The rapper RZA calls “one of the greatest” to do it
(Credit: David Shankbone)

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The rapper RZA calls "one of the greatest" to do it

The Wu-Tang Clan were a formidable force in the 1990s. With their lo-fi production and grimy, abrasive edge, the Clan made music that resonated with the city of New York. Founded by RZA (real name Robert Diggs) in the depths of Staten Island, the Clan rapidly ascended to the top of the hip-hop charts and made history with their projects

RZA was the collective’s beatmaker and founder. The musician and actor was known for his lof-fi and gritty production style that became the signature sound of the Staten Island group, and he has since grown to become a versatile icon.

Diggs recently sat down for an in-depth conversation on the Lex Fridman podcast to discuss East Coast hip-hop, the 1990s and his transition into Hollywood. During this, he reflected on hip-hop’s golden era.

While discussing the state of rap music in the mid-90s, the New York emcee addressed the best lyricists of the era and reflected on who he believed had the biggest impact on the culture. When asked who the best wordsmith in hip-hop is, Diggs responded, “Let’s name a few. You’re gonna have to start with Rakim. You’re gonna have to put Kool G Rap in there. If you wanna get technical, you might have to start out with Grandmaster Caz!”

He proceeded, “I’ll name a couple more; you gotta put Nas in that category. To me, I met Nas when he was 15, and he was already a master lyricist! It takes about ten years to become a master lyricist, so by the time the world heard Wu-Tang, most of us had ten years of rapping in us already.”

RZA continued to sing the praises of Nas (real name Nasir Jones), declaring, “I’m four or five years older than Nas, so I was always feeling my confidence, but I was like ‘This kid is only 15!’ Then, when he was 19, we got Illmatic. One of the greatest to do it.”

Nas’ debut album Illmatic and his sophomore project It Was Written are considered hip-hop classics, and concerning the greatest lyricist of all time, Nas is one of the top contenders.