What We Learned from RZA, Wu-Tang Clan’s Resident Sage

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Image via Ego Trip

RZA is the undisputed leader of Wu-Tang Clan. He’s the one who calls out Raekwon when he’s not showing up for the new album, the glue that holds the group together when possible, and the one who pulls them back together when they scatter. He’s also their spiritual center, providing the philosophy that separates them from all other rap groups. While anyone who’s listened to Wu-Tang has probably benefited from RZA’s teaching in an indirect way, few have gotten a chance to learn directly from the man himself, in simple terms.

This was something RZA set out to rectify in his book, The Tao of Wu. RZA moves swiftly from topic to topic, jumping from his theory that “man has to become digital” in order to compete against computers, to how he felt getting eight years of his life back when he beat an attempted murder charge. One of the most compelling stories centers around a man nicknamed June-June who, through a convoluted set of circumstances, RZA ended up fighting in ninth grade. The fight ended in a strange, bloody draw because though RZA couldn’t beat June-June, he kept fighting to the point that the only way June-June could have won was to kill him. June-June ended up becoming RZA’s student.

This story begins to sketch one of the qualities that makes RZA such an effective teacher. He possesses the type spiritual intelligence that allows you to learn from him even if you don’t agree with some of his more controversial theories. In his book he pulls from a wide variety of sources, some of which can feel like a stretch, but through it all a picture of the broader spiritual point he's trying to paint emerges. We’ve selected 12 moments from the book that show RZA’s unique brand of wisdom. Read on.

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