It all started in a Staten Island Basement. The hostile chart takeover of underground rap, grimy, lo-fi, horrorcore, the brainchild of Robert Diggs, better known to anyone that knows anything about rap as the RZA. The story goes that he assembled the best rapper’s from the five boroughs that he knew… two of them coincidentally being his cousins, one being his roommate, and a couple of other cats he had heard. They would converge in his long island basement, watch kung-fu films, smoke until they couldn’t see a foot in front of their faces, and rhyme, rhyme, and then rhyme some more. It was more than just music though, with the RZA as the mastermind The Wu-Tang Clan would create their very own music scene based out of New York, bringing the underground to the masses and laying the blueprint for gangsta rap to pervade the mainstream.
What was unique about the Wu-Tang was that they were a music scene in and of themselves. The RZA’s vision was to bring their style to people of every class and background, and he had a plan to do just that. He negotiated a record deal for the Clan with Loud, the deal was unique though because it allowed each individual member of the group to sign to the label of their choosing while still being marketed as a member of the Wu-Tang. This meant that the Wu-Tang wasn’t just a group but was actually made up of nine individual solo artists. This allowed the Wu-Tang to release an unprecedented string of albums both as a group (Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Forever) and as individuals. Out of these solo albums came the classics, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by Raekwon, Liquid Swords by the GZA, Return to the 36 Chambers by the Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Iron Man from Ghostface Killah, and Method Man’s Tical. Almost all of the material for this initial slew of solo albums was recorded in the RZA’s basement studio and taken to other studios around Manhattan for mastering. The RZA made all of the beats himself.
The Wu-Tang defined the sound of New York hip-hop, and as a result of most hip-hop being made in the world at the time. They were a cultural force to be reckoned with after having infiltrated every major record label they could find, ensuring the widest possible distribution of their music. With 90’s nostalgia running high in hip-hop today the Wu-Tang sound can be heard making a comeback with acts like Joey Bada$$ and the Flatbush Zombies to name just a couple. and it all started in a Staten Island basement studio.