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Konichi-wa, bitches!
November 17, 2007 4:34 AM   Subscribe

Wu-Tang Clan's RZA Breaks Down His Kung Fu Samples by Film and Song. Kung-fu's influence on hip hop has been around since the '70s, when B-boys busted Bruce Lee moves while break-dancing. But in 1993, gritty rap supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan released Enter the Wu-Tang (36-Chambers), the first chart-topping album to kick up raw rhymes with dialog sampled from underground Hong Kong flicks.

The Wu has since sold nearly 6 million albums, all featuring snippets from producer RZA's personal collection of action imports — which boasts more titles in the genre than the Library of Congress. "The people who made these movies didn't know how much one sentence could inspire," says RZA, who also scored Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga and other films. In December, the Clan's eight remaining members (RIP, ODB) reunite for their fifth release, The 8 Diagrams. RZA gave WIRED the dope on Wu-Tang's cinematic source material and sounded off on a selection of rare movie clips.
posted by psmealey (56 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice stuff psmealey. Chock full of tangy goodness.
posted by greenskpr at 4:56 AM on November 17, 2007


This to me is the best of the web. Great work.
posted by Mocata at 5:07 AM on November 17, 2007


Agreed! Thanks psmealey!
posted by waraw at 5:43 AM on November 17, 2007


Excellent post. I can't wait for the new album.
posted by sveskemus at 5:54 AM on November 17, 2007


Excellent, excellent post. A perfect blend of information and ruckus.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:10 AM on November 17, 2007




Great stuff psmealey. Film-wise, I'd particularly recommend Eight Diagram Pole Fighter & Invisible Armour from that list.
posted by stinkycheese at 6:34 AM on November 17, 2007


Killa bees gonna swarm. Excellent post.
posted by absalom at 6:39 AM on November 17, 2007


saw the wired write-up too -- great gathering of netsources here. for me, for more : : led straight to this OUTRAGEOUS KUNG FU DATABASE have some seven flicks downing, dozens more cued -- the internets bring unheard of amounts of sword FX to the masses! via my del.icio.us tablist.

yrs,
j.h c
posted by j.henry at 6:44 AM on November 17, 2007


Nice stuff - thanks psmeasley!
posted by carter at 6:52 AM on November 17, 2007


Poisonous, poisonous...
I don't care what anyone says...Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is the best rap album of the 90s. Maybe of all time. God, I would kill for another WU release of that caliber.
posted by milarepa at 7:10 AM on November 17, 2007


so if you wanna come sweatin, stressin contestin
you'll catch a sharp sword to the midsection
Don't talk the talk, if you can't walk the walk
Phony niggaz are outlined in chalk...

Re: Metafilter

posted by greenskpr at 7:19 AM on November 17, 2007


J Saul Kane liked Hong Kong's film output so much, he not only sampled them, he started a film festival!
posted by asok at 7:26 AM on November 17, 2007


Ey yo, milarepa, Lincoln wasn't Cuban. Best rap album of the '90s? Cuban Links isn't even the best Wu solo album. Liquid Swords! Tical, Tical, Tical! The first couple Ghostface albums!
posted by box at 7:49 AM on November 17, 2007


Liquid swords, maybe. Tical? Nah, never that.
posted by milarepa at 7:54 AM on November 17, 2007


Seconding Liquid Swords! The GZA has been performing the whole album live recently. Pissed I missed it here in Brooklyn.

A friend recently loaned me the RZA's book, which has some very interesting parts. The way they blend the Kung-Fu with Five Percenter slang and the details of criminal worlds (Ghostface's Shaky Dog is almost a short story in its vividness) still blows my mind.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:57 AM on November 17, 2007


Great post. Man I could never get a good backspin going in my kitchen. Who knew all I needed was a red bodysuit. Thanks psmealey.
posted by cashman at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2007


... it's just that all his samples are from lousy English dubs, so who knew what the original filmmakers really intended ...
posted by wfrgms at 8:18 AM on November 17, 2007


they're still cool, after all these years. it's a big accomplishment.
posted by matteo at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2007


Really fantastic post. This must be a Wu weekend! My friend SMS's me a bunch of shame lines last night, and now this! psmeasley, <3
posted by cavalier at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2007


dude. just....dude.

RZA weekend indeed. i was just re-watching the extra bits on kill bill, and was inspired by the RZA interviews to re-invigorate my WTK experience.
posted by CitizenD at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2007


For those who'd like to learn more, please check out The Wu-tang Manual (by RZA). Totally readable and totally awesome. Covers a ton of topics and includes a section ("Book 3") of annotated Wu lyrics. There's also a nice section where RZA leads the reader through all of the producing equipment and how he got it.

