RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killa, and several prominent members of the Wu-Tang Clan are telling their life stories in Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, a four-hour docuseries premiering on Showtime on May 10. It’s always interesting to look back and watch an influential artist’s evolution over the years, especially in old performance videos. Everyone in the group has gone through their individual journeys, but videos of Prince Rakeem show that RZA came a long way in terms of his flow and mindset.
According to All Music, RZA (born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs) was a solo artist who used the stage name Prince Rakeem prior to forming the Wu-Tang Clan. He was signed to Tommy Boy Records and released one EP entitled Ooh I Love You Rakeem in 1991. The up-tempo “Ooh I Love You Rakeem” lead single’s lyrics are vastly different from the hard-hitting bars that Wu-Tang fans are used to hearing from the rapper and the video is especially cringy.
Prince Rakeem is shown rapping (and singing off-key) about his womanizer lifestyle while donning braids, bright colored clothes, and even a tuxedo at one point. He's serenaded by women who are, well, singing the title over and over again because he is so irresistible. If nothing else, it’s a hilarious and rare piece of Wu-Tang related history that will make RZA either feel embarrassed or thankful for growth.
There’s also a classic clip of Prince Rakeem and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (then known as Ason Unique) doing a freestyle in front of a lackluster audience in the early '90s. The pair inserted some Five Percent Nation, an offshoot Nation of Islam group, philosophies into their performance by telling the audience that the Black man is God and Black women are queens.
They instructed the DJ to cut the beat and then ODB/Ason Unique started beat-boxing as Rakeem did a quick storytelling rap about oral sex. After Prince Rakeem finished dropped the mic and walked off stage to awkward silence. Yikes. The clip was a clear sign that his label EP wasn’t his true persona, but this style didn’t quite fit him either. He had to strike some sort of balance and discover which way he wanted to go as a fledgling artist.
Thankfully, Prince Rakeem cut ties with the record label, established Wu-Tang, and christened himself as RZA. Per NME, he produced the group’s successful first single “Protect Ya Neck” in 1992 and their classic debut album “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” the following year. And, RZA’s rhymes were certainly on par with his brothers and far more superior than his Prince Rakeem bars.
It's likely that the Mics and Men documentary will include these throwback clips of RZA's career origins since he is a founding member of the group. RZA may decide to speak further on how he feels when he looks back at his early rap days. No matter what, the evolution of Prince Rakeem to RZA is worth taking an awkward trip down memory lane.