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Profile of RZA
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||5th July 1966
|Place of Birth:
||Staten Island, New York, USA
RZA (pronounced the rizza, born Robert Diggs, July 5, 1969 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, USA) is an African American producer, rapper and the leader of the hip hop crew Wu-Tang Clan. He was also a member of the group Gravediggaz. As well as producing almost all of the Wu-Tang's albums, he has also produced many of their solo and affiliate projects, as well as releasing a succession of solo albums (two under the alter-ego Bobby Digital) and composing the scores for several movies.
After an impoverished childhood in a family of 10 children, RZA began his career in hip hop 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) with 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 & GZA attempted to kick start solo careers. With the help of GZA's friend Melquan (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. From this determination came the Wu-Tang Clan, formed with Ol' Dirty Bastard as well as with 6 others. With the Clan, Prince Rakeem started going by the name RZA (pronounced "the rizza" and derived from the sound produced when "Rakeem" or "Robert" was scratched on a turntable). After the singles Protect Ya Neck and Method Man, both driven by raucous RZA-produced beats, made the group into underground sensations, the group released their debut LP Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. The album was incredibly successful, revolutionizing hip hop; one of the major reasons was RZA's sparse, lean, gritty and very distinctive production style. As each of the group's members embarked on solo careers, RZA continued to produce nearly everything Wu-Tang related during the period 1994-1997, 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). Indeed, RZA's rule over the Clan at this time is described by himself in 2004's Wu-Tang Manual book as "like 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, RZA also took part in the Gravediggaz, an off-and-on rap supergroup including Frukwan of Stetsasonic, Poetic The Grym Reaper 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 RZArecta.
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 much of the beatmaking duties to other producers in the Wu-Tang camp, such as his proteges True Master and 4th Disciple (known as the Wu-Elements) and Inspectah Deck. During the 1997-2000 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 released his first solo effort titled RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo in 1999 (see 1999 in music). This was an 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", but it received mixed reviews. He also reformed with the Gravediggaz for the album The Pick, The Sickle & The Shovel, a calmer and more mature album than their horrorcore-oriented debut.
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 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.
More recently he has moved into composing film scores, earning praise for his hip-hop score to Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai, and appearing for a brief cameo in the film itself. He also created and produced the original music for the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill, as well as Blade: Trinity and Soul Plane. RZA also appeared alongside fellow Wu-Tang member GZA in one segment of Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes opposite Bill Murray. He and the GZA have also made several appearances on Chappelle's Show, in one appearance pitching a financial services firm called Wu-Tang Financial.
His first solo album as simply the RZA, Birth Of A Prince, was released in 2003 (see 2003 in music and spawned the single We Pop. The album itself featured a mix of lighthearted Bobby Digital tracks and more lyrically high-browed RZA tracks. In 2003 he also released an album of collaborations with international rap and R&B musicians (including the UK's Skinnyman, France's Saïan Supa Crew and Germany's Xavier Naidoo) entitled The World According to RZA, which was successful in many countries, despite not being sold in the USA.
RZA has been promising for many years to release The Cure, said to be an epic concept album containing collaborations with high-profile artists such as Stevie Wonder, to be mostly in the wordy, Five Percent Nation-influenced style of Wu-Tang tracks such as Sunshower. There appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel in mid-2004 for increasingly impatient Wu-Tang fans awaiting this release with the limited release of the mixtape Formula For The Cure which was intended to build anticipation for the finished article.
In 2005, RZA served as the Artist in Residence for the LA Film Festival and released the long-gestating book Wu-Tang Manual, a in-depth discussion of the Wu-Tang's virtues, vices and philosophies. RZA has also announced that he and Method Man are in the studio working on a follow-up to Meth's poorly received Tical 0: The Prequel album, due in late 2005/early 2006. The album will be totally produced by RZA. Cormega has stated on his website that he has visited RZA & Meth in their studio sessions, and that the new album is living up to its high expectations.
Following a poll on the official Wu-Tang Clan site (www.wutangcorp.com), it appears that RZA's next album will be titled Return of the Prince. There is no word yet on features, release dates or production credits, yet Wu-Tang Corp stated that RZA has recently been working in the studio with the likes of John Frusciante, Raekwon, Method Man & Masta Killa.
