Robert “RZA” Diggs is not only one of the foremost members of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, but he’s also proven through the years to be quite the astute businessman and entrepreneur. Alongside his older brother Mitchell “Divine” Diggs, RZA announced on Tuesday that Downtown Music Publishing signed a global publishing agreement with Wu-Tang Productions to represent the Wu-Tang Clan’s catalog.
According to a press release obtained by The Root, the iconic hip-hop group’s catalog of albums—as well as select works and songs co-written and produced by Wu-Tang’s members RZA, Ghostface Killah, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, U-God and Capadonna—will be included in the agreement. The agreement features tracks from not only Wu-Tang’s solo stars but artists including Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Drake, Cardi B, and many others.
In order to celebrate the new deal, Downtown released a Spotify playlist of Wu-Tang’s music, including deep cuts and fan favorites, featuring tracks from their 1993 debut Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, as well as their Wu-Tang Forever, The W And Iron Flag LPs.
“The beautiful thing is Downtown has the power of a major [publishing company], but yet [gives us] the intimacy of an independent [one],” RZA told The Root over the phone. “I think it’s going to lend itself to a greater relationship—less bureaucracy and red tape [to pass] to get things done.” Via the press release, he praised Downtown for their “global reach” as well as their “customized approach to clientele,” which makes them an ideal match for Wu-Tang Productions.
“Wu-Tang Clan isn’t just one of hip-hop’s most influential groups, it’s an iconic institution in every sense of the word—with a legacy that extends well beyond the realm of music,” said Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music Holdings, parent company of Downtown Music Publishing. Downtown’s senior vice president of global business development Bruce Lampcov praised RZA and Divine for their entrepreneurial savviness, stating that they have “showcased their shrewd business acumen time and time again.”
“With music of course being my first talent—I am an artist first—you gotta continue to make your music, but you better know the business, and you better have a business instinct,” RZA continues. “So when I come across other good businessmen—[such as] a company like Downtown with Bruce [Lampcov] and the team, it’s like, ‘Okay, these guys get it.’ They’ve got a formula that looks to shake up the game, to bring a unique angle to it. It’s niche, but it’s massive at the same time.”
In their nearly 30 years on the scene, Wu-Tang’s influence has reached far and wide, resulting in lucrative deals and endeavors in the art, television, film, fashion and tech worlds, including a Showtime documentary miniseries titled Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men.
Recently, it was announced that RZA would be working with Good Humor to create a new ice cream truck jingle, in order to replace “Turkey in the Straw,” which has racist undertones. Additionally, he is celebrating a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in the Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music category, thanks to his work for Hulu’s acclaimed biopic Wu-Tang: An American Saga, where he also serves as an executive producer. The show was renewed for a second season in January 2020.
Despite great strides across the media landscape, RZA assures The Root that things have not always been easy, especially when he was first learning about the business side of the music industry.
“When I came in, there wasn’t a lot of education for hip-hop artists and how to navigate [the corporate side],” he explains, adding that as a then-18-year-old rapper, there was a lot of “trial and error” when it came to business dealings. “You had to bring your basic entrepreneurial street skills to the corporate world, and I did that. I had a great team of people with me.”
Nevertheless, he was able to persist in the game as a performer, a producer and as a respected entrepreneur, who continues to learn more about himself to this day as he allows his creativity to soar to unprecedented heights.
“I think that artistic expression never ceases in an artistic mind,” he says. “Once you identify what you are, then that’s what you’re gonna be. I’m an artist, and I just continue to strive to express it over and over—I never let that go...As an artist, you have to be comfortable to grow and to never fear finding ways to express yourself, and to never let [anybody] put you in a box. Art is universal.”