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The Wu-Tang Way

Rebroadcast

Hip-hop legend and Wu Tang Clan founder The RZA on life lessons and the “Tao of Wu.”

RZA walks the red carpet at the Trojan/Rolling Stone Evolve America event during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Monday, Aug. 25, 2008. Evolve America promotes sexual health as a political issue for both Democratic and Republican parties during the 2008 election. (AP)

RZA walks the red carpet at the Trojan/Rolling Stone Evolve America event during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Monday, Aug. 25, 2008. Evolve America promotes sexual health as a political issue for both Democratic and Republican parties during the 2008 election. (AP)

The Wu Tang Clan came out of New York hip hop in the 1990s — intense, poetic, rough, and huge. Nine emcees. Method Man. Ghostface Killah. U-God. Raekwon.

And behind it all — The RZA, aka Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, son of Staten Island, mean streets, and his adopted spiritual home: China’s Shaolin Temple and the realm of Kung Fu movies.

The RZA was a kind of mad genius in the Wu Tang Clan mix. Now he’s sharing his way. A little Buddha. A little Allah. A little Jesus. And a lot of kung fu.

This hour in an archive edition of On Point: The Tao of Wu. And the RZA.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guest

The RZA joins us from New York. Rapper, producer, and composer, he’s the driving force behind the hugely influential, martial-arts inspired hip-hop empire The Wu-Tang Clan. Born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, he’s had success as a solo artist under several names – Prince Rakeem, Bobby Digital, the Rzarector. He’s scored movies, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” and the anime series “Afro Samurai.” His 2005 book “The Wu-Tang Manual” explained the history and mythology of The Wu-Tang Clan. His new book, out yesterday, is “The Tao of Wu.”

More

In a 2007 Wired magazine feature, the RZA explained the kung fu movie source material and samples in a number of Wu Tang Clan songs.

You can watch a collection a videos at RZA’s MySpace page.  And here’s the trailer for 2008′s “You Can’t Stop Me Now” (as Bobby Digital):

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  • Michael

    Bring the pain RZA, Killer Bees was nasty when it first came out, you can also find his interview on the colbert report last night pretty good.

  • Sak R. Feiss

    OK, I’ll say it. I don’t get it. Saw Colbert, seemed like jibberish. Just not hip enough, I guess.

  • http://www.thickblacktheory.net The New Art of War

    “OK, I’ll say it. I don’t get it. Saw Colbert, seemed like jibberish. Just not hip enough, I guess.”

    Some of RZA’s views are informed by the views of The Nation of Gods and Earths. If you see where he’s coming from, it might make a bit more sense.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nation_of_Gods_and_Earths

  • http://www.tedauch.com Ted auch

    This is revolutionary stuff. We need to understand that what the Wu-Tang Clan brought was as important as The Band or the Beach Boys. I for one while not able to empathize with what it must have been like to grown up in Staten Island know that these men are true poets of the street. Their finger was always on the pulse of the city.

  • Joey

    Hello,
    Question for Rza,
    How much is the younger generation growing up in the 80s, 90s, influenced by and a product of advertisements, and commercials. For example, Nike, Just do it, etc.?

  • g

    It is so good to hear the diversity of topics and guests on ONPOINT. Thank you for bringing RZA on.

    A couple of questions for him.

    Who out of current hip hop artists inspire you. Is there anyone on the international scene, not from America?

    Whom would you like to work with in the future whom you haven’t worked with before?

  • Todd

    Tao? This is little more than a hip-hop attempt to create a sub-culture that can be exploited for commercial gain. It borrows everything, but creates nothing.

  • http://www.capecanvas.com Don

    Rza-

    My friends and I often refer to the book of wu as a way to solve problems and prove our mastery of the cannon- nice that we can now reference your actual book.

    can you reflect on the bredth of your work and subject matter?

    Anything to say about Cappa?

    How bout a few recomendations of new hip hop for us all to pick up on?

  • g

    On the subject of teaching youth through your music, are you involved in any youth organization(s) to inspire and connect with young people who come from similar socioeconomic background as you are?

    What comes to mind is a project that Mos Def participated with Sol Guy in Brazil. There, a local hip hop artist opened a youth center for kids to come in and spend their time, have good role models and connect with others through music.

    http://www.4real.com/tv/details.asp?pageid=10

    I think it would be a fantastic idea if more socially conscious artists did something like that and RZA sounds like one of them.

    Thank you

  • Kirby

    We always talk about the impact music or hope of knowledge through art. In particularly, children & Hip-Hop. Beyond being just a Timberland-wearing, YO!MTV Raps-watching fan of The Wu since Protect Ya Neck. I can testify that these “kids” from the Stapleton Projects have enlightened ME, a kid from the suburbs of Maryland.

    Kris Parker & Rakim introduced it to me & The Wu explained it to me. It is my Foundation as I raise my own family.

