The Wu-Tang Manual Paperback – Feb 1 2005
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In the late 1970s, Robert Diggs was growing up in a New York housing project. He spent his time with his many cousins and watching kung fu movies in Times Square. Later, he turned his interests in martial arts, spirituality, chess, comics, and rap music into one of the most successful rap groups of the 1990s-the Wu-Tang Clan. Named for a type of Shaolin martial arts, the Clan consists of Diggs-The RZA-two of his cousins, and six other members. The author shares all that went into making the group what it is, a curious mix of Eastern philosophy, supreme mathematics, capitalism, and, not least, talent. Nearly a quarter of the book is dedicated to lyrics, including a deep analysis of what each rapper meant. The Wu-Tang's lyrics are full of violence, drugs, and slang, but also well-executed metaphors, symbolism, and their philosophy realized. It's rare that rap lyrics are given this level of analysis, let alone in such a readable fashion. The book is full of photographs of the members and information about their work and interests, which include drugs, both legal and illegal. Even this topic is treated with intellectual detachment: "You can't say [drugs] are all bad or they're all good." (Sadly, since the book's publication, founding member ODB died from a drug-related incident.) Even though the Wu-Tang's greatest success came in the 1990s, they are still highly relevant and have many teen fans, all of whom will find something appealing in this account.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD
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About the Author
The RZA is most famous as the founder and leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, theplatinum-selling hip-hop group that is widely considered one of the mostimportant of all time, and has also spanned multiplatinum solo careers formany of its members, including RZA. Originally from Staten Island, he is currentlybased in Los Angeles, where he has continued his music career whilesuccessfully branching out into lecturing, television, and film.
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Quality copy and great seller too.
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Oh yeah, that's right. They were too busy releasing albums, touring, doing shows (and drugs), getting locked up, getting released, appearing on Chapelle's Show, making comic books, scoring movies, and growing the legend of the nine generals, to finish writing a book.
Wow. This is an astonishingly exhaustive work explicating fully the reasoning behind all the insane lyrics behind the Wu, plus the culture with which they were inculcated in their youth. I've been a Wu fan since around Killa Bees/Gravel Pit days, and my collection now includes nearly every group and solo album (less Deck's The Movement, some Cappadonna, U-God's stuff, and Immobilarity). As such a thorough fan, I'm highly impressed. Lyrics in their songs that I'd just skipped over before or barely acknowledged take on added depth and meaning with the Abbot's commentary.
And it's not just Wu-devotees that will find material in here to their liking. The book begins very simply, with biographies of each of the original nine swordsmen. Containing exhaustive lists of aliases (some of which I had -no- idea belonged to the emcee that they do), birthdates, anecdotes, and releases, these serve perfectly to introduce the reader to the individual rappers. From there, however, the book progresses into a deeper analysis of the underpinnings of Wu tradition, including looks at -all- their obvious influences (kung fu movies, mob movies, comic books, drug culture, etc.) and some less obvious ones (did you know that the famous Shaolin Sifu Shi Yanming is personal friends with RZA and Iron Man?). During a time when rap is seen as mere gangsterism and cliched thug-talk, RZA shows a blinding level of intellectualism and scholarship, drawing quotes from Nietzsche, the Hagakure, Lao Tze, and Charles Mingus (among others). He also explains the particular religion of the Five Percent Nation, and the Gods and the Earths.
Personally, as a producer and emcee in training, RZA's section on technical details and equipment was also very valuable - he discusses working with equipment very specifically, and details how he built the characteristic Wu style.
Coming as it does during a renaissance of Wu music (Pretty Tony Album, No Said Date, and the Wu live CD all having been well-received in the last year), The Manual both reassures the Wu-fanboy within me while also relighting the fire for the Shaolin Style.
The Wu-Tang started a new sound in hip hop in early '93: gritty, minimalistic, atonal, and lo-fi, all exemplified in the classic debut 'Enter: The Wu-Tang'. From then on, a legend was born: numerous solo albums from all nine members, even including the honorary tenth member Cappadonna, movies, television, touring, guest appearances on other artists' projects, RZA even composed music for the original soundtrack to the Tarantino's two-parter 'Kill Bill'. The Wu-Tang even have their own "Expanded Universe" of branch-off emcees and groups that rivals the amount of material in that of the Star Wars EU (e.g. Cilvaringz, Killah Priest, Sunz of Man, Black Knights, Killarmy, etc.). And they're STILL going strong with a slew of new albums already dropping (Ghost's awesome 'Fishscale', Sunz' 'Old Testament', etc.). The Wu-Tang Clan are HIP HOP LEGENDS, and this Manual chronicles the beginning of the movement all the way to the present, even chronicling the events that shaped the life of Robert Diggs (RZA), which would eventually also shape his movement.
To the initiated, [hip hop] heads know the Wu stand for something and they're some pretty deep brothers. RZA quotes everyone from Nietzsche to the Hagakure, a guide of bushido commentaries for the warrior (samurai). Being heavily into philosophy myself, I was really intrigued and exhilerated to read what some of the artist's actually meant behind some of their poetic verses. I saw this book at a mom 'n' pop store (Hasting's) in San Marcos and absolutely fell in love with it.
If you're into hip hop, you're more than likely a fan of the Wu as well, and if you are, YOU NEED THIS BOOK -- become more intimately knowledgeable of the legendary Clan and everything they stand for and how they came to be. "CLAN IN THE FRONT!"
It is a great book for anyone who is new to the Wu. It startsoff with great little bios about each artist, but it quickly gets into Wu-history and philosophy that rewards any fan of the group and does what any comic/book/speaker does; it makes you want to explore what RZA's philosophy is even more. This book also, amazingly, does all this with no chest beating. RZA comes off proud, but humble. This is something that 95% of all modern musicians could never do.