On this day in Hip Hop history, the leader of the world renowned Wu Tang Clan released his first solo album Bobby Digital In Stereo. This project came late in RZA’s career after the success of the Wu Tang Clan had been plentiful. Serving as a soundtrack to an unreleased blaxploitation martial arts film by RZA titled Bobby Digital: The Digital Bullet, the project featured a new experimental sound that was not like the usual edgy street vibe that Wu Tang solidified in the game.
The album went gold, selling 500,000 copies by 1999 and received mixed reviews from music critics. For this album RZA utilized a different production and vocal style. Instead of the sample heavy beats that made his production popular throughout the 90s on fellow Wu Tang Clan members’ projects, this project was composed of mostly keyboard-driven sounds which Bobby Dig eloquently called the “Digital Orchestra”. The inspiration for this album came from RZA’s love for comic book and yearning to live out his childhood dream of becoming a superhero in the projects. The lyrics of the project follow a loose storyline of RZA’s endeavors as Bobby Digital. His goal as Bobby Digital was to enlighten the people of the project to the poisons of the hood that surrounded them everyday. He created Bobby Digital to personify his wild and crazy life before his musical success because during the growth of the Wu Tang Clan, RZA became a musical hermit and spent majority of his time perfecting his craft and not out enjoying the spoils of his lifestyle. Bobby Digital served as a sort of cathartic alter ego through whom RZA could unleash a side of himself that had laid dormant during his rise to fame and search for enlightenment.
As an artist and a businessman, RZA is a man of many faces. Along with serving as the leader of Wu Tang Clan, he had a lot on his plate. With each role he played came a new type of alter ego that he assumed to handle business. In honor of today’s anniversary; we have compiled a list of five of the personas that RZA has developed throughout his career.
- Prince Rakeem: Early in his career, RZA was signed to Tommy Boy Records in 1991 (before the Wu Tang Clan was created). As Prince Rakeem, he released one EP titled Ooh, I Love You Rakeem. The album didn’t make much noise nationally, but was a hood favorite in Staten Island where RZA lived at the time of its release.
- Ruler Zig Zag Zig Allah: In the 80s, RZA became a member of Allah’s 5% Nation or the Nation of Gods and Earths. Allah’s 5% Nation is a way of life founded by Allah, formerly known as Clarence 13X of Nation Of Islam’s Temple #7, in 1964. As a member of this Nation, RZA changed his name from Robert Diggs (the name he was born with) to RZA or Ruler Zig Zag Zig Allah as spelled out by the Supreme Alphabet of Allah’s 5%.
- The Abbot: In the monastery system, the head teacher or leader of the monastery is given the title Abbot. Because of RZA’s obsession with kung-fu films, he applied many Chinese monk values to his one structure of how he ran Wu Tang Clan. As Abbot of the Wu Tang Clan, it was RZA’s role to serve as a teacher, guide, and example of righteousness to his brothers in arms.
- The RZArector: This persona is one that was bestowed upon RZA by those who knew him. This titled came from RZA’s ability to “resurrect” people from the low points in their lives through his guidance and wisdom.
- Bobby Digital: Maybe the most interesting and intricate of his alter egos, Bobby Digital is a bonafide superhero. Not only is there an unreleased blaxploitation/martial arts film floating around on one of RZA’s personal hard drives, but there were also hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to ensure this character’s authenticity. RZA had a custom AK-47 bulletproof suit and military-grade bombproof SUV built for his own personal use. He even had his own crime fighting butler in place to serve as his side kick and confidant (a mix between Batman’s “Alfred Pennyworth” and The Green Hornet’s “Kato”). Although the public may never see a day saved by Bobby Digital, RZA outlined in his autobiographical novel The Tao of Wu that his equipment was a one point very real and was used mostly for his own amusement.