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Business As Usual: A look at the business of being Robert Diggs aka The RZA

Rza by Todd Heisler of The New York Times
(c)Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA aka Robert Diggs is an American multi-talent artist. He is not only rapper, multi-instrumentalist, author, music producer, but also a screenwriter, director, and actor. Not many names in the world of show biz can brag about so many accomplishments. RZA has started his artistic career as the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan and a prominent figure in hip hop.

Since the band was launched, Robert Diggs has produced almost all of their albums as well as many affiliate projects and Wu-Tang solo projects. RZA has also produced many side projects and has released solo albums under the stage name Bobby Digital. His prolific career in the entertainment industry also comprises the fact that Robert Diggs, under the stage name The RZArector ,was also a founding member of another Hip Hop group called Gravediggaz.

But Robert Diggs didn’t limit his interest to the world of hip hop music. He acted in a few movies as well, including Gospel Hill, American Gangster, Coffee and Cigarettes, Life Is Hot in Cracktown, Derailed, Funny People, Ghost Dog, Repo Men, and Due Date. His acting career also includes casting in the TV series Californication. Robert Diggs has starter his career as a movie director with The Man with the Iron Fists, a film in which he also plays the title role.

His artistic accomplishments are not only highly appreciated by his fans but also by the critics. He made it on the “Elite 8” by Vibe, in the search for the greatest hip-hop producer in history. The magazine The Source considers that RZA is among the 20 greatest producers in the magazine’s twenty-year history. He also made it on the list of the 50 Greatest Producers Ever, by NME.

Robert Diggs has positioned himself to become not just a member of the Wu-Tang but as his own entity in many fields of business. Maybe one of the explanations of his success stays in his solid business ethics. His ethics are rooted in profound spirituality and religion. Somehow, RZA is able to make the connection between hip hop music and religion. He was asked in a NPR interview what the sacred aspirations of spirituality have to do with the often profane posture of hip hop. He directed the readers of the magazine with some clues that the rap music has a long tradition of religiosity and spirituality. And that’s actually true; Rap and hip hop music has much to say about religious matters even before Kanye West released “Jesus Walks”.

Over the past three decades, hip hop has definitely come a long way, getting to become today one of the most popular forms of culture in the world. From clothing lines to sport cars, from social media to sports management, hip hop has something to say about everything. In this larger context, the success of Robert Diggs in many enterprises, beyond the strict field of hip hop music, it shouldn’t be such a surprise. It makes perfect sense that hip hop culture would extend into many other businesses.

However, no matter how many accomplishments Robert Diggs accumulates in other fields of the show biz such as the movie industry, the Wu Tang Clan remains a drawing line in the sand of hip hop history. The group influenced the hip hop culture so much and elevated the art of collaboration, cameo, and collective branding to a “science”, that looking back now we can talk about hip hop before and after Wu Tang phenomenon.

Robert Diggs is a post-modern American spiritual seeker. Influenced by the USA Shaolin Temple, The Tao of Wu position RZA as a deep thinker of our times.