I've had this book in my bathroom for about two years. I might sit down, read about RZA's "Five Year Plan" for the Wu, put the book down ... pick it back up and turn to his thoughts on Egyptology, put the book down ... pick it back up and turn to the annotated "Protect Yr Neck," etc.

I'm not saying that it would make the perfect Xmas gift, but that's exactly what I'm sayin'.
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 9:17 AM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's trouble in the temple. RZA's partial response.
posted by afu at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2007


Good to see some the origin of the samples from the classic albums. I religiously bought everything the Wu-Tang Clan and affiliated groups brought out up until 1999, but really I was kidding myself the last two years of that period - I think quality really dropped off after Forever came out. The W had glimpses of brilliance, but I find it hard to get excited about new releases now. If The 8 Diagrams is really a return to form, I trust I'll hear enough about it one way or another.

Oh, and I trust no one will argue with the fact that Inspectah Deck is the best emcee of the lot...
posted by nthdegx at 10:06 AM on November 17, 2007


Awesome post -- thank you.

Also, when we're talking about hip-hop inspired by martial arts, let's not overlook GZA's masterpiece Liquid Swords.
posted by blucevalo at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2007


Years ago, I would've said the best-Wu-MC was either Deck or GZA. But, unlike those two, Ghostface keeps getting better. These days, he might get the belt.
posted by box at 10:15 AM on November 17, 2007


I haven't listened to 36 Chambers in years, and didn't know anything about where those samples came from. This line from the Wired piece caught my attention: "Producer RZA's personal collection of action imports ... boasts more titles in the genre than the Library of Congress." Okay, I'm impressed. (The best DJs appear to have nearly OCD-levels of compulsion to collect.)
posted by sdodd at 10:19 AM on November 17, 2007


You have a point, box. I think Ghost is the only one to have released decent albums post-97, too.
posted by nthdegx at 10:19 AM on November 17, 2007


I don't think I can choose between Ghostface and Inspectah Deck but one of those two is definitely the best Wu-Tang rapper. nthdegx, have you listened to Deck's The Resident Patient from 2006? I thought that was pretty good.
posted by sveskemus at 10:22 AM on November 17, 2007


For flavor: Bring da Ruckus with "some classic kung-fu in the background."
posted by sdodd at 10:23 AM on November 17, 2007


Yo! Cool post psmealey. "Konichi-wa, bitches!" That's to laugh.

One hit wonder of 1974, Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting, by Carl Douglas, lyrics.

Chopsocky.

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity by Vijay Prashad.
posted by nickyskye at 10:28 AM on November 17, 2007


sveskemus - I haven't, no. I'll check it out, thanks.
posted by nthdegx at 10:29 AM on November 17, 2007


OK, so I'm a big noob when it comes to Wu-Tang. Where were the kung-fu references in the Wu-Tang and 36 Chambers links?
posted by pravit at 10:43 AM on November 17, 2007


These days, he might get the belt.

Yup.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:59 AM on November 17, 2007


...although Inspectah Deck bake the cake, then take the cake and eat it, too.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 11:02 AM on November 17, 2007


Yeah, but Ghostface has mastered the trick, just like Nixon.
posted by box at 11:10 AM on November 17, 2007


And for those anticipating The Eight Diagrams, there's a section of the Wu-tang Manual that talks about the The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter king-fu flick:
The last movie that formed the Wu-Tang Clan brotherhood is called The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. That was a movie I saw on tape for the first time with my brothers and sisters. It was a movie about eight brothers who get betrayed, go to war, and many get killed. And my family has eight brothers. I have three sisters and there are three sisters in the movie. So my whole family watched that movie over and over and over. This movie was very special to my family.

So later, once everyone at the projects was fiended out on kung-fu -- all cutting class, coming to the crib, and watching videos, I decided to show them this one, The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter. Wu-Tang was good for the moves and fighting and the sword style. But The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter is the story of brotherhood.

So this one day, about eight or nine of us -- me, Ghost, an a bunch of Stapleton niggas -- are getting high and I put on the movie. not too long into it, somethings deep happened. People start feeling it. Some niggas even started crying.

Because that movie is real. It's a kung-fu movie, but it's a real story. These eight brothers who go out and they get betrayed and they fight to the death for each other -- it hit us. An niggas was saying "I'm the Fifth brother!" "I'm the Sixth Brother!" They were relating to it on that level. so we started calling each other by the names of those brothers.

I think what got them was the betrayal and the brotherhood. the general betrays the whole family, and the father gets killed, and all the brothers get killed except for two. one goes crazy and the other gets a chance to be a monk. And he goes and cuts his hair to do it. That scenen where this guy cuts his hair ... believe me, it's real.

