a time in history that wasn’t just what the western world was showing us. And especially as a young black man, you know, most of the black figures you’d see were some kind of slaves, some kind of pimps, not really these great heroes who would inspire you. But through the martial arts films, I was seeing great heroes that inspired me, in the past, hundreds or thousands of years ago. It gave me another perception of history….It gave me a whole interest trying to find out what was going on in that period of time, not only in Asia, how about in Africa, Australia?
The RZA discusses mathematics in detail in The Tao of Wu, but this is not explained in the excerpt. In short, the RZA is a member of the Five Percent Nation, an offshoot of the Nation of Islam. Five Percenters believe in the divinity of mathematics, and they believe that wisdom is encoded within the numbers that one encounters in daily life.
In in The Rap Year Book, Shea Serrano acclaims “C.R.E.A.M.” to be the most important hip-hop song of 1993. The song was important because
It was the inverse to what had been happening in rap on the West Coast for the two years prior, both sonically…and ideologically (the whole first verse of “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” is about how Dr. Dre is unfadeable so please don’t try to fade him; the whole first verse of “C.R.E.A.M.” is about all the small-scale crime Raekwon had committed, only to realize he’d not advanced his station in life.)
G-Funk certainly didn’t disappear…but the next direction of rap’s evolution had been made obvious. (Serrano 97)
It’s no stretch to say that Hong Kong cinema reinforced and deepened the thoughtful, ethical themes that the Wu Tang Clan brought (back) to rap music.
- Wu Tang Clan