RZA

By: Tom Nealon
July 5, 2009

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It seems impossible that the various identities — Prince Rakeem, Bobby Digital, RZArecta, The Abbot, Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah — of rapper, producer, and film scorer RZA (Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, born 1969) form a coherent whole; and that his corporatism, Supreme Mathematics, kung-fu fetishism, and finely honed musical integrity exist simultaneously. But he makes it look easy. Not since P.T. Barnum has anyone internalized the lessons of American capitalism as fully — even though RZA’s attempts to attract the best Ivy League talent were sometimes derailed because the talent was afraid of getting punched in the face. When Chappelle’s Show joked about Wu-Tang Financial (“Smith Barney? Buncha bitches”), it was the ring of truth that made the skit; a world with Wu-Tang Financial was easily imaginable. Yet his spin-offs of the Wu brand into a universe of Wu products, the layered complexity of his corporate schemes, have always existed in parallel with the genius of his artistic vision. They converge at some point near infinity that only RZA can see.

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HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc | Gil Scott-Heron | Slick Rick | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels | Afrika Bambaataa | Biz Markie | U-God | Slug | Adam Yauch | Ghostface Killah | DJ Run | Flavor Flav | Scott La Rock | GZA | Schoolly D | Aesop Rock | Terminator X | Notorious B.I.G. | Melle Mel | Doug E. Fresh | Kool Keith | Rick Rubin | Rakim | Ol’ Dirty Bastard | Madlib | Talib Kweli | Danger Mouse | Kool Moe Dee | Chuck D | Dizzee Rascal | RZA | Cee-Lo Green | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: PT Barnum, Jean Cocteau, Chuck Close

READ MORE about members of the Anarcho-Symbolist Generation (1864–73).

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HiLo Heroes, Hip Hop, Music