Founded in New York City’s Staten Island in the early 1990s, the Wu-Tang Clan is comprised of members RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, U-God, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, and the deceased Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB). Their name is a reference to a 1983 martial arts film.
Led by the production of RZA, samples from martial arts films have thematically appeared throughout the group’s music, as have samples of classic funk and soul tracks from artists like Rick James, James Brown, and Syl Johnson. As a group, Wu-Tang Clan have three platinum albums among their eight LPs, and the group’s complete anthology (including solo albums) has more than 85 full-length releases. More than just rappers, Wu-Tang Clan are entrepreneurs and successful cultural influencers, with an empire that features everything from clothing lines and video games to books and acting credits.
Nas (Nasir Jones) first reached an international audience when his track “Halftime” was tapped by producer MC Serch as the opening cut on 1992’s Zebrahead movie soundtrack. Signed to Columbia Records, the first full-length album by poet and rhyme-master Nas arrived in 1994, Illmatic. The RIAA platinum hip-hop landmark featured “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” “The World Is Yours,” and “One.” 1996 brought the breakthrough double-platinum It Was Written (#1 R&B for 7 weeks, #1 pop for 4 weeks), with his first major crossover singles “Street Dreams” and “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).” Success continued with the double-platinum I Am in 1999 (again #1 pop and #1 R&B), with the chart singles “Nas Is Like,” “Hate Me Now” (featuring Puff Daddy), and “You Won’t See Me Tonight” (featuring Aaliyah).