Sophia Chang’s 10 Rap Commandments
Industry veteran Sophia Chang breaks down some industry do's and don'ts on how to succeed.
Forming in the early ‘90s in Staten Island, the group fondly known as Wu-Tang Clan, has since solidified their legacy as one of the most influential and best-known groups in contemporary music history. Collectively, the Wu has sold over 40 million albums since their humble beginnings in 1992. Originally comprised of members (using the best-known pseudonyms) GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Rza, Method Man, Raekwon the Chef, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa (and later Cappadonna), the Wu-Tang Clan adapted their name after the Kung-Fu flick Shaolin and Wu-Tang, drawing a major influence from martial arts, Chinese culture, and the streets of New York City alike. The collective's debut album, ‘93’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has long been critically acclaimed, with many considering the album to be one of the greatest ever recorded in hip-hop history. Following their debut as a group on Loud/RCA, members GZA, RZA, Raekwon, Method Man, and ODB all went on to land solo contracts, with Method Man's 1994 Tical marking the first official solo Wu album. In 1997, the group released their second album Wu-Tang Forever, debuting at No. 1 on the charts and selling over 600,000 copies in its first week alone. With an onslaught of tours, solo albums, collaborations and group releases tied to their coveted and indisputable legacy, Wu-Tang Clan has made history a dozen times over. From honing a menacing and distinctive East Coast sound uniquely their own to selling the Elusive sole copy of 2015's Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for two million dollars, Wu-Tang Clan is indestructibly an iconic pillar of the culture, and—as the reputed saying from the late ODB goes—is for the children.
Ghostface Killah (real name Dennis Coles) is a rapper from Staten Island, New York, who has seen success as both a solo artist and a member of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. He’s known for his storytelling capabilities within his lyrics, with an aggressive, fast-paced flow. Ghostface is an original member of Wu-Tang, having been roommates with one of its founders, Rza. A fan of old Kung-Fu films, his name is taken from the 1979 movie, Mystery of Chessboxing. Following the success of the group’s debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Ghostface went on to pursue a solo career—starting with being extensively featured on groupmate Raekwon’s debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. He went on to appear on the soundtracks to both Sunset Park and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and dropped his debut album, Ironman, in 1996. Ironman debuted at Number Two on the Billboard 200 and was received well by critics, solidifying Ghostface’s career outside of Wu-Tang Clan. To date, he has released nine solo studio albums and seven collaborative albums. The latter included projects with Trife Diesel, Method Man and Redman, Sheek Louch, Adrian Younge, The Revelations, BadBadNotGood and Younge and Raekwon, respectively. Apart from his music career, Ghostface Killah has made numerous television and film appearances. The rapper has appeared in the film Belly, the TV Show 30 Rock and more, and starred in the VH1 reality series Couples Therapy alongside girlfriend Kelsey Nykole in 2014. Ghostface continues to record and remains best known for his lyrical dexterity and strong cult following.
While MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile) is highly regarded as one of the most inimitable figures in hip-hop, part of his legacy also lies within his collaborative work and in his eccentric half-dozen alter egos. Of those experimental projects, his partnership with Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is one of the most celebrated. Their debut project, The Mouse and the Mask, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, utilizing the collective moniker DANGER DOOM. The project was released in the UK through Lex Records, as well as in the United States through punk label Epitaph Records, marking the latter imprint's third foray into hip-hop. Best known for his work with the Gorillaz, Beck, the Black Keys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Grammy Award-winning producer Danger Mouse handled the instrumentation, while DOOM focused on the animated vocals and eccentric lyrical direction. For DANGER DOOM‘s debut, Danger Mouse chose to sample exclusively from various animated shows airing on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night programming block—with a handful of cartoon characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force making appearances on the album, in addition to the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface Killah. With support from the network and famed comedian Dave Chappelle alike, the project was released in October 2005 and quickly became a cult fan favorite. While the album sparked several noteworthy talking points, MF DOOM's diss against his former collaborator, MF Grimm, undeniably stood out. The Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) member later responded with the track "Book of Daniel," during which he accused DOOM of selling out. With many hailing the seemingly unlikely pairing of MF DOOM and Danger Mouse as an undeniable success, DANGER DOOM delivered once again the following year, releasing their 2006 EP, Occult Hymn, exclusively though AdultSwim.com. Although DANGER DOOM has not reunited since 2006, their small-but-impactful body of work remains heralded as one of the most experimental and pleasantly absurdist collaborations to come out of the 2000s.