American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. American Ganster Movie, 2007

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RZA - American Gangster - The New Ridley Scott Film Starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington

RZA, pronounced Rizza, (born Robert Diggs, July 5, 1969 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, USA) is an American producer, rapper, de facto leader of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan and actor. He was also a member of the group Gravediggaz. As well as producing almost all of the Wu-Tang's albums, he has also produced many of their solo and affiliate projects, as well as releasing a succession of solo albums (two under the alter-ego Bobby Digital) and composing several film scores.

RZA is married with two children, Shallah Mohammed and Raqim.

His production technique has evolved significantly over the years. Innovative techniques include the inclusion of sped-up soul samples in some of his beats, an influence on successful producers such as Kanye West and Just Blaze, use of high-pitched cinematic strings, and an avant garde, experimental approach which has inspired many artists in the genre of underground rap. He is responsible for the Wu-Tang Clan's trademark sound, providing all the beats for the group's early albums and many of the members' most respected solo albums.

Early career
After an impoverished childhood in a family of 11 children, RZA began his career in hip hop in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a member of the trio Force Of The Imperial Master (which subsequently became known as the All in Together Now Crew after they had a successful underground single of that name) with future Wu-Tang members, and his cousins, GZA (then known as the Genius) and Ol' Dirty Bastard (then known, respectively, as Ason Unique, the Specialist, and the Professor). Once this acclaimed local band dissolved, both he & GZA attempted to kick start solo careers. With the help of GZA's friend Melquan (then owner of Jamaica Records) they both secured single deals with album options at successful labels, GZA going to Cold Chillin and RZA to Tommy Boy. GZA ultimately released the Words from the Genius album, but RZA's stint at Tommy Boy ended with only the EP "Ooh I Love You Rakeem" to show for it when he went to jail soon after its release. GZA's album flopped, and the two cousins became determined to conquer the hip hop industry on their own terms.

From this determination came the Wu-Tang Clan, formed with Ol' Dirty Bastard as well as with 6 others. With the Clan, Prince Rakeem started going by the name RZA (pronounced "the rizza" and derived from the word "Razor", his graffiti tag). After the singles Protect Ya Neck and Method Man, both driven by raucous RZA-produced beats, made the group into underground sensations, the group released their debut LP Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. The album eventually went platinum, and was heralded by hip-hop fans as a classic. Enter the Wu-Tang revolutionized hip hop and helped bring the East Coast back into the spotlight after Dr. Dre's G-funk had come to dominate the rap scene, in large part thanks to RZA's lean, gritty and very distinctive production style.

As each of the group's members embarked on solo careers, RZA continued to produce nearly everything Wu-Tang related during the period 1994-1997, producing in both the "hip hop producer" sense (composing and arranging the instrumental tracks) and in the wider "music producer" sense (overseeing and directing the creative process as well as devising song concepts and structure). Indeed, RZA's rule over the Clan at this time is described by himself in 2004's Wu-Tang Manual book as "like a dictatorship". His sound was to develop from the raw, minimalist sounds of Method Man's Tical and Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers to more cinematic and expansive soundscapes driven by string sections or thick layers of synthesizer on Ghostface Killah's Ironman, GZA's Liquid Swords and Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. All of the group's albums during the period from 1994 to 1996 are highly regarded by critics and hip hop enthusiasts. During this time, RZA also took part in the Gravediggaz, an off-and-on rap supergroup including Frukwan of Stetsasonic, Poetic of The Brothers Grym, and Prince Paul who released the critically acclaimed album 6 Feet Deep in 1994. As part of the Gravediggaz, he went by the name RZArecta. The South Park Coalition, alongside the likes of the K-Rino and Ganksta N.I.P., are regarded as one of the originators of the Horrorcore genre of rap. RZA is associated with The Nation of Gods and Earths.

Wu-Tang Forever
The success of Wu-Tang Forever, which hit number one on the charts after selling 600,000 in its first week, also marked the end of RZA's "five year plan"; at the group's inception, he promised the group if he had total dictatorial control of the Wu-Tang empire, it would conquer the hip hop world within five years. After Forever's success, RZA ceased to oversee all aspects of Wu-Tang product as he had previously, delegating much of his existing role to associates such as Oli "Power" Grant and his brother Mitchell "Divine" Diggs, and giving each Clan member more individual control. This move was designed to enable the Wu-Tang empire to expand further and further into the fabric of the hip hop industry, and in accordance with this an extremely large amount of Wu-Tang music was to be released over the next two years. This had already to some extent begun on Wu-Tang Forever, which for the first time featured RZA delegating a small number of beatmaking duties to other producers in the Wu-Tang camp, such as his proteges True Master and 4th Disciple (known as the Wu-Elements) and Clan member Inspectah Deck.

