Here’s a story on NPR’s Morning Edition celebrating Wu-Tang’s long career and focusing on Rza’s 20 year plan. A major part of the plan was allowing individual members to sign with different record labels. This would spread the promotion money around, while also opening up door at record labels for other rappers.
One of the first record execs to come sniffing around was Steve Rifkind, who had a new label called Loud. The RZA got him to sign an unprecedented deal: For only $60,000, Rifkind got the Clan as a whole. But the RZA also convinced him to allow each individual in the group to become, in essence, a free agent. They could sign a solo deal with any other company, and take the Wu-Tang name with them.
“When Def Jam wanted to sign Method Man, they wanted to sign Method Man and Old Dirty,” says the RZA. “And Old Dirty wanted to be on Def Jam — everybody, that was like the dream label. But if I had Old Dirty and Method Man on Def Jam, that’s two key pieces going in the same direction, whereas there’s other labels that needed to be infiltrated.”
The RZA’s plan was to spread his group’s sound as widely as possible. And just a few years later, members of the Wu-Tang Clan were recording for five of the six major labels, back when there were six major labels. Sales from those albums enriched each label — which meant they saw more potential in hip-hop made by street kids.
“I recall telling GZA, ‘You’ll get the college crowd,’ ” because he’s the intellectual. “Raekwon and Ghost, all the gangstas” — their metaphors read like a police blotter — “Meth will get the women and children — and he didn’t want to do women and children. He didn’t know that, though. Method Man is a rough, rugged street dude, but all the girls love him.” Method Man is playful. “Myself, I was looking more like that I bring in rock ‘n’ roll,” says the RZA, whose rhyming style is the opposite of laid-back.