- Bobby Steels
- Bobby Digital
- Bobby Boulders
- The Abbot
- Chief Abbot
- the Scientist
- Prince Delight
- Prince Dynamite
- Prince Rakeem
- RZArecta (from resurrector - waking up the mentally dead)
- Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig-Allah
- King Ruler Zig Zag Zig Allah (King RZA)
- 1999 RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo
- 2000 Ghost Dog OST
- 2001 Digital Bullet
- 2002 The World According to RZA
- 2003 Birth Of A Prince
- 2005 Kings of Funk (compilation of classic funk tracks compiled by RZA & Keb Darge)
Singles & EPs
- 1991 "Ooh We Love You Rakeem" (EP)
- 1999 "NYC Everything"
- 1999 "Holocaust (Silkworm)"
- 2001 "La Rhumba"
- 2001 "Brooklyn Babies"
- 2003 "We Pop"
- 2004 "Grits"
- 1991 "Pass The Bone" (from the Genius (GZA) album Words from the Genius, vocals & beat)
- 1993 Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (album by the Wu-Tang Clan)
- 1994 6 Feet Deep (album by the Gravediggaz)
- 1994 Tical (album by Method Man, all beats, vocals on "Mr. Sandman")
- 1994 Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (album by Ol' Dirty Bastard, all beats except "Brooklyn Zoo", vocals on "Cuttin' Headz")
- 1994 "No Hooks" (from the Shaquille O'Neal album Shaq-Fu-Da Return, vocals & beat)
- 1995 Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (album by Raekwon, all beats, vocals on "Wu-Gambinos")
- 1995 Liquid Swords (album by GZA, all beats except "B.I.B.L.E.", vocals on "Living In The World Today" & "4th Chamber")
- 1995 "Killa Hill Niggas" (from the Cypress Hill album Cypress Hill III: Temples Of Boom, vocals & beat)
- 1995 "Doe Or Die (RZA Remix)" (from the AZ album Doe Or Die, beat)
- 1996 Ironman (album by Ghostface Killah, all beats except "Fish", vocals on "After The Smoke Is Clear" & "Marvel")
- 1996 Box In Hand (Remix) (Ghostface Killah single, beat)
- 1996 "Warface" (from the Bounty Killer album My Xperience, beat)
- 1996 Eyes A Bleed (Remix) (Bounty Killer single, beat)
- 1996 "Step Right In" (from the Dog Eat Dog album Play Games, vocals & beat)
- 1997 Wu-Tang Forever (album by the Wu-Tang Clan)
- 1997 "Bachelorette (RZA Remix)" (Bjork single, beat)
- 1997 "Long Kiss Goodnight" (from the Notorious B.I.G. album Long Kiss Goodnight, beat)
- 1998 The Pick, Sickle & The Shovel (album by the Gravediggaz)
- 1998 "The Legacy" (by Royal Fam), "Concrete Jungle" (by Sunz Of Man & Timbo King), "Co-Defendant" (by Shyheim & Hell Razah), "Execute Them" (by Wu-Tang Clan), "And Justice For All" (by RZA, Method Man & Killarmy), "97 Mentality" (by Cappadonna & Ghostface Killah) (from the Wu-Tang Killa Bees: The Swarm compilation)
- 1998 The Pillage (album by Cappadonna, various beats)
- 1998 Tical 2000: Judgement Day (album by Method Man, various beats)
- 1998 "Whatever Happened (The Birth)" (from the AZ album Pieces Of A Man, vocals & beat)
- 1998 "Say What You Want (All Day Everyday)" (Texas single, beat)
- 1998 "Tribulations", "Inmates To The Fire" & "Can I See You" (from the Sunz Of Man album The Last Shall Be First, beats)
- 1999 "They" & "Stand Up" (from the Charli Baltimore album Cold As Ice, beats)
- 1999 "1112" (from the GZA album Beneath The Surface,, beat)
- 1999 "Movers & Shakers" & "Friction" (from the Inspectah Deck album Uncontrolled Substance, beats)
- 1999 "Turbo Charge", "Stay In Your Lane", "Enter U-God" & "Turbulence" (from the U-God album Golden Arms Redemption, beats)
- 1999 "Cereal Killer" & "Run 4 Cover" (from the Method Man & Redman album Blackout!, beats)
- 1999 "Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)" (from the Big Punisher album Capital Punishment, beat)
- 1999 "The End" (from the Ras Kass album Rassassination, verse)
- 2000 Supreme Clientele (album by Ghostface Killah, vocals and beat on "The Grain" & "Nutmeg", beat on "Buck 50")
- 2000 The W (album by the Wu-Tang Clan, vocals and all beats except "Do You Really (Thang, Thang)")
- 2000 Ghost Dog : The Way Of The Samurai - The Album compilation, all beats, vocals on "Cakes", "Fast Shadow" and "Samurai Showdown"
- 2001 Iron Flag (album by the Wu-Tang Clan, vocals and all beats except "Rules", "Y'all Been Warned", "Back In The Game" & "One Of These Days")
- 2002 Wu-Tang Killa Bees: The Sting compilation, all beats except "Bar Mitzvah", "Doe Rae Wu", "Dancing With Wolves", "Rollin", "Get At Me" & "Hatin' Don't Play", also produced entirety of limited edition bonus disc.
- 2002 "Bankstaz" (from the Sunz Of Man album Saviorz Day, vocals)
- 2002 "Maxine", "Walking Through The Darkness", "Flowers" & "Jealousy" (from the Ghostface Killah album Bulletproof Wallets, beats)
- 2003 Legend of the Liquid Sword (album by GZA, vocals on "Fam (Members Only)", beat on "Rough Cut")
- 2003 "Da Great Siege" (from the Mathematics album Love, Hell Or Right, vocals)
- 2004 No Said Date (album by Masta Killa, beats and vocals on "School" & "Old Man", beat on "No Said Date")
- 2004 "The Turn" (from the Method Man album Tical 0: The Prequel, beat)
- 2004 "Run" (from the Ghostface Killah album Pretty Toney Album, beat)
- 2004 Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 1 (album by the Wu-Tang Clan)
- 2005 "Lovely Ladies" & "Brutality (Grindz Remix)" (from the Prodigal Sunn album Return Of The Prodigal Sunn, beats)
- 2005 "Strawberries & Cream" (from the Mathematics album The Problem, vocals)
- 2005 "All In Together Now" (from the GZA & DJ Muggs album GrandMasters, vocals)
- 2005 "Advanced Pawns (from the GZA & DJ Muggs album Grandmasters, vocals)
- 2005 "Bio-Chemical Equation (from the Dreddy Kruger album Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture, vocals, beat)
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