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The Wu-Tang Manual Paperback – January 4, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-In the late 1970s, Robert Diggs was growing up in a New York housing project. He spent his time with his many cousins and watching kung fu movies in Times Square. Later, he turned his interests in martial arts, spirituality, chess, comics, and rap music into one of the most successful rap groups of the 1990s-the Wu-Tang Clan. Named for a type of Shaolin martial arts, the Clan consists of Diggs-The RZA-two of his cousins, and six other members. The author shares all that went into making the group what it is, a curious mix of Eastern philosophy, supreme mathematics, capitalism, and, not least, talent. Nearly a quarter of the book is dedicated to lyrics, including a deep analysis of what each rapper meant. The Wu-Tang's lyrics are full of violence, drugs, and slang, but also well-executed metaphors, symbolism, and their philosophy realized. It's rare that rap lyrics are given this level of analysis, let alone in such a readable fashion. The book is full of photographs of the members and information about their work and interests, which include drugs, both legal and illegal. Even this topic is treated with intellectual detachment: "You can't say [drugs] are all bad or they're all good." (Sadly, since the book's publication, founding member ODB died from a drug-related incident.) Even though the Wu-Tang's greatest success came in the 1990s, they are still highly relevant and have many teen fans, all of whom will find something appealing in this account.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD
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About the Author

The RZA is most famous as the founder and leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, theplatinum-selling hip-hop group that is widely considered one of the mostimportant of all time, and has also spanned multiplatinum solo careers formany of its members, including RZA. Originally from Staten Island, he is currentlybased in Los Angeles, where he has continued his music career whilesuccessfully branching out into lecturing, television, and film.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st Riverhead Trade Pbk. Ed edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594480184
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594480188
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By J. Chu on January 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
All I can say is, why'd it take so long?

Oh yeah, that's right. They were too busy releasing albums, touring, doing shows (and drugs), getting locked up, getting released, appearing on Chapelle's Show, making comic books, scoring movies, and growing the legend of the nine generals, to finish writing a book.

Wow. This is an astonishingly exhaustive work explicating fully the reasoning behind all the insane lyrics behind the Wu, plus the culture with which they were inculcated in their youth. I've been a Wu fan since around Killa Bees/Gravel Pit days, and my collection now includes nearly every group and solo album (less Deck's The Movement, some Cappadonna, U-God's stuff, and Immobilarity). As such a thorough fan, I'm highly impressed. Lyrics in their songs that I'd just skipped over before or barely acknowledged take on added depth and meaning with the Abbot's commentary.

And it's not just Wu-devotees that will find material in here to their liking. The book begins very simply, with biographies of each of the original nine swordsmen. Containing exhaustive lists of aliases (some of which I had -no- idea belonged to the emcee that they do), birthdates, anecdotes, and releases, these serve perfectly to introduce the reader to the individual rappers. From there, however, the book progresses into a deeper analysis of the underpinnings of Wu tradition, including looks at -all- their obvious influences (kung fu movies, mob movies, comic books, drug culture, etc.) and some less obvious ones (did you know that the famous Shaolin Sifu Shi Yanming is personal friends with RZA and Iron Man?).
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This brilliant book, written by the RZA (aka the Abbot), goes into detail about pretty much everything about the Wu Tang including their musical/movie influences, their neighborhoods, the mythology of the 36 chambers (it's not just the name of their first album), and the philosophies regarding the 5 percent Nation and the tenents of the Nation of Gods and Earths. The RZA also breaks down the Shaolin fighting style and how Wu has incorporated this unique fighting style into their raps. He also gives an in-depth analysis of how the game of chess plays a crucial role in not only lyrical battles but also in terms of defeating enemies in real life. This guide/book also comes with a handy translation of some of the Wu's lexicon and slang. But the true gem of this book is the RZA's breaking down some of the lyrics of the Wu's most famous songs so that when the Rza spits "Connectin' Brooklyn/Shaol like the Verazanno -Narrows", you will know what he is talking about. I highly recommend this book to any true Wu fan!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E on April 13, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Wu-Tang Manual is akin to all the EU (Expanded Universe) novels, comic books, and publications related to the Star Wars franchise for a hip hop fan of one of the culture's biggest phenomenons ever. The Manual is chock full of EVERYTHING an intellectual listener and avid fan of the Wu would want to know: biographies, lyrics explanations, philosophy, music equipment, and spirituality.

The Wu-Tang started a new sound in hip hop in early '93: gritty, minimalistic, atonal, and lo-fi, all exemplified in the classic debut 'Enter: The Wu-Tang'. From then on, a legend was born: numerous solo albums from all nine members, even including the honorary tenth member Cappadonna, movies, television, touring, guest appearances on other artists' projects, RZA even composed music for the original soundtrack to the Tarantino's two-parter 'Kill Bill'. The Wu-Tang even have their own "Expanded Universe" of branch-off emcees and groups that rivals the amount of material in that of the Star Wars EU (e.g. Cilvaringz, Killah Priest, Sunz of Man, Black Knights, Killarmy, etc.). And they're STILL going strong with a slew of new albums already dropping (Ghost's awesome 'Fishscale', Sunz' 'Old Testament', etc.). The Wu-Tang Clan are HIP HOP LEGENDS, and this Manual chronicles the beginning of the movement all the way to the present, even chronicling the events that shaped the life of Robert Diggs (RZA), which would eventually also shape his movement.

To the initiated, [hip hop] heads know the Wu stand for something and they're some pretty deep brothers. RZA quotes everyone from Nietzsche to the Hagakure, a guide of bushido commentaries for the warrior (samurai).
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Erik Sternberger on February 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
I could not set this book down once I started reading it.

It is a great book for anyone who is new to the Wu. It startsoff with great little bios about each artist, but it quickly gets into Wu-history and philosophy that rewards any fan of the group and does what any comic/book/speaker does; it makes you want to explore what RZA's philosophy is even more. This book also, amazingly, does all this with no chest beating. RZA comes off proud, but humble. This is something that 95% of all modern musicians could never do.
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