By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Personal problems are just the beginning of the issues facing the Wu-Tang Clan. The proliferation of everything from solo albums to video games and comic books indicates the extent to which the group has flooded the market. Method Man has even confessed that he didn't know a Wu-Tang video game was out until someone asked him about it. ("He's on the road, so nobody should ask him that shit," Hawkins says. "He's always on the fucking road, so he doesn't know what the fuck is going on.") For a group that once waxed nostalgic about the simplicity of the past (see Enter the Wu-Tang's "Can It Be All So Simple"), the Wu-Tang Clan has spun a complex web of product that shows little in the way of quality control.
Early on, however, you could be guaranteed that the Wu-Tang stamp of approval was really a sign of excellence. RZA was the first one to record outside of the group, and his first project, the Gravediggaz, is one of hip-hop's more underrated entities. Featuring Prince Paul (De La Soul, Chris Rock), Stetsasonic's Fruitkwan, and Brothers Grimm's Poetic, the group's debut, 6 Feet Under, was the soundtrack to an unwritten ghetto horror movie. The first true solo effort by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan was Method Man's Tical, an album that had a menacing tone and established Method Man as the Clan's true star. Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version(1995) succeeded on account of its twisted sense of humor, and solo albums released that same year by Raekwon and Genius also stayed true to the Wu-Tang aesthetic. All of which set the stage for the Wu-Tang Clan's second album, 1997's Wu-Tang Forever. Accompanied by an onslaught of media tie-ins (videos, in-stores, etc.), the album sold some 600,000 copies in its first week alone. A double album, Wu-Tang Forever could have been pared down to half its length. The Wu-Tang product hasn't slowed or gotten any better. This year's slew of albums is downright mind-boggling -- Method Man (with Redman), RZA, Inspectah Deck, and Ol' Dirty Bastard have all released solo discs, and Hawkins maintains the group is preparing to release another Wu-Tang Clan disc next year.
"We getting that together as I'm speaking," he says. "Music is being formulated right now. Everybody gets their solo shit out of their blood, and it gets easier, because everybody did what they needed to do, and we can come back as a family. There's always competition, you know how it is, but we're still a family. That's why we do solo shit. Since we do get it out of our blood to go solo, we have the option to come back together again. And when we come back tighter, it's always greater, because everybody wants to see us together."