“I went home sore cos I was moshing!”: Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA on his favourite rock records

RZA from Wu-Tang Clan
(Image credit: Patrick Ford/Redferns)

Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA is a rap visionary and one of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time but try and pin him down to one genre at your peril. The way RZA sees it, hip-hop is an extension of rock’n’roll. “Hip-hop is a form of music that grabs from every genre,” he has said, “but it definitely grabs from rock’n’roll.”

He was speaking from experience – going all the way back to Wu-Tang Clan’s landmark debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), RZA was an artist trying to bridge the two worlds. Talking about its standout track Bring Da Ruckus, he said, “I thought I was making hip-hop but it has a rock’n’roll groove like a motherfucker.”

He's melded the forms in other ways too. In 2016, he made a record with Interpol’s Paul Banks under the handle of Banks & Steelz. In an interview promoting their album Anything But Words, he told this writer about five favourite rock albums at the time.

Of course, he started with an Interpol pick, opting for the New York indie-rock trio’s tricky third effort Our Love To Admire. “”I chose this one because of that song The Scales,” he said. “That resonated hard with me. I love the progressions, the songwriting and the rock’n’roll sonics on this record.”

Next, he singled out Arctic Monkeys’ swaggering fifth album AM. “I chose this for the song Do I Wanna Know?,” he explained. “I could play the Interpol album and this album back-to-back. It’s chunky, it’s a good measurement of rock.”

Going a little heavier, he said he was enamoured by System Of A Down’s 2005 record Mezmerize. “The song that got me the most on this was Lost In Hollywood,” he marvelled. “It’s about a guy going to Hollywood. It sounded like they were singing about my life on that song.”

Maryland rockers Clutch also got a shoutout for their 2015 album Psychic Warfare. “I don’t think they ever sold more than 50,000 records. Their guitars are heavy. HE-AVY. They happened to be playing LA one night and I went home sore cos I was moshing.” His final pick was The Empyrean, a 2009 solo effort by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante.

RZA, who has long campaigned for Wu-Tang Clan to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, is currently with his group in Las Vegas, where they are performing a residency in celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.