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The Order of the Wu-Tang

Ranking the Shaolin shoguns, from worst to best

 Of course, being called the “worst” Wu emcee is like sitting the bench on an all-star team. It can be argued that for the most part, each of the core members will have a legacy as an individual emcee as well as for being a member of one of the greatest hip-hop groups in history. So it wasn’t easy to come up with a list ranking them in terms of microphone skills from bottom to top -- and, admittedly, there are myriad other defensible permutations. But think of this not as a definitive statement but as a starting point for an argument with no answer.


09. U-God

Born: Lamont Hawkins
Best-known aliases: Golden Arms

We can all agree that this is one decision that needs no justification.


08. Masta Killa

Born: Elgin Turner
Best-known aliases: High Chief, Noodles

It really pains me to put a guy with two near-classic albums -- No Said Date (2004), Made in Brooklyn (2006) -- so low on this list. But Masta Killa doesn't have the jaw-dropping moments or breadth of work that other members have. Think of him as a poor man's GZA (who purportedly mentored him early on). His rhymes are consistently good and straightforward, but he didn’t have the advantage of dropping his album during the peak of RZA's production career. 


07. RZA

Born: Robert Diggs
Best-known aliases: Abbott, Prince Rakeem, the Rzarector, Bobby Steels, Bobby Digital
RZA is no slouch on the microphone, so it says something when six other guys from the same crew have put out work that places them ahead of the Wise Abbott. RZA set the tone for Wu with his opening verse on "Ain't Nothin' ta Fuck Wit": Aggressive, raw and powerful, it's a lyrical contribution that ranks up there with his best production moments.


06. Method Man

Born: Clifford Smith
Best-known aliases: Meth, Johnny Blaze, Iron Lung, Hot Nickels, MZA, Tical, Ticallion Stallion, Shakwon, Methtical

Meth never really dropped that classic album everyone expected from him, but he still had the biggest hits and most crossover appeal of any Wu member. "All I Need" was accessible, mainstream Wu at its finest; his collaboration with Redman on 1999’s Blackout, despite much praise and success, still hasn't been fully appreciated. If not for Meth, it's entirely possible the Wu would have disappeared entirely from the spotlight in the time between Wu Tang Forever (1997) and Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele (2000).


 05. Ol’ Dirty Bastard

Born: Russell Tyrone Jones
Best-known aliases: ODB, Ason Unique, Big Baby Jesus, Osirus, Dirt Dog, Dirt McGirt, Joe Bananas
Arguably the most avant-garde member of the Wu (whether that was intentional or not is a whole conversation on its own), ODB was the Hunter S. Thompson of hip-hop. Like Thompson, he had a style and persona that was so much his own that I doubt we'll ever see it imitated in our lifetime. It's easy to look at his classic albums (his 1995 debut, Return to the 36 Chambers) and hit singles ("Got Your Money"), but the track that always comes to mind when ODB’s name comes up is "Dog Shit" off Wu Tang Forever. It made no sense within the context of the album, but it’s so entertaining and different that the song’s ramblings are still easy to recall today.


04. Inspectah Deck

Born: Jason Hunter
Best-known aliases: Rebel INS

Deck never got a lot of shine as a prime time Wu emcee, which is a shame because some of his verses are the best the Wu has to offer. "Protect Ya Neck" or "Triumph" wouldn't have been so memorable and immediate if not for his opening verses. Just look at some of the imagery from "Triumph": “Bomb atomically/ Socrates' philosophies/ Lyrically performed armed robbery/ Battle-scarred shoguns/ Ultra-violet shine blind forensics.”


 03. Raekwon

Born: Corey Woods
Best-known aliases: the Chef, Lex Diamonds,

Unlike GZA, who’s lauded here based on consistency alone, Raekwon has had as many ups as he has had downs. That said, his ups are undeniable. His contributions to Ironman (1996) and Wu Tang Forever are awe-inspiring, and his 1995 debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, was a defining album for ’90s hip-hop. Do we even need to discuss the significance of his opening verse on "C.R.E.A.M."? And the fact that he's at number three with offerings like Immobilarity (1999) and The Lex Diamonds Story (2003) on his resume only emphasizes how good his aforementioned highlights really were.


02. GZA

Born: Gary Grice
Aliases: Genius, Maximillion, Justice

01. Ghostface Killah

Born: Dennis Coles
Aliases: Ghost, Tony Starks, Pretty Tony, Ironman, Ghost Deini

Matthew Gasteier [Prefix contributor]: I mean, there's a case for GZA at one.

Adrian Covert: Definitely.

Gasteier: But I think Ghost has been so revolutionary.

Covert: My gut instinct is always GFK. I love GZA, but when I think of GFK rhyming, I get all excited.

Gasteier: It's like, GZA is the consistent workhorse, but Ghost is the flashy superstar.

Covert: Yep.

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How Cappadonna isn't considered a member. At at least some point he was, and in a sense I'd say he is now. Think of it like this, on the tracklisting of 8 DIAGRAMS it will indicate "featuring _______" but does not do that for Cappa.

At a time (WU-TANG FOREVER), he was listed as a 'guest,' but he hasnt't been listed as such since. I'm just saying, he wasn't an original member, and maybe there's been shifts since, but he was at some point considered an official member.

bradford

I think the only thing that can be agreed upon is that U-God is #9. Having to give anyone else in the clan #8 is why I don't want to make my own list. Is this strictly for mic skills? Because RZA produced Tical, Return to 36, Cuban Linx, and Liquid Swords in a 51 week period. I've always considered that the most impressive feat in hip-hop history.

