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Emerging in 1993, when Dr. Dre’s G-funk had overtaken the hip-hop world, the Staten Island, NY-based Wu-Tang Clan proved to be the most revolutionary rap group of the mid-’90s — and only partially because of their music. Turning the standard concept of a hip-hop crew inside out, the Wu-Tang Clan were assembled as a loose congregation of nine MCs, almost as a support group. Instead of releasing one album after another, the Clan were designed to overtake the record industry in as profitable a fashion as possible — the idea was to establish the Wu-Tang as a force with their debut album and then spin off into as many side projects as possible. In the process, the members would all become individual stars as well as receive individual royalty checks.
Surprisingly, the plan worked. All of the various Wu-Tang solo projects elaborated on the theme the group laid out on its 1993 debut, the spare, menacing Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Taking their group name from an powerful, mythical kung fu sword wielded by an invincible congregation of warriors, the crew is a loose collective of nine MCs. All nine members work under a number of pseudonyms, but they are best known as RZA (formerly Prince Rakeem; aka RZArecta, Chief Abbot, and Bobby Steels; born Robert Diggs), GZA (aka the Genius, Justice, and Maxi Million; born Gary Grice), Ol’ Dirty Bastard (aka Unique Ason, Joe Bannanas, Dirt McGirt, Dirt Dog, and Osirus; born Russell Jones), Method Man (aka Johnny Blaze, Ticallion Stallion, Shakwon, Methical, and MZA; born Clifford Smith), Raekwon the Chef (aka Shallah Raekwon and Lou Diamonds; born Corey Woods), Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks and Sun God; born Dennis Coles), U-God (aka Golden Arms, Lucky Hands, Baby U, and 4-Bar Killer; born Lamont Hawkins), Inspectah Deck (aka Rebel INS and Rollie Fingers; born Jason Hunter), and Masta Killa (aka Noodles; born Elgin Turner).