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Rap supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan reunites for another album, tour
Star-Telegram staff writer

Girlie Action Media
Wu-Tang Clan There are two maxims that seem to apply to hip-hop and the music business: Rappers have the shelf life of week-old milk, and hip-hop tours are either creative or financial disappointments -- or both.

But the Wu-Tang Clan seems to be bucking the odds. The pioneering nine-piece Staten Island outfit that hit the scene in the early 90s sporting kung-fu cool, surreal lyricism and a spare, haunting sound that upended hip-hop expectations is back together and generating wide interest -- despite its often-chaotic history, including the death from a heart attack of Clan madman Ol Dirty Bastard in 2004.

The Clan is headlining the Rock the Bells multi-act rap tour, which hits Dallas Smirnoff Music Centre on Tuesday, and it recently shared the stage with political rockers Rage Against the Machine in California and New York. A documentary about one of the groups concerts, also called Rock the Bells, was released last week, and a new album is due in the fall.

For a group that always seemed on the verge of collapse -- Method Man stars in HBOs The Wire, Ghostface Killah co-stars in the upcoming Iron Man movie, RZA is a film-music composer (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), and nearly everyone has solo CD projects -- all this activity is a little surprising. Though GZA (aka The Genius) says he wasnt at all shocked to find himself working with his old comrades again for their first group studio disc since 2001.

"We were planning on doing an album for years," says GZA (pronounced JIZ-uh) by phone from a Boston tour stop. "Some of us went out to L.A. about two years ago to record, but some people didnt show up. We went for it again and then, boom, it happened. I think maybe some of our schedules were more flexible this time. I could always work around [other people]. Im not filming a movie or on location every day."

He also says, despite the vagaries of competing personalities, there havent been any ruffled feathers. "We get along the same. Its not like one member doesnt like another or they dont want to be around the other. Were still under one roof. We stay in the same hotel. When were onstage, theres no problem whatsoever. We all move as one."

GZA is also not surprised that, in an era when hip-hop acts often have trouble filling venues, Wu-Tang Clan appears to still be a draw. "Wu-Tang is a group that has a cult following," he explains. "Wu-Tang is looked at like the Rolling Stones of hip-hop. Come on, 14 years later, were on a roll in front of thousands of people. It might not be 60,000 people -- though if its a festival, it might -- but we can put 10,000 people in a place without a problem."

Which brings him to the topic that really turns his blood to battery acid: mainstream hip-hop today. "Dont get me wrong. Some of us [in Wu-Tang] rhyme about cars and clothes, and thats what the current state of hip-hop is," he explains. "But you can have a radio hit today and its gone tomorrow and no one remembers it 10 years from now. But you take a song like [Wu-Tang Clans 1993 hit about street life] C.R.E.A.M. and its telling a story, and so many people can relate to it.

"Hip-hop is going to be what it is, but, as lyricists, its time to lay it down. Its not about being preachy or being a professor and saying dont smoke and dont party. But its about educating and entertaining. ... . I dont knock material rappers, but let me hear it in a different way. How many songs do I have to hear about rims on a car? Its ridiculous. Theres no substance. Its a hollow shell."

GZA says that ODBs death didnt cause any of the remaining members to think of putting the Wu-Tang reunion on hold. "We miss him greatly, and he was a major talent," GZA begins, "but he wasnt even on the last two albums. He was always missing. ... . We got used to not having him around. Now, its reality."

Rock the Bells Tour

Featuring Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monche, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks, David Banner, UGK

3 p.m. Tuesday at Smirnoff Music Centre, Dallas

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