Nathan

Nathan, excellent point on RZA.

bradford

i've always felt like Cappadonna was a member, but almost certain he never was an "official" member.

i would put Masta Killa at #5 or #4.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

while i obviously agree with numbers 1 and 2, I think INS is a better emcee than raekwon, and i might even say I enjoy RZA more than method man. Also, this was definitely on mic skills only, otherwise RZA would obviously be much higher (IMO number one).

More importantly, while i appreciate the humor of dismissing the selection of u-god at number 9, I have to say that if we are judging strictly on the basis of verses on wu albums, u-god makes a strong case to be higher than masta killa, and even though I agree with this listing, the fact that he holds his own and sometimes surpasses these emcees is a very impressive feat. It's just that he can't really sustain his talents past 16 bars, and he can't write a song to save his damn life.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/bza/monkey.jpg bza

banjo

/site_media/uploads/images/users/acb/01bigblacktomb.jpg acb

ummm...i didnt see the terms "record sales" "soundscan" "amazon gift card" or "contest" anywhere here

/site_media/uploads/images/users/GM_Omnis/CURLS.jpg OMNIS

Inspectah Deck's verse from "Guillotines" gives me a boner every time.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/mk78/avocado.gif mk78

Cappadonna IS today an official member. And it's not wrong putting Uey as #9, that's all opinion, but the 'motivation' is just hating.

Oh, and one thing about Ol' Dirty Bastard; he's dead, thought everyone was aware of that. (Rest in Peace Ason).

yb

considering that his capsule was written in the past tense and Adrian said "he had a style and persona that was so much his own that I doubt we'll ever see it imitated in our lifetime," it seems pretty obvious he knew he was dead.

And however many "official" wu tang members there are, there will always be nine core members. Period.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/bza/monkey.jpg bza

bza... in theory, weren't there only 8 core members? I mean Masta Killa had 1 verse on the whole ENTER THE 36 CHAMBERS (and it wasn't on "Protect Ya Neck," the posse cut meant to introduce the world to each core member.)

In my opinion, Masta Killa & Cappadonna are the only other official members that joined after the initial core 8.

bradford

Definitely in the broader picture, RZA's the most important to the group, bar none. But in terms of mic skills, this looks like a good spot for him.

G. Pete

It would be absurd not to include ODB in the list of "core members" just because he's dead, if that's what you're implying, yb. Cappadonna may be an official member, but he's not a core member.

Tine Waller

another proof of my "Core 8" theory:

"From the slums of Shaolin Wu-Tang Clan strikes again: the RZA, the GZA, Ol Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah and the Method Man..."

--"M.E.T.H.O.D. Man" intro (duh) from 36 CHAMBERS

bradford

i'm pretty sure Masta Killa officially joined the group after the Protect Ya Neck 12" was already a hit on the streets. so he goes back, just not all the way back.

and all kidding aside, the most shocking part of 8 Diagrams is that U-God has multiple dope verses.

Nat Weiner

youre reading way too deep into that...they've always been marketed as a 9 man crew before ODB took a dirt nap.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/GM_Omnis/CURLS.jpg OMNIS

I haven't really digested 8 Diagrams yet, but where are U-God's best verses on that, Nat?

G. Pete

U-God is the star of Iron Flag. His verse on Soul Power is the best verse on the entire record.

Schmid

g pete:
he kills the drop on Wolves and closes Take it Back nicely. Those might be the two best tracks on the record.

Nat Weiner

U-God has always brought it on the albums, putting ODB that high is just crazy & completely disrespectful to Method Man, Masta Killa, & U-God. The only thing bad about Uey is his solo's & Black Shampoo, & Inspectah Deck wasn't so great in that category either.

1. GZA
2. Inspectah Deck
3. Ghostface Killah
4. Raekwon
5. Method Man
6. Masta Killa
7. RZA
8. U-God
9. Cappadonna
10. Ol' Dirty Bastard

This is just Mic skills though, if it were based off uniqueness or rawness, then Dirt would win by a land slide.

KINGGS

I'm not saying everyone else was biting, but more than anyone else, ODB had no template. That's why he deserves to be high on the list.

Anthony

masta killa was in jail for most of the recoding of 36 chambers.

a

Bradford: check the corp. site re: the core 8.

http://www.wutang-corp.com/artists/bios.php

Clearly nine there.

G. Pete

G. Pete... you hit me with a primary source. can't argue with that.

bradford

say:yin&yang ; rest essentially o.d.b

erratic assassin

in the

wwu

Just trying to make this list you realize how ridiculously good Wu Tang is and how its amazing they didnt really have more than one classic album as a group. But anyways, here's my list:

9) U-God
8) RZA
7) Masta Killa
6) ODB
5) Inspectah Deck
4) Method Man
3) Ghostface Killa
2) GZA
1) Rakewon

Josh

in terms of enjoyment listening to them rhyme i rate it like this

9. masta killa
8. u god
7. rza
6. ghostface
5. raekwon
4. inspectah deck
3. gza
2. method man
1. ol dirty

dave

Masta Killa is definitely last. I mean, his flow belongs in a coffee house in 1958 and only half of his stuff even rhymes. Uey gets slept on way too much. Golden Arms is a good album, and he's got some of the best verses on the Wu albums. He's no GZA or Ghostface, but putting him at 9 like it's a given is idiotic.

The list (with Cappa)

#10 Masta Killa
#9 Cappadonna
#8 Raekwon
#7 Dirty
#6 U-God
#5 Meth
#4 RZA
#3 Deck
#2 Ghostface
#1 GZA

Moe

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