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  1. #1

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    How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Hip-hop's Wu-Tang Clan Re-energizes



    How can hip-hop be dead if Wu-Tang is forever?" asks RZA. For the founder and chief producer of the multiplatinum New York rap group, the question is purely rhetorical.

    It's hard to argue with his logic - or with the enduring Wu-Tang mystique. The group's return to the forefront of the music world draws nigh, courtesy of this summer's Rock the Bells Festival and Wu-Tang's long-awaited fourth album, "Eight Diagrams," which is nearly completed.

    In a phone interview conducted two days before the start of the national Rock the Bells tour, RZA (born Robert Diggs), analyzed hip-hop's health and discoursed on all things Wu. For starters, he takes issue with Nas, whose recent album "Hip Hop Is Dead" sparked a heated debate among keepers of the culture over the genre's mortality index.

    RZA points out that Nas himself is part of the Rock the Bells tour, whose lineup also features Rage Against the Machine, plus others including Cypress Hill, the Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, EPMD, Pharoahe Monch, MF Doom, Hieroglyphics and Blackalicious. There's even an appearance by Public Enemy. If that's not the ultimate fantasy hip-hop concert lineup, it's hard to imagine what is.

    Talentwise, Rock the Bells 2007 rivals the fabled Fresh Fests of yore. Yet these days, RZA says, "there are not that many hip-hop tours." To some degree, that's the genre's own fault. Rappers are frequently in the news for the wrong reasons, and hip-hop's image could certainly stand a thorough polishing.

    Even more worrisome, RZA suggests, is the state of the art form, which has become commercialized to the point of dilution.

    "They let pop take over hip-hop," he laments.

    To him, that's where the problem lies, not with the infusion of new technology.

    "It ain't downloading," he says, pointing to hip-hop star T.I.'s sales figures as proof that rap fans will still buy strong albums.

    While RZA opines that "hip-hop is unbalanced," he believes its course can be righted by Wu-Tang's "killa beez": GZA (also known as Genius), Method Man (or Johnny Blaze), Raekwon (also called the Chef), Ghostface Killah (or Tony Starks), Inspectah Deck (Rebel INS), Cappadonna (Cappuccino Don) U-God (Golden Arms) and the mysterious Masta Killa.

    "To come back around," RZA says, "it means music's crying for us."

    When the Wu takes the stage Saturday night at McCovey Cove, one key member will be missing: the late Ol' Dirty *******. But even though ODB won't be there in physical form, "his energy is still present at our shows," RZA says. In fact, concertgoers can expect to see an ODB tribute performed by the entire Wu-Tang Clan.

    Co-headlining with Rage Against the Machine makes the show even more special - not just to music lovers but also to RZA himself. He notes that the two groups were originally scheduled to tour seven years ago, but circumstances - including ODB's legal and personal problems - forced the Wu to bow out. The group reunited in 2004 for the first RtB, held in San Bernardino. The festival has since become an annual event; this year, the Wu signed on for the full tour.

    During the Wu's hiatus, its members kept busy by releasing various solo projects. Method Man and Raekwon dabbled in acting, while RZA scored films for directors Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino. RZA says Jarmusch told him that the idea for the movie "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" was inspired by the Wu's music, adding that fellow Wu fan Tarantino had never worked with a composer before inviting him to do the soundtrack for the first "Kill Bill" film. Most recently, RZA scored the animated kung-fu miniseries "Afro Samurai," and he's in the cast of two forthcoming films: Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut, "Gospel Hill," and the Denzel Washington-Ridley Scott vehicle "American Gangster." Meanwhile, the Wu-Tang empire continues to grow; second-generation killa beez Ice Water and Cilvaringz recently dropped albums, and GZA appears in a new DVD documentary "Wu-Tang Revealed."

    "The energy is resurging," RZA says. "When the first album came out, nobody knew what to expect."

