RZA had an embarrassment of riches on his hands.
It was the early 1990s and the New York City rapper had just consolidated some of the finest, young East Coast hip-hop talent into one group. Beyond himself, the lineup included Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, U-God, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, GZA, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (1968-2004).
Taking its name from an obscure Hong Kong martial arts flick, the group became known as Wu-Tang Clan. Things would never be the same.
With the success of albums like Enter the Wu-Tang (1993) and Wu-Tang Forever (1997) they were hailed as musical visionaries and are today routinely placed on critics’ lists of the greatest hip-hop acts of all-time.
And through their illustrious career, their iconic logo burrowed its way into the collective consciousness.
You know the logo I’m talking about — the badass, bat-like “W” that graces their album covers and merchandise, and which haunts the imagination of hip-hop fans worldwide.
In the summer of 2012 a shirt bearing this very symbol turned up in the laundry room of our house. How it arrived there remains an unsolved mystery, but my suspicion is that the shirt belonged my friend Justine Davidson, who stayed with us for a few weeks that summer and who is known to scatter personal possessions in her wake.
Regardless, the shirt went unclaimed by my roommates, so I adopted it as my own.
Generally, the amount I wear a given tee-shirt is directly proportional to the amount I like that shirt; shirts I love will be worn straight out of the dryer, whereas my ill-fitting, uninspiring, or just-plain-lame shirts find their way to the bottom of my drawer, only to see the light of day in emergencies.
My Wu-Tang shirt, however, is one piece of clothing that bucks this trend — I love it, but I rarely don it; I tend to swaddle my torso in muted, conservative hues; navy blue, for example.
The aforementioned “W” logo that adorns my shirt is not only huge (it spans the entire chest), it is shiny and golden in a way that commands attention. Thus I have tended to reserve it for special occasions.
However, the other day I saw it in my tee-shirt drawer and I thought to myself, “What the hell, I’ll take it for a spin.”
I wore it downtown on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and while its true that one friend mocked my fashion choice, the majority of my shirt-inspired encounters were positive; people began flashing Wu-Tang hand gestures at me; one kid said, “I respect you for wearing that.”
This spring Wu-Tang Clan announced plans to release a secretly recorded album called Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. The catch is that they are only making one copy of it and are selling it to the highest bidder. It’s an original and interesting move by a group known for a long line of interesting and original moves.
So it occurs to me: a group famous for its boldness deserves bold supporters as well. With that in mind I have decided to take my Wu-Tang shirt off the bench and put it in my regular clothing rotation — in all its golden glory.