    Thanks for the Knowledge, Wisdom, & ART.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamzand Adam Zand @NoOneYouKnow

    Great show today and I even got a bit choked up (while laughing) about ODB / Big Baby Jesus stories. I’d like to thank my Jo Jo White Growth League basketball team from Dorchester for playing Wu Tang for me and then for my orthodox Jewish rap star brother Nosson Zand (www.kosherhiphop.com) giving me the CDs and going to see Wu Tang at the Palladium Worcester!!!

  • JRJ

    This guy’s philosophy is really stupid. Thumbs down, On Point.

  • Matt Erlenbusch

    Fantastic show. The finest representatives from two of my favorite worlds collide. RZA- I’m still listening to 36 chambers regularly, seen you live, loved you on screen (Wu Tang Financial!), catching Ghost live next week- believe you spawned the best of hip hop. Tom- strongest NPR host in the whole lot, just finished your inspiring book, “The Leap”, did your homework as always and performed an excellent interview. Loved your pronunciation of “gravediggaz”!

    Bravo to On Point for reaching far out of the regular for quality and relevance. This is why your show is the best radio I know. I’m forwarding this interview to many friends.

  • Folabi

    “This guy’s philosophy is really stupid. Thumbs down, On Point.

    Posted by JRJ, on October 16th, 2009 at 8:13 pm EDT”

    I don’t understand how, it makes sense. You just have to study. If it was stupid he would not be as successful as he is now. Listen to interview again buddy.

  • Susan

    The economy, healthcare, war…and The RZA. How can you not love WBUR/NPR?

  • Kat

    I was interested in the fact just about every caller on tonight’s interview was white. And not even like, hip hop white, but sounded pretty… dare I say, dorky white guys who wouldn’t last 10 seconds in the ‘hood. Not to say that white people don’t or shouldn’t appreciate hip hop and hip hop culture… it was just something I noticed.

  • NPRListener

    To see listeners judging this interview as merely a test of RZA’s apriorism for their personal pass / fail judgment, is disheartening to me; at least in context of this show being On Point.

    To have listened to this and to only to come to the conclusion that it’s nothing but bargain palaver, only exposes exactly what you were looking for before hearing the interview and your ignorance to the context, content, motivations and real world results this man affected from city streets to suburban homes.

    The On Point programs are for your consideration and not for trial.

    I applaud On Point for it’s diversity of subject matter and approach to life and existence. taking nothing for granted and being open to all regardless of personal philosophies, because personal philosophies are flawed by their very nature.

    To automatically deny this interview because it doesn’t immediately fall within your comfort zone is to deny what’s happening around you, your fellow human beings, the world, and ultimately yourself; therefore you are not contributing in anyway to the bigger picture of intelligence and enlightenment for the betterment of anyone, and by your own ignorant standards, are no better than this interview and have truly given even yourself, a failing grade.

  • Todd

    “If it was stupid he would not be as successful as he is now.”
    Posted by Folabi

    Depends upon how you measure success.

  • Todd

    “…dare I say, dorky white guys who wouldn’t last 10 seconds in the ‘hood.”
    Posted by Kat

    That’d be ten seconds longer than I’d even want to spend in your pathetic ‘hood.

  • OnPointFan

    Loved this interview. I’m a big fan of On Point and grew up listening to Wu Tang and all those solo albums that RZA produced. I listened to this one twice; once live and again for the replay.

  • justanother

    ****This guy’s philosophy is really stupid. Thumbs down, On Point.****

    Can you articulate why his philosophy is stupid?

  • justanother

    *****I was interested in the fact just about every caller on tonight’s interview was white. And not even like, hip hop white, but sounded pretty… dare I say, dorky white guys who wouldn’t last 10 seconds in the ‘hood. Not to say that white people don’t or shouldn’t appreciate hip hop and hip hop culture… it was just something I noticed.*****

    So what’s your point, can you just be straight forward?

  • ilovetomashbrook

    thanks for the diversity in topics Tom! i love how you can dive into ANYTHING in a researched, intelligent manner, no matter what it is. That’s what makes your show so great. It is true that wu will and should be labeled as some of the most talented artists to emerge out of the hip hop genre. Thanks for helping to apply validity to the world of hip hop which seems to be SO misrepresented and often times, misunderstood (sometimes derservingly so). It deserves to be considered as more than just entertainment, and should be defined as the voice of a culture and generation.

  • Jonas

    I would just like to thank On Point for their continually interesting and diverse programming and second NPRlistener’s comments about small mindedness.

  • Latara

    Thank you SO MUCH for this interview. I never get tired of hearing the RZA. He is fascinating and so important to Hip Hop culture. I know a lot of the On Point audience is not necessarily fanatic about Hip Hop, but it’s good to share some of this with those who may not be familiar. Plus, it’s a great treat for those of us who already love Hip Hop and grew up with its influence. Yet another reason to love NPR!