Listen, we're oppressed. It does feel like we as a people were betrayed a long time ago. I can't really describe it any other way. It's real because the issues ware alive with us. You're living in the hood and you've got knowledge and drams and you got wars between neighborhood and neighborhood and neighborhood. Everyone's backstabbing everybody. And when you know someone who's got your back, that's a life-or-death thing. that's a real bond, a real brotherhood.
So much for my personal No Transcription Saturday ...
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 12:40 PM on November 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


Here's a video of RZA demonstrating the Roland MV-8800. It looks like they took down his MV-8000 video; he had that one custom-painted yellow and black.
posted by Reggie Digest at 1:25 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, there it is. Had to click the 'video' button. Duh.
posted by Reggie Digest at 1:29 PM on November 17, 2007


I looked through Rza's list but I didn't see an entry for Ghost's second LP which has the quote "My God so they are killers. I've heard lots of people say once a man's a killer they just keep on killing and killing, they sort of develop a taste for blood." Anyone know what film thats from?
posted by criticalbill at 2:18 PM on November 17, 2007


And bonus marks if anyone can explain what the fuck Ghost is talking about for the rest of the song
posted by criticalbill at 2:24 PM on November 17, 2007


Tiger style.
posted by sparkletone at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2007


So, just how many [foreign] kung-fu movies does the Library of Congress own, anyway? Because I think there might be some mission creep there.
posted by box at 3:52 PM on November 17, 2007


When I was a kid in the early seventies, an Army Brat, the army base theaters sometimes had Kunf-Fu Theater matinées. Which we religiously attended. I remember not many of the white kids went. There was something about that genre, especially when Bruce Lee broke through, that resonated with the black kids.

Playing Kung-Fu on the playground it was me and the Asian and black kids. I don't remember any white kids playing with us. Maybe there were more minority kids represented on military bases back then... but it's interesting. I guess I never thought about it before.

good post.
posted by tkchrist at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2007


Joining the chorus: great post! Many thanks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:05 PM on November 17, 2007


I'd be remiss, however, to not remind you that, when romanized, the word is spelled with two Ns.

Konnichiwa Bitches!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Konnichiwa, Flapjax-san. I bow to you as you are my sensei in such matters. :-)
posted by psmealey at 5:16 PM on November 17, 2007


For no reason I can articulate, Meth and ODB were always my favorite Wu-tang members. On Wu-tang albums, anyway. I wouldn't call them the best MCs of the lot (hell, ODB I wouldn't even want to hang out with).

My least favorite part of the Wu's career has always been the diminishing amount of ODB on each subsequent album (for various reasons).

Method Man gets bonus points for having a bit part on The Wire.

A really killer official mixtape was put out recently... I think you have to register or something to download it now, but it was free and clear when I downloaded it... Worth hunting down for many, many reasons.
posted by sparkletone at 7:50 PM on November 17, 2007


Agreed with others that Ghost has been the most impressive as of late. Fishscale is a fucking great album. I just don't see how Raekwon hasn't got the respect he deserves.
posted by fishmasta at 9:43 PM on November 17, 2007


Hey thanks, sparkletone. I wasn't aware of that mixtape. You do have to register to download it but I just used bugmenot and that worked great. Downloading now, can't wait to listen. Oh, and I completely agree with everything you said about Old Dirty Bastard. Method Man, not so much.
posted by sveskemus at 1:14 AM on November 18, 2007


I read the words "RZA" and favorited it immediately. Don't have nearly enough posts like this.
posted by SassHat at 1:21 AM on November 18, 2007


sparkletone: In the 90s my wife met most of wu tang. She swears that odb was the nicest, most humble and respectful of the whole clan.
posted by milarepa at 7:34 AM on November 18, 2007


Just saw Method Man live on Monday actually. Great show, he did a whole ODB tribute and performed Shimmy Shimmy Ya. Ol Dirty has always been my favorite persona, but RZA is a legendary producer and the Genius has some of the best flow in hip-hop.
posted by ageispolis at 10:28 AM on November 18, 2007


In the 90s my wife met most of wu tang. She swears that odb was the nicest, most humble and respectful of the whole clan.

Interesting!

Also. If that's the case, you should totally go get that mixtape and play her the rib-breakingly funny version of Don't Go Breaking My Heart with Macy Gray.
posted by sparkletone at 10:34 AM on November 18, 2007


That was pretty funny. I'm not totally convinced by the rest of the mixtape, though. But I've only heard it once yet so it might still grow on me.
posted by sveskemus at 11:37 AM on November 18, 2007


But I've only heard it once yet so it might still grow on me.

It could maybe do with some trimming, but it only took me about two listens to start finding favorite bits. I like pretty much all of it at this point, but that said, I've only listened to it front to back without interruption a handful of times.

Apropos of completely nothing: They totally should've let ODB do something with the old, pipe-eating Cookie Monster.
posted by sparkletone at 7:11 AM on November 19, 2007


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