    Back in 1993, after Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" had tipped the scales toward West Coast G-funk, the Wu's debut "Enter the Wu Tang: 36 Chambers" re-established East Coast hip-hop, paving the way for Nas, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Certainly, no one thought a ragtag bunch of music industry outcasts, felons and high school dropouts would amount to much, much less change the rap game irrevocably. Despite the Wu's roguish background, the group's mission is to uplift, RZA says. "We will f- you up, but what we'd rather do is enhance your spirit."

    RZA likens the Wu's colorful, oversize personalities to a team of superheroes, and no hip-hop group before or since has ever spawned so many successful solo artists or assembled so many affiliated acts under one banner. For all the Wu's verbal finesse, a big part of their appeal remains RZA's gritty, soulful production. Whether chopping samples in a unique way or blending '60s and '70s R&B with dialogue lifted from John Woo triad dramas and obscure kung-fu flicks, RZA's tracks strike a universal, if esoteric, chord.

    "I looked at music as being pulses," he says.

    Fourteen years after "36 Chambers," hip-hop heroism is again needed, and the Wu is ready for the challenge. With RtB hitting cities across the United States (the tour ends Sept. 1 in Hawaii), the stage is set for "Eight Diagrams," the group's first album of all-new material in six years. Details about the still-unfinished album are scarce, but this much can be revealed: Its title was inspired by the 1983 Shaw Brothers film "Eight Diagram Pole Fighter," whose plot revolves around eight brothers skilled in martial arts. That's an obvious parallel to the Wu, whose lineup currently features eight original members (ODB was the ninth); one of the album's main themes, RZA says, is brotherhood.

    In addition, the "eight diagrams" are a reference to the "I Ching" - or "Book of Changes" - a seminal tome in Eastern philosophy and a major influence on RZA. The "I Ching" is "one of the main reasons why I chose the title," he says. As usual, Wu fans can expect plenty of cryptic slang, as well as new levels of knowledge previously unexplored. "There's things on ("Eight Diagrams") that haven't been done," RZA says.

    But unlike, say, Smashing Pumpkins' comeback album, "Zeitgeist," RZA and the Wu aren't looking to the future at the expense of the past. "There's a couple of classic chambers that we brought back," he promises. As an example, he points to the spine-tingling, emotional vibe evoked by Ghostface on "Wu-Tang Forever's" "Impossible" - a rhyme so powerful, it was named "Hip Hop Quotable of the Year" by Source magazine.

    This time around, the Wu-Tang Clan is older, wiser and more aware of the group's capabilities.

    "We bring a special energy," RZA says. "It's good when you can keep it real and have people respect you for your realism."

    Rock the Bells Festival featuring Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill, the Roots, Nas, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, EPMD, Pharoahe Monch, MFDoom, Hieroglyphics, Blackalicious, Murs 3:16, Sage Francis, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks and Public Enemy. Hosted by Supernatural, DJ Mike Relm, Hi-Tek and Rahzel. Saturday. McCovey Cove parking lot. $76-$151. www.ticketmaster.com.

    Eric K. Arnold is a freelance writer.


    Might seem a bit pricey at first glance, but given the incredible amount of talent on display, this tour is a real bargain.

    http://www.rockthebells.net/

    http://www.myspace.com/rockthebells

  2. #2

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Wu-Tangs for the children!!!!

    "I Want That Simple Life"

    B.F.F.=Brian Fyfe Forever
    4-8-1983 to 4-28-2010


  3. #3

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?


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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    What's the problem?

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    I personally have never been a Wu-Tang fan so that's why I put the plus I'm pretty bored at work.

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by Experiment626 View Post
    I personally have never been a Wu-Tang fan so that's why I put the plus I'm pretty bored at work.
    And you couldn't find anything good about any of the other acts performing at Rock the Bells, I take it.

  7. #7

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Wu-Tang! Liked them since high school. It's great to know they're getting back together. Man.....I haven't listened to their stuff for awhile since its hard to listen to that here at work. Time to pull it all out again!

    Triumph!

  8. #8

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Meh.

    I saw Weird Al last Wednesday. I'll see Voltaire and Bela Morte on the 28th of next month at Gothcoming. My excitement for any other band has been overconsumed by those two dates.

