The Tao of Wu
The Tao of Wu is unique book of wisdom and experience that reaches from the most violent slums of New York City to the highest planes of spiritual thought by the RZA, hip-hop's most exalted wise man. Chris Norris, co-author of The Wu Tang Manual with RZA, offers a sampling of songs representing a few of the streams of thought and stages of life described in RZA's The Tao of Wu.
- "B.I.B.L.E." Liquid Swords, GZA. RZA and GZA stand aside as Wu-Tang affiliate Killah Priest describes the Clan's common path to spiritual enlightenmentrejecting the floor-wallowing theatrics they saw as children in Christian churches for the deeper wisdom they found on their own: "I explored my history that was untold/And watched mysteries unfold..." RZA writes about this early period of seeking in Section II of The Tao of Wu, "Knowledge."
- "Tearz," Enter the 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Clan
Released in 1992, as a b-side to the Wu-Tang's first single "Protect Ya Neck," this vivid depiction of early-90s projects life begins with what would become a Wu-Tang trademark: an audibly grimy street scene that includes the shooting death of a friend. The bittersweet chorus takes its refrain from Wendy Rene's 1964 soul single "After Laughter Comes Tears," suggesting the emotional extremes of ghetto life and the circumstances surrounding the formation of the Wu-Tang Clana period RZA describes in Section V, "Enter the Abbott."
- "You Can't Stop Me Now," Digi Snax, RZA as Bobby Digital
From the vantage point of sixteen years, RZA recalls the desperate lives future Wu-Tang members led just before rap stardom, from street drug sales and to deadly robbery plans"waiting outside for the Brinks truck to pick up"a period that left several friends dead and RZA charged with attempted murder. This period, described in Section IV, "Darkness and Light," ends with the rebirth of RZA – largely via a rented SP-1200 sampler and a Yamaha four-track: "the pads on the SP-12 got pressed/Makin' beats for the streets, so the family could eat/In '93, Wu-Tang dropped the first LP."
- "Bells of War," Wu-Tang Forever, Wu-Tang Clan
After producing Wu-Tang's debut and three brilliant solo albums for its members, RZA came to the Wu-Tang's second release at the height of his creative and commercial powers. While the double album Wu Tang Forever would prove both the Clan's peak as a unit and RZA's defeat as a leader, this intense, focused track reveals the Abbott's increasingly expansive visions in dense, richly allusive rhymes that end with an imperative to "understand the continents of Africa and Asia." RZA writes about this period in his and the Clan's life in Section VI: "Dissolution"
- "Can It Be All So Simple," Enter the 36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Clan
In the final chapter of The Tao of Wu, "Love and Happiness," RZA argues against the pull of nostalgia so common in hip-hop and society at large. As an illustration, he cites the first Wu-Tang album's reflective song, "Can It Be All So Simple," which he produced at age 21, beginning with a phrase from Gladys Knight's spoken introduction from 1974's "The Way We Were/Try To Remember": "Let's talk about the good old days." In the chapter, RZA shares the second, unsampled part of Knight's line, which sheds a different kind of wisdom that come midway through life's journey.