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As the de facto leader of seminal rap collective Wu-Tang Clan, RZA was widely respected and revered in the music industry. He co-founded the group in the early 1990s and assembled a lineup of East Coast MCs with distinct styles, personalities and rap skills. Wu-Tang Clan launched its successful run on the music charts with the critically acclaimed debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993). With RZA as producer, the album highlighted each member's talent and personality, even though a few emerged as breakout artists among the pack, namely Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard. The group followed up with the Grammy nominated Wu-Tang Forever (1997), considered one of the most influential rap albums of all time. An avid fan of movies, especially in the Kung fu genre, RZA transitioned into feature films by collaborating with iconoclastic filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino, even producing the soundtrack to the latter's two-volume revenge epic "Kill Bill" (2003-04). In 2012, RZA made his feature directorial debut with the martial arts film "The Man with the Iron Fists" (2012), once again proving his artistry and passion as a successful multi-hyphenate.He was born Robert Fitzgerald...

As the de facto leader of seminal rap collective Wu-Tang Clan, RZA was widely respected and revered in the music industry. He co-founded the group in the early 1990s and assembled a lineup of East Coast MCs with distinct styles, personalities and rap skills. Wu-Tang Clan launched its successful run on the music charts with the critically acclaimed debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993). With RZA as producer, the album highlighted each member's talent and personality, even though a few emerged as breakout artists among the pack, namely Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard. The group followed up with the Grammy nominated Wu-Tang Forever (1997), considered one of the most influential rap albums of all time. An avid fan of movies, especially in the Kung fu genre, RZA transitioned into feature films by collaborating with iconoclastic filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino, even producing the soundtrack to the latter's two-volume revenge epic "Kill Bill" (2003-04). In 2012, RZA made his feature directorial debut with the martial arts film "The Man with the Iron Fists" (2012), once again proving his artistry and passion as a successful multi-hyphenate.

He was born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs on July 5, 1969 in Brooklyn, NY. RZA's birth name was reportedly inspired by his mother's admiration for the Kennedy brothers. Between the ages of three and seven, the future rap star lived in North Carolina with an uncle who encouraged him to focus on his studies. He also briefly lived in Pittsburgh, PA, where his father owned a convenience store. Along with future Wu-Tang members the Genius (a.k.a. the GZA) and Ol' Dirty Bastard (a.k.a. ODB), RZA formed his first group, FOI: Force of the Imperial Master (a.k.a. All in Together Now) in the early 1990s. The group did not last long, however, and he attempted a solo career after signing with Tommy Boy Records under the stage name Prince Rakeem. He released his self-produced debut EP Ooh, I Love You, Rakeem in 1991. Shortly after the dissolution of RZA's first crew, he assembled another rap group named the Wu-Tang Clan. The group included RZA, GZA and ODB along with fellow East Coast rappers Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa. RZA and ODB came up with the name Wu-Tang Clan from the 1983 Kung fu film "Shaolin and Wu Tang."

The newly christened band released its debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to much acclaim from the hip-hop community, thanks to its lead single "Protect Ya Neck." The bombastic track featured each member laying down a freestyle verse similar to underground rap battles. Follow-up single "C.R.E.A.M." heavily relied on Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, but it was Method Man's hook "Cash rules everything around me, C.R.E.A.M./Get the money; dollar, dollar bill, y'all" that helped the group break into the mainstream. "C.R.E.A.M." went on to score a gold certification in sales and was included on TIME magazine's list of the "All-Time 100 Greatest Songs." Riding on the success of Wu-Tang's debut album, RZA formed side project Gravediggaz in 1994 along with Prince Paul, Frukwan, and Too Poetic. The hip-hop quartet released its debut 6 Feet Deep that same year and was considered the birth of the hip-hop subgenre "horrorcore." RZA also produced Tical, the 1994 debut album of Wu-Tang's first breakout star Method Man, which featured the Grammy Award-winning single "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By," a duet with Mary J. Blige. After establishing each member as a hip-hop star, Wu-Tang Clan reunited for its multiplatinum-selling second album Wu-Tang Forever. The double disc debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy in 1998.

With another successful Wu-Tang album under his belt, RZA gave up full leadership and creative control of the group to focus on other projects. He released his solo debut Bobby Digital in Stereo (1998), an experimental hip-hop album that featured more keyboard and string arrangements than anything he had ever done previously. The following year, RZA made the leap to feature films, composing original music and making a cameo as a camouflaged warrior in writer-director Jim Jarmusch's action drama "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" (1999). He reunited with the filmmaker with an appearance in one of the vignettes of Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes" (2003). RZA further elevated his film industry cred after producing the soundtrack for Quentin Tarantino's revenge epic "Kill Bill: Vol. 1," which featured an eclectic mix of rockabilly, country, hip-hop and funk. RZA also contributed original music to the film's score as well as the 2004 follow-up "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." That year also saw the death of Ol' Dirty Bastard, arguably Wu-Tang Clan's most outspoken and controversial member, who collapsed at the group's NYC recording studio two days shy of his 36th birthday. RZA honored his late friend with a book titled The Wu-Tang Manual (2005), which included profiles on each member and chapters on the group's origins and inspirations. A longtime fan of Kung fu movies, RZA made his directorial debut in 2012 with "The Man with the Iron Fists." Set in 19th century China, the martial arts film starred Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, and RZA as a former slave-turned-human fighting machine. Close friend Tarantino lent his name to the film with a "Presented by" credit.

By Candy Cuenco

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CAST: (feature film)

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 3 AM (2001)
3.
 Out of Time (1985)
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