Rebirth of a prince

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  August 19, 2008

“OLDER GODS” | WU-TANG FOREVER [1997] | Anticipating a need for back-up, RZA begins schooling production protégés 4th Disciple, Tru Master, and Mathematics.

“TRIUMPH” | WU-TANG FOREVER [1997] | Despite Puff Daddy’s having aggressively diluted the hip-hop landscape, Wu-Tang Forever sells 600,000 copies in its first week with no radio single.

“LIFE CHANGES” | 8 DIAGRAMS [2007] | 1997: Putting such all-out masterpieces as Liquid Swords and Ghostface Killah’s Ironman behind him, RZA retires from exclusively producing all Clan projects.

“STICK ME FOR MY RICHES” | 8 DIAGRAMS [2007] | Around 1998: After being handled since early on by RZA’s brother Divine, individual Clan members seek individual management. Break-up rumors surface.

“MUST BE BOBBY” | DIGITAL BULLET [2001] | 1998: Bored with the dozen alter egos he already has, RZA morphs into the heavily armed, womanizing rogue Bobby Digital. Confronted with his Zorro mask, synthetic currents, and apocalyptic fantasies, fans express concern over RZA’s sanity.

“FAST SHADOW” | GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI SOUNDTRACK [1999] | 1999: Stretching his horizons, RZA scores, kind of stars in, and cuts the soundtrack for director Jim Jarmusch’s urban karate flick Ghost Dog. A strange relationship is born.

“SWORDSMAN” | LIQUID SWORDS [1995] | 1999: RZA makes a pilgrimage to the Shaolin temple in China to study with the Buddhist monk Sifu, smudging the boundaries between his life and his art once and for all.

“ONE OF THESE DAYS” | IRON FLAG [2001] | Around the turn of the millennium, RZA announces plans to direct a Bobby Digital feature film. We’re still waiting.

“WEAK SPOT” | 8 DIAGRAMS [2007] | 2000: RZA reunites Wu-Tang for a third group outing. The W features unnecessary cameos by Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes, and despite going platinum, it’s rejected by hardcore fans.

“WU-REVOLUTION” | WU-TANG FOREVER [1997] | 2000: Bad blood leaks through the Wu camp when the Village Voice breaks a story accusing Ghostface Killah’s manager, Michael Caruso, of informing the FBI about RZA’s alleged gun running and ties to the Gambino crime family.

“FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE” | WU-TANG FOREVER [1997] | 2001: Just one year after The W, the Clan follow up with Iron Flag and encounter a new problem: though the diehards are back on board, Loud Records’ financial crisis screws marketing and promotion. The disc barely goes gold.

“JAH WORLD” | THE W [2000] | 2003: Satisfying the Wu-Tang intrigue that’s bubbled overseas since the Clan’s commercial slip at home, RZA enlists Europe’s top MCs for The World According to RZA.

“AFTER THE SMOKE IS CLEAR” | IRONMAN [1996] | 2003: Along with co-defendant GZA, RZA appears with Bill Murray in Jim Jarmusch’s conversational classic Coffee and Cigarettes. They are the only two characters who neither drink coffee nor smoke cigarettes.

“SECOND COMING” | WU-TANG FOREVER [1997] | 2003: Even though he’s already dropped two discs as Bobby Digital, RZA keeps claiming that Birth of a Prince is his first solo album.

“LET MY NIGGAS LIVE” | THE W [2000] | 2003: RZA reveals to the Onion AV Club that he’s a closet Bob Hope fan. Hope dies soon after at the age of 100.

“SOUL POWER (BLACK JUNGLE)” | IRON FLAG [2001] | 2003: After meeting at a panel discussion of the Hong Kong action film Iron Monkey, RZA and director Quentin Tarantino bond through their mutual passion for karate flicks. The director taps RZA to compile the soundtrack for Kill Bill.

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