The Wu-Tang Clan’s 20 Year Plan

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a remarkable year in music. Over the 12 months of 1993, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Salt-N-Pepa, Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest and more than a dozen other rappers released albums that helped to change the sound of America. One of those albums wasn’t just a collection of songs — it was a business concept, too. The Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut was the opening shot of an audacious plan to open the music industry to hip-hop made way outside the mainstream.

Back in the early ’90s, Robert Fitzgerald Diggs looked around and saw the music industry betting on rap-lite — think Will Smith and Young MC, both of whom had won Grammys in the late ’80s. Songs like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Bust a Move” just weren’t for him, or his friends.

“We were street kids,” he says, “guys that was more like felons, or high-school dropouts. Not saying this is a positive thing, I’m just saying this is the difference of our character.”

He saw an opportunity. “If you keep eating McDonald’s, you gonna get sick. You need a real home-cooked meal. And I knew that that would be healthier. And that’s what Wu-Tang was: It was a home-cooked meal of hip-hop. Of the real people.”

Diggs also saw that he was going to have to prove to the industry that the style of hip-hop he wanted to make would sell. “Because if you look at hip-hop at that time,” he says, “it wasn’t a lot of artists selling gold or platinum albums. There was a lot of hip-hop artists, but they wasn’t going gold, they wasn’t going platinum.”

He knew the best rappers on Staten Island. They came to his house to watch kung fu movies and battle rap and study the teachings of the 5 Percent Nation, an offshoot of the Nation of Islam. Two were his cousins, one was his roommate, a couple were, technically, his rivals. So he had to do some convincing, but he recorded a verse by each of them, added one of his own and pressed up an eight-verse, grimy-sounding, no chorus, vinyl-only single: “Protect Ya Neck.”

Source, NPR. To read the complete article and to hear the podcast, visit “The Wu-Tang Clan’s 20-Year Plan.”

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