Thursday, November 15, 2007

Da Mystery of Chessboxin Solved

As I've often said, I don't know enough about hip-hop to make a judgment about whether most rappers qualify for Advanced status, but RZA (and the Wu-Tang Clan in general) has always struck me as a candidate. So with that in mind, let's have a look at this story in Wired, where he tells all about his kung-fu samples:
Kung-fu's influence on hip hop has been around since the '70s, when B-boys busted Bruce Lee moves while break-dancing. But in 1993, gritty rap supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan released Enter the Wu-Tang (36-Chambers), the first chart-topping album to kick up raw rhymes with dialog sampled from underground Hong Kong flicks. The Wu has since sold nearly 6 million albums, all featuring snippets from producer RZA's personal collection of action imports — which boasts more titles in the genre than the Library of Congress. "The people who made these movies didn't know how much one sentence could inspire," says RZA, who also scored Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga and other films. In December, the Clan's eight remaining members (RIP, ODB) reunite for their fifth release, The 8 Diagrams. RZA gave WIRED the dope on Wu-Tang's cinematic source material and sounded off on a selection of rare movie clips.
RZA then goes on to tell us about individual samples: what movie they came from, where you can find it in the movie, and why it was used. So if you ever wanted to know what the significance was of the sample from "The Four Assassins" in "Maria," now is your chance. You can also hear the samples and see the actual clips. It's a charticle 2.0, you could say.

As far as Advancement is concerned, the martial arts are very Advanced, as is demystifying your art by explaining where it came from. (Bob Dylan likes to do that, though his explanations then require demystification as well.)

7 comments:

henry said...

i think there are two difficulties when talking about advancement and rap.

the first is that rap is an art form that's much younger than rock (especially in terms of mainstream pop record sales) and thus there's been less time for rappers to advance in. the other thing is what i see as the importance of auteur theory to advancement. like in rock, we have this cult of (let's say) the beatles as these master creative geniuses who are the sole architects of their success. in terms of rock music, most people (even some musicians) don't think about the importance of the producer, george martin and geoff emerick. in rap, though, you have the rapper/producer dichotomy which almost feels a lot more like a motown hit-factory sort of thing, where the creativity and responsibilty for the success of a song is is a shared between these two distinct entities and no one person can provide (unless you're thinking of like kanye or timbaland or other rappers who are also really hands-on producers and who also, coincidentally or not, seem to me to exhibit some advanced tendencies)

that's all a little confused. maybe i need to go listen to "the original wrapper"

henry said...

(ugh, typos, please delete the first one)

i think there are two difficulties when talking about advancement and rap.

the first is that rap is an art form that's much younger than rock (especially in terms of mainstream pop record sales) and thus there's been less time for rappers to advance in. the other thing is what i see as the importance of auteur theory to advancement. like in rock, we have this cult of (let's say) the beatles as these master creative geniuses who are the sole architects of their success. in terms of rock music, most people (even some musicians) don't think about the importance of the producer, of george martin and geoff emerick. in rap, though, you have the rapper/producer dichotomy which almost feels a lot more like a motown hit-factory sort of thing, where the creativity and responsibilty for the success of a song is shared between these two distinct entities and isn't something that one person can provide (unless you're thinking of like kanye or timbaland or other rappers who are also really hands-on producers and who also, coincidentally or not, seem to me to exhibit some advanced tendencies)

i don't really know, though. maybe i need to go listen to "the original wrapper."

Anonymous said...

the wu-tang clan is most definitley advanced. they are the killinest hip hop group ever to hit the stage, but outside of New York they have realized (publicly) that their fan base is primarily white suburbanites. they tour constantly to said fan base, and they embrace it. rza makes the beats gza spits the rhymes. the wu is completely responsible for their music on the whole. they form like voltron, basically. bring the motherfuckin ruckus.

signed, suburban white kid.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your advanced theory, but I think that RZA should be considered.
Yes, hip-hop is a very young art form. But music is not. Rza introduced the use of violins and other orchestral sounds into hip-hop. Since Wu Tang's first album, it's now become the norm in hip-hop. He even recorded live strings for the newest album.
There are many, many more examples of how Rza and Wu-Tang have "changed the game" in hip-hop.

In my opinion, Rza isn't that great of a rapper. He's much more natural with the music & beats than behind a mic.

But to fit into the advanced theory, he has to do a few things that would makes a people scratch their heads. I've yet to see that in his career. Maybe his whole BONG-BONG idea would qualify.

Signed,
another suburban white guy

Anonymous said...

other suburban white guy, I like your style. Bong Bong. i would wear that t-shirt for sure. i like the idea of actively trying to bring new terms into the realm of hip-hop nomenclature. like there's something deliberate and artistic to it in the first place. genius! (the gza)

Anonymous said...

Wu-Tang Clan is definitely advanced. Their whole premise (according to the RZA in the amazing "Wu-Tang Manual") was to form a supergroup to release a ton of records and then each launch successful solo careers. Sort of like a reverse version of the Travelling Wilburys.

Evidence of Advancement and possibly an Advanced Irritant is their 2000 album "The W" in which some tracks contain very few beats but an overabundance of kung-fu movie samples, sometimes overlapping with the rap lyrics. The role of kung-fu, as well as eastern religion is explained in thorough yet still completely cryptic passages in "The Wu-Tang Manual." Also, their friendship with filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (see the RZA and GZA's bizarre scene in Coffee and Cigarettes with Bill Murray) is the sort of odd decision that ensures their advancement over other merely quirky rappers like Kanye West.

Another rapper who is possibly advanced is MF DOOM, who wears a metal mask and discusses supervillain motifs, but also releases records under different personas and then doesn't wear a mask.

Jason said...

I must check out MF Doom.