The Rza

Active - 1997 - 2022  |   Born - Jul 5, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, United States  |   Genres - Action, Music, Comedy, Drama, Culture & Society

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Biography by Nathan Southern

Rapper RZA (born Robert Diggs but alternately credited, at various junctures, as Prince Rakeem, Bobby Steels, The Rzarector, and The Abbott) initially rose to fame as a member of the rap group All in Together Now, then branched out into a career as a solo artist. Though he achieved tremendous commercial success in this capacity, RZA nonetheless made his most enduring musical impact not as a performer but as a producer, of the rap supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan. His spare, lean, and razor-sharp approach to rap production for the group laid the groundwork and set the bar for dozens of other rap acts throughout the 1990s.

Cinematically, RZA placed his strongest emphasis on contributions to soundtracks, scoring and lending featured music to such opuses as the Jim Jarmusch-helmed crime drama Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004), and the urban farce Soul Plane (2004). Though RZA's acting roles officially began with a bit part in Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), he went on to grace the supporting casts of films as diverse as Scary Movie 3 (2003), Derailed (2005), and The Take (2007). Also in 2007, RZA tackled a supporting role as Moses Jones in Ridley Scott's period crime drama American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington.

Movie Highlights

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  • Formed his first group, All in Together Now, in the early '90s with future Wu-Tang Clan members the Genius (aka the GZA) and Ol' Dirty Bastard.
  • Released his first solo EP, Ooh We Love You Rakeem, in 1991 under the name of Prince Rakeem.
  • Joined the seminal rap group Wu-Tang Clan, which released the platinum album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in 1993. RZA produced the record and exerted much control over the group's marketing and creative processes. He went on to produce many of the members' solo releases as well.
  • Adopted the alias Rzarector in the mid-'90s when he joined the "horrorcore" group Gravediggaz with fellow rappers Prince Paul, Poetic and Frukwan.
  • Assumed another alias, Bobby Digital, for his first full-length solo LP, Bobby Digital in Stereo, which was released in 1998. He went on to put out two more albums as Bobby Digital, Digital Bullet in 2001 and Digi Snacks in 2008.
  • Began composing music for movies with 1999's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. He also gained critical acclaim for his work on Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
  • Is a huge fan of kung-fu movies, a passion that has infused much of his work. (He claims that he was received by kung-fu masters after being banished from China's Tiananmen Square for displaying a billboard promoting himself. He told Time magazine that he has fans of bootlegs of his music in remote areas of that country. )