The 5 Faces of RZA [#4 of Top 10 Producers Turned Rappers]

The transition from hip-hop maestro to rap artist is a tough one, and not everyone can master it. But when it comes to getting down on the mic, some beatsmiths just have the gift of gab. With Kanye West making the successful leap from soulful in-house producer to one of the game’s most respected (and controversial) voices on the mic, XXL felt it only right to count down the best 10 producers turned rappers of all time in the October 2010 issue, which is on stands now.

Coming in at No. 4 is RZA, who always maintains creativity switching his style and persona. He started as the fun-loving Prince Rakeem, then began kicking five precent knowledge as RZA and horrorcore lyrics as RZArector. As Bobby Steels, he exercises his Mafioso fantasies and makes playboy moves as Bobby Digital. Be sure to pick up the October issue to get the full write up on The Abbot and how he earned his spot. But for now, here’s the 5 faces of RZA.

As Prince Rakim:
“And my ladies love me deeply/Because I’m handsome and freaky.”—Prince Rakeem’s “Ooh We Love You Rakeem”

“New world order, slave trade, minimum wage, Medicaid/Can a devil fool a Muslim nowadays?”—Wu Tang Clan’s “A Better Tomorrow”

As RZArector:
“I’m the RZArector, be my sacrifice/Commit suicide, and I’ll bring ya back to life.”—Gravediggaz’s “1-800 Suicide”

As Bobby Steels:
“Double-breasted, bullet-proof-vested, well-protected/The heart, the rib cage, the chest and solar plexus.”—Raekwon’s “Wu-Gambinos”

As Bobby Digital:
“My name is Bobby, and I don’t dance that much/I play the wall, but, girl, you got that magic touch.”—Bobby Digital’s “La Rhumba”

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  • W. J. Rice

    Considering the fact that he not only was a MC, but a DJ, the main producer for five years…eventually changed his whole style and was one of the first mainstream artist to start making “digital music.”

    AND he was the dictator of Wu-Tang who controlled the empire’s vision for the first five years…

    How is he not number 1 or 2?

  • Ethan

    RZA shouldn’t be on this list at all. He is not a producer TURNED rapper, he was rapping as long as he was producing. Get your facts straight XXL!

    Check our blog for a look at how this list went terribly wrong and for a better list.

    • W. J. Rice

      That’s a good point. RZA has been rapping as long if not a little bit longer than he’s been producing.

      If I’m not mistaken it’s the same for Kanye West. I believe he’s been rapping as long as he’s been producing, he just sucked at MCing before he was signed to Roc.

      • Ethan

        Hmm. Not sure about Kanye. I know he was PROFESSIONALLY producing for local cats in Chicago long before he was PROFESSIONALLY rapping.

    • JZA

      That is true, I remember RZA saying that he learned a lot from Prince paul and other producers of the era. Althought lirically I think ODB and GZA were more of the emcees of the “all in together now” crew. But he definitely rap since high school.

      About comparing RZA, to Rzarector to Bobby steel, is hard since some of this happened on the same era. RZA’s lyrics on 36 were as sharp as his lyrics in Liquid swords (bobby steels). So I would not label it as a different style of rapping. He also doesn’t sound as aggressive on Forever as he became more of the philosopher.

      I think Bobby diggi was a ‘falloff’ as the RZA Birth of a prince. I think that the magic from the Bobby steels day are lone gone and wont come back even if he uses the moniker again.

  • Axeo

    Not just that but his rhymes would sometimes be the best verses on a song and the rest of the clan were full time MCs. Mix in the 5% talk and other spiritual stuff. Some of his later stuff was kind of wtf for me but 36 chambers to Wu-tang forever he could hold his own against any MC in the game.

    Hell coffie and cigarettes needs to be mentioned because that scene with GZA and Bill Murray is really funny

  • Dick B.

    RZA isn’t really a rapper turned producer since he was rapping with the All in Together Now group (with GZA & ODB). His first EP was RZA as Prince Rakeem with him & Easy Mo Bee doing the production.

    RZA is probably better than the next three rappers your going to put in front of him.
    Let me guess its Dr. Dre at #3 (ghostwrited lyrics), then maybe Pete Rock (who is probably second to RZA in my book) and Kanye West at number one.

    I mean if you can be considered a great rapper (let alone hold your own) with the likes of GZA, Rae, Ghost, Meth, Deck, & ODB (RIP) you are obviously better than Kanye West & Dr. Dre.

    I voted for RZArector because I like that name the best. Wu-Gambinos is the best song out of all of those though.

  • Don mcCaine

    As Prince Rakim RAKEEM:

    ^ a BAD TYPO right there…

  • El Tico Loco

    Is Prince Rakeem, that’s not even a typo that’s an uneducated error. I really believe he did both rap and produce at the same time but I might be wrong, but I hear the wu dna in “OOh we love you Rakeem”.

    • El Tico Loco

      I see Necro, Alchemist, and J zone won’t make the list, sad. We already know you picked Kanye to be number 1. I saw ya’ll when ya’ll woke up.

  • Q461

    RZA has been producing and rapping for around the same time, and is one of the few that is actually dope at both. From his Wutang shit to Gravediggaz to Bobby Digital…RZA is def proficient in hip hop with a sick track record.He was dope in American Gangster too and Coffee and Cigarettes too. I’ll def be checkin for his new film project too.

    Some of Rza’s joints that i like that weren’t listed:

    Tragedy (rhyme n reason soundtrack)
    We Pop (from Birth of a Prince)
    You can’t stop me now ( from Digi Snacks)
    Dollaz and Sense with Pharoah Monch and Black Keys ( BlakRoc album)

    • Don mcCaine

      ‘Who’s The Champion’-The Great White Hype soundtrack

      ^ add that one to the list

      I know y’all forgot ‘Domestic Violence’…and ‘Holocaust’…Rza’s verse on ‘Impossible’…his ‘Dangerous Mindz’ verse…and his verse on Masta Killa’s ‘School’…

      good looking on letting us convo ’bout Rza, but the selection used is weak juice double x…

      “We already know you picked Kanye to be number 1. I saw ya’ll when ya’ll woke up.”

      ^ LoLz

  • killmatic

    how the f u c k you rank puff above him???

    • JZA

      Cuz XXL is a mainstream magazine and they go by namestream. So you can be god, but if you werent back up by viacom, you will never make it.

      If jay-z produced once, he will be #1 on this list since nigga is rich. Even if his shit is crap.

  • oskamadison

    The list was GARBAGE!!!!!! 2 simple reasons: 1. The inclusion of Diddy and Dre, 2 cats well-known for having ghostwriters and 2. The omission of Large Professor, whose bars are (still) better than everyone on this list except maybe ‘Ye and RZA.

    • oskamadison

      Also, if you’re going to throw non-writing cats on there, you might as well throw Pete Rock on there.

  • RiZzurr

    Gotta give mad respect to WU.
    These guys been keeping it real since RZA and them first conceived the idea of forming a group.
    If anybody outta NY deserves to be King its RZA. First of all he aint sitting in no high all mighty chair trying to run NY (dude is humble to the core), and secondly RZA got his ear to ground making music for real people out on the streets, This dude right here is always on top of his game… the dopest shit I’ve ever seen from him so far was the Afro Samurai soundtrack. Rza’s love for Shaolin shone through all over that animated movie, if anything I loved that movie just hear the soundtrack.

    I suppose if this poll is based on figures he’s ranked quiet nicely, but if this poll was based on the music (which it should)… I would expect him to be on top