RZA Draws His Wu-Tang Sword in Movie Soundtracks

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


ghost-dog_4.jpg

The RZA is a genius at putting music to fight scenes, and even better at putting the sounds of fight scenes to music. To complement this Wired interview with Bobby Digital himself, here’s a Riff rundown of the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder’s best cinematic work.

1. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
This Jim Jarmusch mob/samurai drama is a hybrid of Japanese, African American and Italian American cultures. Who better to compose the soundtrack than the man who first synthesized East Asian martial arts culture and New York hip-hop on the Clan’s 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang? RZA sets an eerie tone for the movie, with dark and heavy bass lines and samples that propel the movie’s narrative forward. During fight scenes, the mellow music matches Ghost Dog’s cool, thoughtful demeanor. Works as a stand-alone album as well as a soundtrack.

2. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
The four tracks that RZA contributed to this East-meets-West Tarantino masterpiece are more traditional movie fare—they’re not meant to stand alone, but rather to enhance the scene. In contrast to the dark mood of Ghost Dog, the comic book feel of Kill Bill 1 inspired livelier RZA pieces. Individual instruments played one at a time match fighters’ specific weapons and moves. Influences range from hip-hop poetry on “Ode to Oren Ishii” to a J-pop feel on “Crane-White Lightning” to a Spanish guitar-strumming, old West shootout sound on “Yakuza Oren 1.”

3. Afro Samurai
RZA’s soundtrack to this Spike TV show about a futuristic, afro-adorned samurai trying to avenge his father’s death is as underrated as the show itself. It ranges from funky to soulful to militant, and it features rappers Talib Kweli, Q-Tip and Big Daddy Kane, as well as RZA’s cousin, the GZA. “Afro’s Father Fight” is pure funk, while “Take Sword Part 1” gives the fights an epic, apocalyptic feel. Picture Sam Jackson cruisin’ while you’re listening to the album, and you’ll see how badassss it is, even if the vastly different styles make it too disjointed to be a classic.

4. Blade: Trinity (2004)
Wu-Tang Clan fans might be disappointed to find that this Wes Snipes flick’s soundtrack sounds much more like generic commercial rap than RZA’s other movie compositions. It features Lil Flip, E-40, WC and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan, but not in any particularly noteworthy songs. The one Crystal Method song, “Weapons of Mad Distortion,” is completely out of place on this hip-hop album, and seems like a failed attempt to make the soundtrack eclectic. The high point is “Daywalkers” with Ramin Djawadi, a shadowy track with an electronic, trance influence, perfect for the movie’s fight scenes.

If you’ve overplayed your Wu-Tang library and can’t wait for the December 4th release of 8 Diagrams, these somewhat hidden RZA gems should tide you over.

—Andre Sternberg

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate