Eric Piotrowski's Reviews > The Tao of Wu

The Tao of Wu by The RZA
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Mar 06, 11

bookshelves: hip-hop, memoir, nonfiction, philosophy, politics
Read from December 05, 2010 to March 06, 2011

I've enjoyed Wu-Tang's music for years, but I was a little skeptical when I heard The RZA wrote a book. The group's lyrics had never seemed particularly deep, aside from the occasional connection to eastern philosophy. His "Bobby Digital" album didn't impress me, and -- his brief appearance in _Coffee and Cigarettes_ notwithstanding -- I never thought of RZA as much of an intellect. When I heard him on NPR, however, I realized I had rushed to judgment, and I ordered the book soon afterwards.

In the book, RZA not only tells his personal story -- spending ample time discussing the death of his mother, as well as the death of ODB -- but looks at it against the backdrop of the world. He is able to reflect on different stages of his life (including the "Bobby Digital" phase, which he admits wasn't too enlightened) and make sense of the various aftereffects.

He goes on to explore some intriguing connections between hip-hop, Taoism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and other spiritual traditions. This isn't simple spouting of buzzwords he's seen on fortune cookies; RZA has clearly studied this stuff, and he knows what he's talking about. In his travels around the world, RZA embodies the best spirit of hip-hop, drinking deeply from the waters of every culture and producing something positive with it.

The FIve-Percenter numerology stuff always seems a bit silly to me, and it shows up in nearly every section of the book, but there's so much other material that it's not much more than a minor annoyance. This is a must-read for any fan of the Shaolin gang, but it's definitely worth reading for other folks, too.
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