Book Review
The Wu Manual: Volume 1
Publisher:




unlike many things that the Wu-Tang Clan enthused about and promised in their halcyon days (the ODB / Busta project, Blood on the Chef's Apron, RZA's The Cure) the much discussed Wu manual has finally turned up. And, unlike much of the non-musical Wu products, this manages to both have a tangible Clan input and be actually worth the effort and expense.

Written by RZA himself (it’s unmistakably his slang, style, and speech patterns that come over in the writing) the book attempts to treat the Wu as a movement rather than just a hip-hop collective. By painting a picture of the Clan's influence on popular culture (and vice versa) and his own early years and evolution as an MC and producer, it offers up evidence for the Clan being much more than just a right-time right-place accident.

Split into four chapters (biographies, themes of the Wu, annotated lyrics, and what Hip-Hop means to the Wu) and subdivided conveniently into nine chambers (making a nice round 36) RZA breaks down the core elements of their ‘philosophy’ and how they interacted with the music business. Unsurprisingly this strict structure means that some sections, for example the “Wu-Man Resources” and “Voices as Instruments,” come over as throwaway ideas with little real content going only a hundred words or so deep. Chambers on subjects like Chess and spirituality are dealt with in a far more detailed way and include sidebars, mini-histories, and comments from other Clansmen alongside RZA’s text. Despite his fairly successful attempts in explaining his philosophy and beliefs in Islam when it comes to the ridiculous world of the cod religious / numerical / spiritual Supreme Mathematics it would take a better man than RZA to make it sound like anything other than schoolyard playtime bollocks. The slang and lyrical breakdown sections come in handy deciphering those more difficult lines in some of the Wu’s biggest tracks and prove that Rae and Ghost were actually making sense all along. My sneaking suspicion that the Wu were spinning us all a line when they talked about how deep their lyrics is somewhat buoyed by these breakdowns showing the clever mix of religious teachings, their own street slang and pop culture references.

It’s a fairly easy and interesting to read, easily digested in a single sitting (over a couple of hours) providing a rounded picture of a group whose comeback looks likely to have stalled with recent events. Completed pre-ODB's death, calling itself Volume 1 and ending on the message on "the saga continues…" the book looks forward to a time when the Wu reform and work their collective lyrics and musical magic. The paperback manages to give a little praise to all the members mentioning their special strengths whilst accepting the flaws within their characters. And while there are no real revelations about behind the scenes Wu tomfoolery, there is an honest and open acceptance of the Clan's downfall, rampant egos and even a sensible look at their drug use / abuse. The most frightening admission comes from the author himself when he claims that he actually went as far as to getting a costume and a bullet-proof car in order to seriously live out his superhero fantasies as alter-ego Bobby Digital. Worryingly, he shows no sign of realising how insane this actually is.

This should have you reaching for your Wu-Tang debut and those early solo LPs to pick up what you missed the first time around and helps to put a bit of shine back onto the tarnished Wu-Tang seal of quality.

You can find this book here.


By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2005-04-19
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