The Wu-Tang Clan is a New York-based, all-star lineup of nine American rappers who are Grammy winners, multiplatinum-selling solo artists, multiplatinum record producers, film stars, screenwriters, TV stars, product spokespersons, business owners and, most recently, major motion picture composers. Emerging in 1993, the Staten Island, New York-based Wu-Tang Clan proved to be the most revolutionary rap group of the mid-'90s and only partially because of their music. All nine members work under a number of pseudonyms, but they are best known as: the RZA (formerly Prince Rakeem, as well as the Rzarecta, Chief Abbot, and Bobby Steels; b. Robert Diggs), Genius/GZA (a.k.a. Justice, Maxi Million; b. Gary Grice), Ol' Dirty Bastard (aka Unique Ason, Joe Bannanas, Dirt McGirt; b. Russell Jones, circa 1969), Method Man (aka Johnny Blaze, Ticallion Stallion, Shakwon, Methical, the MZA; b. Clifford Smith), Raekwon the Chef (aka Shallah Raekwon, Lou Diamonds; b. Corey Woods), Ghostface Killa (aka Tony Starks, Sun God; b. Dennis Coles), U-God (aka Golden Arms, Lucky Hands, Baby U, 4-Bar Killer; b. Lamont Hawkins), Inspecta Deck (aka Rebel INS, Rollie Fingers; b. Jason Hunter), and Masta Killa (aka Noodles; b. E. Turner) RZA leading in production created a hazy, surreal and menacing soundscape out of hardcore beats, eerie piano riffs, and minimal samples. Over these surrealistic backing tracks, the MCs rapped hard, with martial arts imagery and by 1995 the sound was one of the most instantly recognizable in hip-hop. The first Wu-Tang Clan single, the hard-hitting "Protect Ya Neck," appeared on their own, independent label and became an underground hit. Soon, the record labels were offering them lucrative contracts. The group held out until they landed a deal that would allow each member to record solo albums for whatever label they chose -- in essence, each rapper was a free agent. Loud/RCA agreed to the deal and the band's debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, appeared in November of 1993. The Wu-Tang Clan finally returned with their second album, Wu-Tang Forever, in June of 1997, The W in 2000, and there fourth release Iron Flag in 2001.
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