Wu-Tang Clan: microphones, swords and a wad of cash    With the disaparition of Old Dirty Bastard -he died last november- the end of one of the greatest of hip hop collectives arrived. They deserve this article. A new live record is arriving to the streets soon, just as an epitaph, and be carefull, you can get hooked on with them: "Wu-Tang ain´t nothing to fuck with". Once upon a time...
Let’s begin with the mythological origins of the band. In the sixth century a. D., according to an old legend, a Buddhist monk named Tamo traveled far to join the Shaolin temple. The director of this institution, Fang Chang, considered him a suspicious man and so did not let him in. Tamo retreated to a nearby cave to meditate and, as time went by, he attained such a concentration he even pierced the wall.
Confident and strong as he was, Tamo finally got in. In his first contact with the temple, he was astonished by the low learning level of the students. He made the decision to take care of the instruction of the monks himself. He created a system based on the imitation of the 18 animals of the Indochinese iconography. Eventually, this technique improved. Many types of weapons were introduced; among these, the Wu Tang sword, the most fatal of them all. In order to control it, the student had to undergo a test of 36 stages related to the 36 steps of the apprenticeship. When a student went from one stage to the next, he was given a gold tooth in exchange for a real one (in the end, platinum and diamonds were added to dazzle the enemy.)
The confrontation between the two Shaolin features gradually arose: those who wanted to show their art with an intention of defense and the ones who did not reject active violence. These were The Wu-Tang Clan.

Platinum scamps
Sixteen centuries after, in Staten Island (New York), the legend revives. It fuses hip hop, kung fu and the mafia togeteher. It also holds a pinch of terror films.
Their first album, Enter the 36 Chambers (93), puzzled the hip hop community. In order to shape it, nine high level rappers were needed: RZA (musical director), Genius/GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (the wildest), Method Man (often compared to Erick Sermon; he was the first one to get success outside the band), Raekwon the Chef, Ghostface Killah U-God, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa.
Good soldiers as they were, Wu-Tang Clan had their strategy arranged before getting into industry. They signed up with Loud because they were not free to publish their solo albums wherever they wanted. A decade later, if we sum up group and solo albums, there are more than forty and they have signed contracts with all the multinational record companies. In their first three years they sold more than ten million copies. As it is known, they turned into “an industry within industry”.
The cultural impact was huge. Because of their detailed aesthetics, in 1995 they were the first hip hop band to have their own clothes brand: "Wu Wear". In 1998, they were the first ones to create their own videogame: “Shaolyn Style”. Not even their collaborations with Christina Aguilera o Mariah Carey lessened their prestige.
Directors such as Jim Jarmusch or Tarantino trusted them to produce the soundtracks for Ghost Dog and the Kill Bill saga. Their coming projects: RZA has worked together with a classical composer for the soundtrack of Blade: Trinity and he is working on a piano concert for Unleashed, Jun Li’s next film.

Old, dirty, bastard and dead
Wu-Tang never lacked credibility on the streets, but in case someone hesitated, there he was, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) to make things clear.
Their first conflicts began in 1998. During the Grammy Awards, he snatched away the microphone from Shawn Colvin while he was making a speech and complained about not having been given the “Best Rap album” and Puff Daddy having been awarded instead. Their problems were increasing progressively: he was accused of threats against authority, possession of a bullet proof vest and drugs, threats to an ex girlfriend and driving without license. When MTV made a report based on 24 hours of his life, he was recorded going by limousine to an Estate Assistance office to ask for some food coupons for his children (and he would get them). Wu-Tang never split up or had ego fights. However, they went through many streaks of poor communication as it was shown when they didn’t go on tour together from 1997 to 2004.
ODB died in his studio last November 14 when he was bound to be 36. The cause of his death is still undecided, but he had recently run away from a clinic where he got treatment for his addictions. Together with GZA, he was the leader of Wu-Tang and the outstanding voice.
Now, get ready for massive new Wu material: a posthumous album of OBD, a Greatest Hits record of Wu-Tang Clan and a book explaining their iconography. It is entitled The Wu-Tang manual and expected for January 2005.