RZA - American Gangster - The New Ridley Scott Film Starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington

During the 1997-2000 period RZA ceased to produce every Wu-Tang solo album as he had done previously, but continued to contribute usually one or two beats on average to each record as well as receiving an Executive Producer credit. He also released his first solo effort titled RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo in 1998 (see 1998 in music). This was an experimental concept album featuring him rapping as his hedonistic, fun-loving alter-ego Bobby Digital and showcasing a unique keyboard-driven sound RZA called "digital orchestra", receiving mostly positive reviews. He also reformed with the Gravediggaz for the album The Pick, The Sickle & The Shovel, a calmer and more mature album than their horrorcore-oriented debut.

After helming another Wu-Tang group album titled The W (his production on which received much praise) and providing narration to a Clan greatest hits album titled RZA Hits, RZA released another Bobby Digital album, 2001's Digital Bullet. Digital Bullet was an attempt to develop Bobby Digital further, and the album followed a loose story arc which saw the character becoming more "enlightened" and more disillusioned with hedonism as the album went on.

Recent work
In 1999 the RZA moved into composing film scores. His first work, Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), earned praise; he also had brief cameo in the film itself. The experience was positive and, as he noted during an interview on National Public Radio's Fresh Air, the work with traditional musicians gave him the desire to learn how to read and write music.

The critical success of the Ghost Dog soundtrack led to further work. The RZA created and produced the original music for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series, as well as Blade: Trinity, and Soul Plane. RZA also appeared alongside fellow Wu-Tang member GZA in one segment of Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes opposite Bill Murray. He and the GZA have also made several appearances on Chappelle's Show, in one appearance pitching a financial services firm called Wu-Tang Financial.

His first solo album as simply the RZA, Birth of a Prince, was released in 2003 (see 2003 in music) and spawned the single We Pop. The album itself featured a mix of lighthearted Bobby Digital tracks and more lyrically highbrow RZA tracks. In 2003 he also released an album of collaborations with international rap and R&B musicians (including the UK's Skinnyman, France's Saïan Supa Crew and Germany's Xavier Naidoo) entitled The World According to RZA, which was successful in many countries, despite not being sold in the USA.

In 2005, RZA served as the Artist in Residence for the LA Film Festival and released the long-gestating book Wu-Tang Manual, an in-depth discussion of the Wu-Tang's virtues, vices and philosophies. RZA continued to star and score movies such as Derailed, Blood of a Champion and Miami Vice. Currently he is working with Raekwon and Method Man on both of their highly-anticipated albums, most of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II and four songs from 4:21...The Day After. He has also recorded with the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and is set to contribute to Cannibal Ox's upcoming album, along with Pete Rock and El-P.

Talks are on between System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian and RZA regaring a collaboration between the two artists. GZA is also involved in the project and has stated so in an interview.

During the Enter the Wu-Tang period, RZA's production consisted mainly of stripped-down, frenetic piano loops and finger-snaps with heavy bass and drums, though he experimented with more melodic sounds on the album's "Method Man" and "C.R.E.A.M." He also began incorporating skits consisting of clips of old kung fu movies.

The next two solo albums from the Wu, Method Man's Tical and Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, featured versions of the same style of production from the RZA; the former delved somewhat into old soul records and became somewhat bouncy rather than quite as gritty, while the latter was at times even more simplistic than the group's debut.

On Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and GZA's Liquid Swords, RZA would immerse his beats in dark, sinister soul sampling, pioneering the technique of speeding up or slowing down samples to fit the beat that artists such as Kanye West and Just Blaze would later use. He also fully realized the potential of the skit, using old kung fu clips to string the Cuban Linx album together into a loose storyline.

Subsequent Wu group albums saw RZA become even more experimental, usually with soul samples as well as the layers added his beats. Around 1997 he began tutoring 4th Disciple, True Master and Mathematics in production. The early-mid 2000's have seen him move more toward smoother and more tightly-assembled productions, where the melody, drums, bass and other elements play more off each other than they previously had in his beats.

