My first review is somewhat of an anomaly, however it is the last book I read and it certainly merits its place on this blog. I must say though that for the most part you will not find me reviewing philosophical autobiographies of hip-hop stars. Do not let this put you off though; The Tao of Wu by the RZA is not what one might expect from one of the biggest names in hip-hop. It is an unusually intellectual tale chronicling the RZA’s rags to riches life story, yet at the same time providing the life lessons that he has learnt over the years.
For those of you who are not familiar with the RZA, but welcome a dose of hip-hop then listen to Wu-Tang Clan’s seminal debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). You will not be disappointed. Nowadays, when young ears are being polluted by ‘artists’ such as L’il Wayne and Drake, Wu-Tang is the real deal. RZA had a very strict vision of what hip hop should sound like and that is what he strove to create, ‘beats that MCs could rap on, beats that would make you wanna rip a hole out of the wall.’ But if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then it should suffice to know that the RZA, or ‘The Abbot’ as he was also known in the Clan due to his vast wisdom, was behind everything Wu-Tang did. Possibly the biggest hip-hop group in history would not have existed without him. He is a man that, although the odds may have been stacked up against him, persevered and succeeded through the burning desire inside of him to create. Indeed his latest venture is in the world of cinema, behind the camera. His directorial debut The Man with the Iron Fists is released in the UK on 7th December and pays homage to the kung-fu flicks he has loved since his childhood.
In The Tao of Wu we are taken on a journey inside the wisdom and spirituality that has driven his success. It contains numerous teachings-the 9 pillars of wisdom- and relates them to our modern society and his life in particular. There is no doubting that the RZA has been around the block enough to impart certain teachings on us mere mortals, and the way he relates centuries old teachings to our modern way of life is fascinating. Dipping into elements of Christianity, Buddhism and Numerology he imparts his teachings, yet it never feels condescending, like he thinks he knows more than you (he does). It is simply him attempting to help you succeed as he has done, in the way he has done.
That is not to say that there aren’t stories of drug dealing and decadence. Though he aims to teach he also recognises his own pitfalls and these too are chronicled. He more than realises his own imperfections yet the manner in which he rises above them is admirable. The stories are interesting and enjoyable no matter what walk of life you hail from. Not to mention particularly emotional when talking about the death of his fellow clan member and cousin, Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
The teachings never get old either as it is written in a very consistent and engaging style. The style is unique and colloquial, and every sentence can be imagined coming from the RZA’s mouth. Although some of the subject matter may appear to be heavy, due to the conversational nature of the writing it is impossible to get weighed down in his words. It all makes for an extremely entertaining read that is very hard to put down.
You most certainly do not need to be a fan of Wu-Tang Clan to enjoy this book, although being such a big one myself, it certainly helped (the never before heard stories will be all the more interesting to the initiated). But if you are not, having read this book you shall certainly want to at least give them a listen. Whether you like the music or not, I strongly recommend The Tao of Wu to anyone wanting a highly enjoyable read, and an insight into the mind behind the Wu-Tang Clan.
Click here to buy The Tao of Wu from Amazon.