U-God
By: Tom Nealon | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Hip Hop, Music

If there was one Wu-Tang member who was consistently at the wrong place at the right time, the wrong guy for the right moment, it was U-GOD (Lamont Jody Hawkins, AKA Golden Arms, born 1970). Though a founding member of the Clan, because he spent eight months of 1992 in jail for a controlled substance charge, U-God was reduced to little more than a few background vocals and an intro on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and his career never recovered. Unable to get a record deal like the other members, his record Golden Arms Redemption belatedly came out on RZA’s label (but with somewhat equivocal help from RZA) in 1999, and was only modestly successful at avoiding being labeled a failure. Jazz-Rap had petered out a few years before, so the most successful tracks, the terrific Marvin Gaye-sampling Bizarre and the much underplayed Soul Dazzle, failed to get anyone very excited and — more crucially — failed to convince anyone that U-God’s smooth baritone was a natural match for funk. Even 2009’s surprisingly great Wu-Tang succeeds largely by rubbing some funk (and some Method Man) on it. His ongoing beef with RZA over royalties that repeatedly rises up at the least opportune times has done little to give voice to his perpetually muffled brilliance.

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

ALSO ON HILOBROW: RZA | Ghostface Killah | Ol’ Dirty Bastard

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Carlos Fuentes.

READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–73).

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Tom Nealon runs the online rare bookshop Pazzo Books specializing in early printed books, cookery and literature. In his spare time he works on barbecue techniques in the test pit in his backyard. He can be found at pazzobooks.com and @pazzobooks on twitter.