His Bobby Digital albums introduced tweaked-out new age elements to his sound; these have incorporated themselves more fully into his beats on newer albums such as Method Man's 4:21...The Day After.

RZA - American Gangster - The New Ridley Scott Film Starring Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington

The Abbot
The Razor
Bobby Digital
Bobby Steels
Prince Delight
Prince Rakeem
Prince Dynamite
Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah (Supreme Alphabet for "RZA")
RZArecta (from resurrector - waking up the mentally dead)
The Scientist
Bob Digi
Robert Diggs
Bobby Boulders

In The News:


GI Joe: Retaliation Director's Blockbuster Formula: Bruce Willis, RZA and Gadgets
Luckily, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura knew the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA. ?The Blind Master traditionally is an African-American blind ninja master from the streets of, I want to say Baltimore or something. So the fact that that was written into the script we had to ...

and more »
  Mon, 01 Apr 2013 23:46:45 GMT

Bloody Disgusting

Trailer For RZA, Ghostface Killah, & Adrian Younge's New Comic '12 Reasons ...
Bloody Disgusting
Black Mask Studios has unveiled a new trailer for RZA, Ghostface Killah, & Adrian Younge's 12 Reasons to Die, a horror-crime tale that will blend mediums for an original storytelling experience with a new album and comic book series (Details on the album ...

and more »
  Mon, 01 Apr 2013 18:22:55 GMT

RZA Responds To Singer's Lawsuit (blog)
Superproducer RZA has responded to Dutch singer Thea Van Seijen lawsuit over royalties. The singer-songwriter claims that she collaborated as a co-writer and performer on 14 songs with the Wu-Tang Clan leader and was not compensated according to ...

and more »
  Mon, 01 Apr 2013 09:28:14 GMT

RZA Vows To Fight Dutch Singer Over Royalties
(AllHipHop News) RZA is prepared to fight a Dutch singer that claims she was not properly paid by the Wu Tang front man. Thea Van Seijen sued the rapper for unpaid royalties after the singer was employed on songs from RZA, but he claims that he never ...

and more »
  Mon, 01 Apr 2013 03:41:01 GMT

RZA hits back at Dutch singer's lawsuit
Reverb MSN Music (blog)
However, RZA, real name Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, has now fired at back at her allegations, filing legal papers in which he states Van Seijen was compensated for her work at the time and is not listed as a co-author on any of the songs, according to

and more »
  Mon, 01 Apr 2013 00:37:23 GMT

The Versed

RZA Responds To Lawsuit From Dutch Singer Thea Van Seijen, Says He's ...
The Versed
RZA has responded to a lawsuit filed by Dutch singer Thea Van Seijen who claims that she co-wrote and contributed to as many as 14 of the Wu-Tang Clan rapper's songs. RZA acknowledged that he worked with Van Seijen and explained that he's already ...

and more »
  Sun, 31 Mar 2013 23:42:30 GMT

Rza - Rza Hits Back At Dutch Singer's Lawsuit
However, Rza, real name Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, has now fired at back at her allegations, filing legal papers in which he states Van Seijen was compensated for her work at the time and is not listed as a co-author on any of the songs, according to

and more »
  Sun, 31 Mar 2013 22:09:58 GMT

Hip-Hop Wired

RZA Tells Dutch Singer Suing Him For Royalties To Kick Rocks
Hip-Hop Wired
RZA is basically telling the Dutch singer who is suing him to kick rocks. Late last year, Thea Van Siejaen filed a lawsuit alleging that the rapper, producer, actor and movie director owed her a significant amount of money in royalties and other payments.

and more »
  Sun, 31 Mar 2013 16:11:12 GMT

RZA Says He Doesn't Owe Anything to Dutch Singer Suing Him
RZA has responded to a royalties lawsuit against him, saying that he owes Thea Van Seijen no additional royalties. The Dutch singer filed suit against RZA alleging that she had co-written and performed on fourteen songs with the Wu-Tang member, including ...

and more »
  Sun, 31 Mar 2013 17:07:01 GMT


News: RZA Fights Back In Hefty Money-Jacking Case
Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA is reportedly willing to fight a legal matter in court after being sued a few months ago by a Dutch singer who claimed she was short-changed by him. According to reports, Bobby Digital claims he never agreed to pay out royalties or ...

and more »
  Sun, 31 Mar 2013 12:25:09 GMT

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American Gangster, a Ridley Scott film, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.
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