  • Mac

    Riza’s ideas he threw out during the interview were some of the most incoherent gibberish I’ve ever heard, but I guess that’s what should be expected from a bricolage philosophy of Islam, Buddhism, and junk picked up off of king-fu movies. That his every word was treated as insightful and intelligent was disgusting. The bit where he applied the laws of physics regarding the nature of electrons to human relationships was hilarious though. At least it was worth a laugh. Another thumbs down Tom. It worked though. I might pick up a copy of the book just to read for a laugh. I’m sure in a few months you’ll be able to pick up used copies of it off Amazon for a dollar.

  • LP

    Thank you, NPR, for treating Wu fans to this delightful interview, and for exposing the rest of your audience to the RZA as a positive role model in the hip-hop world.

    I know many people who grew up rewinding Wu Tang songs over and over, deciphering and analyzing the lyrics. The RZA inspired countless young people to learn more about history, religion, philosophy, etc., when other artists stuck with themes of violence and materialism.

    One comment said he “borrows everything, but creates nothing”, yet the RZA doesn’t claim to be a groundbreaking philosopher. He is an avid reader and learner, who shares thoughts with others through music, and I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

    The negative comments here take a condescending and dismissive tone. Listeners should take the RZA’s advice, to “listen, observe, respect”. Thank you Tom for doing just that.

  • Maggie Chinappi

    Tom, I was entranced by your interview with the RZA. To hear his soul’s wisdom spoken in his own words, and in the accents of a former child of the projects, was amazing. As a seeker also, I have to listen to the interview again; there was something he said early on about the steps of getting the knowledge, and having the wisdom, and then acting on it, that I find worthy of meditating on. The RZA’s beautiful integration of the “many paths to the mountaintop” is really what the world and her citizens needs now!
    M.Chinappi

  • schorsch

    sigu said he loves wu tang.

  • jim

    Please have more of these interviews NPR… The interview with RZA is fantastic. I love this guy’s attitude about life.

  • Stephenhavel

    Hi RZA, Since you said you were a seeker and have pursued the commanality of all spiritual paths, what did you think about the global phenomena in 1975 as the UFO TWO and then in 1997 as the Heaven’s Gate clan, but reported as a new age Jesus cult, because of Ti and Do, the founders said to have come from the Kingdom of God/Allah/Jehovah/Jesus as in revelations 11, 6, 12, 14 that is documented on youtube.com/3spm?

  • mark

    you ought to be embarrassed for airing this.  sure, wu tang has a following, but do you really want others to hope to aspire to this level?

    • Philh

      To each their own

  • allen

    Great interview.  RZA is a smart guy and it’s very interesting to hear about his philosophy.  He put in a lot of hard work over the years to produce so many good albums.  Too bad ODB isn’t around anymore to write his.

  • Jose1

    Although the RZA did go off on a tangent or two the program was very interesting.  There is no doubt that he is a very talented individual.  Mac it seems through the interview you were focused on discrediting the RZA instead of judging him on a more holistic level.  All that rubbish you speak of allowed him to create a new movement in music and urban culture.  What have you done to impact the world?  Thanks Tom and NPR for the interview.   

  • PJ

    You have no education, otherwise you would be open to other viewpoints, clearly

  • Struck Christian

    This was one of the most intriguing shows I’ve heard in a long time.  His depth of self knowledge was astounding and Tom did a great job keeping the questions relevant to who RZA is as a person and artist.  Thoroughly enjoyed the entire interview!

  • Roy Mac

    This interview is on what point?

  • Jim

    Are you kidding me? Tom, your shows are usually interesting, informative, even enlightening.  But seriously, the light-weight drivel I heard tonight was a total miss  (and I like rap).  Mr Wu-Tang had nothing to offer that any fourth-grader hasn’t already considered. A better class of guest, please. 

    • Ross

      You clearly have no clue about the Wu-Tang Clan and the influence that they have had on urban – and even suburban – culture. The RZA is an icon in the hip hop community. Anyone with even the most minute amount of knowledge about rap would have thoroughly enjoyed this interview. Sorry that the RZA wasn’t up to your standards, Jim.

  • Hidan

    I remember when Killer Bees came out. Was the first East Rappers I started listening to since at the time of the bigger and 2pac beef.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIqrvUqp7Ok
    Afro Samurai blend of rap and martial-arts was pretty bad ass.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_9Hms8wDls&feature=related
    It’s cool Tom had Rza on the show even know it was a while back.

    • Hidan

      “biggie and 2pac beef.”

  • Julia

    “Aspire to this level”? I certainly aspire to live a life with the grace
    and spirituality of a man like RZA. His compassion and thirst for
    knowledge is palpable and infectious. Is it the hip-hop and rap that you
    discount? I think a lot of these post which discredit RZA have a tone
    of racism much like the ‘birthers’ have against President Obama. Open
    your ears, RZA and artists like him have a lot to say, with a lot of
    heart!

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