WU-Tang Clan might very well be the greatest and most enduring hip hop crew that has ever existed, or will ever exist. When the Staten Island collective dropped into the public consciousness in the early 1990s, they left an immediate impact, not only on the musical landscape, but by forever altering the way that industry deals were written for rap musicians, not unlike the way that Led Zeppelin managed to change things for rock music two decades earlier. While the group was collectively signed to one label (Loud/RCA), the 9 individual members were permitted to venture out to seek their own deals with other labels and forge careers independently outside of the crew. Because of that foresight, determination, and overwhelming depth of talent the world was graced with such brilliant and genre-defining efforts as Old Dirty Bastard‘s inimitable Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version; Raekwon‘s groundbreaking mafioso rap masterpiece, Only Built For Cuban Linx (Loud/RCA); and one of my all time favorite albums in any genre, GZA‘s Liquid Swords (Geffen/MCA); all just within 1995 alone. Over the years, the legacy has been been sustained as the members went on to find success — including Method Man with his film career and Ghostface Killah,arguably the most consistent member, continuing to release one tremendous effort after another — but that which strengthened the brand also worked to distance the members and, in ways, weaken the unit.
In more recent years, there have been obstacles with getting the whole team back together. At points, the management of particular members have been tangled up in obstacles like trying to bang out contracts to yield what they believed would be appropriate compensation based on what they argued that their clients were worth and, with that many different individuals and pieces moving, it’s not an easy thing to lock down. On a creative level, there have been conflicts as well, with some feeling that RZA, WU mastermind and primary producer of every album for them as a unit, was blinded by Hollywood and was losing the original flavor of what made the WU what they were, as he tried to increasingly bring in more guitars and other left-field elements, incorporating over the top productions with, what some might claim were, Brian Wilson-esque aspiration. The truth of the matter is that, after a certain point, there were other producers in the WU stable that were doing RZA better than RZA. One such figure is Mathematics, someone who has been involved for so long that he was not only touring with GZA prior to the formation of the Clan, but he is actually the one that designed their logo. Back in October, Wu Tang released a brand new LP, The Saga Continues, which was produced entirely by Mathematics, with RZA as the executive producer. It was credited to WU-Tang, minus the “Clan,” since U-God didn’t appear on it due to continued legal issues with the crew over compensation. It does, however, feature longtime WU affiliate, Killah Preist, and such power hitters as Redman and Sean Price, all 3 of which I’d, personally, take of “Golden Arms” any day. The reviews for the album were uneven among reviewers, but the hardcore fans that I know embraced it much more than other things that they’ve attempted recently.
Now there’s a fine art exhibit paying tribute to the WU and their latest effort, which is available to view online through Detroit-based 1xRUN, which describes itself as “the world’s leading publisher of fine art editions and online destination for original art.” As the press release states, “With The Wu-Tang Clan’s music having long-served as an inspiration for artists over the past 24 years, it was only fitting to create a visual representation for the project. 36 Chambers ALC teamed up with Studio Invcbl to curate a new painting for each of the album’s songs.”
“Presented for the first time during Miami Art Week 2017, this exhibition features new works from Aaron “Woes” Martin, Jose Mertz, Lauren YS, Dragon76, Baghead, Chris Brand, Abstrk, Reinier Gamboa, Eric Bonhomme, Mwanel Pierre Louis and Verse.”
Check out the exhibit in full below. To purchase pieces and/or view additions info/details of the work, click the individual images and it will link you to their respective pages.