Wu-Tang Clan are one of hip-hop’s most legendary collectives. Formed in New York’s isolated and desolate borough of Staten Island, the Wu-Tang Clan is now considered one of the most impactful crews of 1990s hip hop.
They began as a family crew before locals and friends entered the crew. Originally consisting of just RZA, GZA and Ol Dirty Bastard (ODB), who are cousins, the collective was named Force of the Imperial Master.
While RZA permanently resided in the fairly desolate New York City borough of Staten Island, GZA moved back and forth between the island and Brooklyn before finally residing in Brooklyn as a teenager. His cousin, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (commonly known as ODB), also lived in Brooklyn, so as a result, they formed a close bond.
Although RZA lived in Staten Island, the three relatives continued to visit each other and remained dedicated to music throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, recording demos at RZA’s mother’s house. But ultimately decided that although the three were related, something was wrong with their setup.
Not achieving anything as Force of the Imperial Master, they decided to make music as the All in Together Now Crew. However, during the late ’80s, as part of the crew, they also made solo music under different monikers. RZA named himself Prince Rakeem, GZA recorded under the pseudonym The Genius and ODB was The Specialist. Aside from some minor buzz on Staten Island and the fringes of Brooklyn. Under these names as the All In Together Now Crew, no traction was generated.
Under the impression that they would not be able to make enough of an impact as a trio, RZA suggested that the crew begin recruiting new members. Rebranding again in 1992, the crew changed its name to the Wu-Tang Clan, deriving from the 1983 kung-fu film Shaolin and Wu Tang. Under this moniker, they began drafting more members, including school friends, other local Staten Island underground rappers and family members. Eventually, the three became nine.
The crew as the Wu-Tang Clan, went on to achieve legendary things. Their debut single, ‘Protect Ya Neck’ is a hip hop classic. However, their single ‘C.R.E.A.M’ is often considered one of the best hip hop tracks of all time and was even ranked the sixth best by the BBC, with ‘Juicy’ by Notorious B.I.G. being ranked number one.
In 1991, while still under the name of the All In Together Now Crew, GZA and ODB performed a beatboxing freestyle for the hip hop television programme Video Music Box. The rare footage below was recorded before the crew was even called Wu-Tang and even filmed before the release of ‘Protect Ya Neck’. Extremely rare footage. Take a listen to the epic freestyle below.