It’s easy to see Ghostface’s recent court victory against Wu-Tang Productions—in which he was awarded $158,000 in unpaid royalties—as further evidence of the shady business dealings of the RZA and Wu-Tang Corp CEO “Divine” Diggs. After all, the pair have suffered similar allegations in the past, most notably when U-God launched a similar suit in 2008. However, a recent article by the RZA, in which the producer vows to appeal the judgment, casts doubt on the validity of Ghost’s claims.
I won’t go into the specifics, but the piece makes a pretty good case for why RZA made 50% of the profits from all the Clan’s early work. Sure, other Wu-Tang members made much less, given that they shared the remaing 50% with the other emcees on a given track (often three or four on early solo albums, and up to eight or nine on any of the group releases.) But one has to think about the sheer effort RZA was putting in back then. Every one of the first-wave Wu solos, from Tical, to Brooklyn Zoo, to Liquid Swords, Cuban Linx, and Iron Man, owed its sound and coherence largely to the RZA, with the producer providing all the music, determining the track sequence, and, finally, mixing and mastering each finished project. Not to mention dude tailored his sound specifically to match each emcee. For Ghost, Rae, and especially U-God to act like they were equally as important as RZA in the early days of the Clan just seems foolish, if not downright ungrateful. Don’t get me wrong; they’re all talented emcees, but there’s no shortage of talent in hip-hop, and I doubt that even Ghost would be who he is today had he not come up under the Wu (which was, let’s not forget, the brainchild of the RZA.)
Frankly, I think these spats are largely a result of rappers’ increasing inability to sell records in the barren climate of today’s music industry. Simply put, no one is caking like they should be, regardless of the quality of their music, because people just aren’t buying music anymore. If they were, and if Ghost had sold, say, 500K copies of The Big Doe Rehab (instead of posting number so low he had to personally admonish his fans) I think Starks would be much more likely to chalk that $150,000 up as a loss, and to focus on the present instead of the past, for the good of Wu-Tang and hip-hop in general. Instead, Wu-Tang fans must watch with dissapointment as one of hip-hop’s greatest institutions rots from the inside, apparently because its members are so hard-up for cash that they’re trying to recoup funds from 1995.
If you like an artist, people, support him. Don’t make him resort to extorting family members.