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Examining the Nation of Islam Through a Hip-Hop Lens: The Brothers Wu-Tang

RZA

Since the words were first uttered from the stage of the 1998 Grammy Awards, one thing has been certain.

“Wu-Tang is for the children.”

Well, maybe they’re not literally for the children; however, the nine founding members of Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan must have known back in 1993 that they were onto something monumental that might someday affect future generations of babies. Their unique, unrelenting sound, made up of some the most distinct rap characters and musicianship the culture has ever seen, has stood the test of time. But what makes up the Wu foundation?

The answer – Supreme Mathematics – is far more complex than any explanation that can be offered in the context of a feature story. With their fusion of Islamic beliefs, backed by the wisdom of numerous 5 Percenter “degrees,” and underscored by a knowledge of self, Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the scene with content that may have hovered high above the heads of most of their early fan base. Still, the symbolism sounded intelligent, and it was rooted in empowerment and self-worth. Couple that with RZA’s otherworldly production, and the people liked it, clear early on that the legends-in-the-making were set to teach us all a thing or two.

Longevity and talent afforded Wu-Tang their meteoric rise to the top of the rap game, all the way to the top of the charts and even to the Grammy stage. That night in 1998 when the famous “for the children” quote was uttered, Ol’ Dirty Bastard had just “gone all Kanye” on the audience, rushing the stage just as Shawn Colvin was set to accept the award for Song of the Year.

“Please calm down, the music and everything. It’s nice that I went and bought me an outfit today that costed a lot of money, you know what I mean?” Big Baby Jesus spoke earnestly. “‘Cause I figured that Wu-Tang was gonna win. I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children.”

Over the years, the Wu-Tang Clan family grew, then decreased tragically, but has always stayed ahead of the curve. And, though Ol’ Dirty Bastard no longer lends his Cirque de Soleil of brilliant lyrics and quotables, the remaining members hold the Wu flag high. Like many who have weathered the changes since rap’s Golden Era, the cultural prominence of rap has been good to them – allowing for nearly 20-year recording careers for most of them, along with expansion into film, books, product endorsements, and beyond.

The Brothers Wu – particularly Divine, CEO of Wu-Tang Corporation, and brother RZA, the primary architect behind Wu-Tang Clan from its beginning – have accomplished things they never imagined possible when growing up in a poor, New York household with nine other siblings. As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, and having a lot of siblings means being able to harness the muscle of a lot of people with different talents and skills. And, as AllHipHop.com learned at the recent Nation of Islam Saviours’ Day in Rosemont, Illinois, the power of Allah reigns supreme in their business decisions. Watch the video below as Divine talks about the importance of the Nation of Islam to Wu-Tang’s work past, present, and future. Then, view RZA as he Skypes in from his film studio to speak to youth at our town hall meeting – proof positive that he is “For The Children”:

There’s more coverage to come from AllHipHop.com’s visit inside the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day. Check back in the coming days for the next “Examining the Nation of Islam Through a Hip-Hop Lens” feature! Visit www.noi.org for more information.

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