    Unless another band worth seeing comes around.
    -Tim

  9. #9

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by TiaDalmaFan View Post
    During the Wu's hiatus, its members kept busy by releasing various solo projects. Method Man and Raekwon dabbled in acting, while RZA scored films for directors Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino. RZA says Jarmusch told him that the idea for the movie "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" was inspired by the Wu's music, adding that fellow Wu fan Tarantino had never worked with a composer before inviting him to do the soundtrack for the first "Kill Bill" film.
    Cool! I already learned something interesting today. I had no idea.
    A signature should go here.

  10. #10

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Hip Hop has never really done anything for me, I don't know why. Nothing against anyone who does enjoy it, I just find it to harsh and in your face.

  11. #11

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by SummerInFL View Post
    Hip Hop has never really done anything for me, I don't know why. Nothing against anyone who does enjoy it, I just find it to harsh and in your face.

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by SummerInFL View Post
    Hip Hop has never really done anything for me, I don't know why. Nothing against anyone who does enjoy it, I just find it to harsh and in your face.
    That's fine, but why bother commenting in this thread then? Not all music genres reflect everyone's lives, environments, or sensibilities, but that's a given.

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by TiaDalmaFan View Post
    That's fine, but why bother commenting in this thread then? Not all music genres reflect everyone's lives, environments, or sensibilities, but that's a given.
    I commented because your thread title asks a question, I am giving my opinion on that question. It's a public message board and that usually means that people have their own thoughts and ideas to express. I was merely stating my opinion regarding the question posed by you.

    "How can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?"

    It is also quite possible that I expressed my opinion because I was being "open minded" to the fact that there may be reasons why I would like Hip Hop and I was hoping that others would be able to present those reasons and give me a reason to like it. I enjoy all genres of music, as this one has been one to normally turn me off, I was looking for an answer that I believe is in direct relation to the topic at hand.

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by SummerInFL View Post
    I commented because your thread title asks a question, I am giving my opinion on that question. It's a public message board and that usually means that people have their own thoughts and ideas to express. I was merely stating my opinion regarding the question posed by you.

    "How can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?"
    Yeah, uh, did you read the first line of the article? It's a strictly rhetorical question that RZA asked to his interviewer.

    I'm not posing the question to the MiceChat readership. There's no poll. And if you don't even like or listen to hip hop in the first place, stating so doesn't really answer the question anyway.


    Quote Originally Posted by SummerInFL View Post
    It is also quite possible that I expressed my opinion because I was being "open minded" to the fact that there may be reasons why I would like Hip Hop and I was hoping that others would be able to present those reasons and give me a reason to like it. I enjoy all genres of music, as this one has been one to normally turn me off, I was looking for an answer that I believe is in direct relation to the topic at hand.
    OK, that's fair, I suppose. From what you've said, though, I'd venture a guess that you probably haven't heard that much quality hip-hop music, if you think it's all harsh.

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    Re: How Can Hip Hop be Dead, When Wu-Tang is Forever?

    Quote Originally Posted by TiaDalmaFan View Post
    Yeah, uh, did you read the first line of the article? It's a strictly rhetorical question that RZA asked to his interviewer.

    I'm not posing the question to the MiceChat readership. There's no poll. And if you don't even like or listen to hip hop in the first place, stating so doesn't really answer the question anyway.


    OK, that's fair, I suppose. From what you've said, though, I'd venture a guess that you probably haven't heard that much quality hip-hop music, if you think it's all harsh.
    Then let me ask you a question, why bother posting the article in the first place if you didn't expect people to come in and make comments? Positive or negative you would have to expect on a message board for people to have an opinion, regardless of the topic at hand?

    If I haven't heard much quality hip hop, I sincerely ask that you give me something I could download off Itunes and then we can have a discussion regarding Hip Hop. Not that it would make me an expert but it would give us a reason to cover the topic your bringing up here no?

    Again, I am a little confused as to why you post something and not expect people's comments on it. If you were just posting to post, I would imagine a personal blog would be a better outlet for what your going for.

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