DEED AFTER DEED RZA as Bobby Digital

RZA works out his
demons via Bobby Digital.

By RANDY HARWARD

 

“Peace,” is his greeting. Guy says he’s cool, “just chillin’
and shit.” The image that forms isn’t of a hip-hop star soakin’ up chlorine and
Hennessey in his pool; it’s of a superhero in his fortress of solitude, maybe a
castle of crystalline ice, like Superman’s crib. That’s ‘cause this is the RZA,
de facto leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, among other things-some mysterious, like
his purported ties to organized crime; others are verifiable, like his
alter-ego Bobby Digital, which is the reason he’s on the line.

 

Why, exactly, a guy like RZA needs to create an alter-ego is
virtually beyond comprehension. He’s a kung fu master and philosopher, he’s at
the top of the hip-hop game, and perhaps soon, with his roles in Derailed and American Gangster, as well as his scores for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, he’ll rule Hollywood.
He uses his power, his celebrity, for good: within Wu-Tang, he strives to sow a
philosophy of peace and good times. So he’s at least a pop culture icon, if not
already a superhero. But the RZA is the reality of him-it’s who he is. Bobby
Digital, in a way, is the dark side: who RZA was, and may still be, as he
endeavors to walk a shinier path.

 

“I had a crazy imagination [as a child],” he says, his
effusiveness bubbling up through his hip-hop cool. “I would walk to school, and
by the time I got there, I done started a movie in my head. Then I would go to
school, do everything I gotta do, and then walk home and finish it. It would be
all kinds of movies, from horrors to martial art movies. I definitely had a
wild imagination.”

 

That’s no surprise, given the back story and general
aesthetic behind Wu-Tang, which is as serious and spiritual as kung fu and as fun
as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. But does the kid in RZA feel superhuman? Or
at least like a cartoon character?

 

“I think no,” he says. “To be honest, sometimes I feel like
one of the mutants [from the X-men], man. That’s what I feel like and shit. You
know what I mean? Bein’ a part of the Wu-Tang is definitely a blessin’ too,
gettin’ to show our skills and our talent and shit. But also, it’s not a
overnight thing. It’s years of sharpenin’ our lyrical and our musical swords…
to get to that level. But it was also somethin’ that was inherent in me. When I
first heard hip-hop, I must’ve been seven years old. But if you ask my older
brother, he says since the age of three, I was readin’… Dr. Seuss in rhyme and
rhythm.”

 

The RZA, an acronym for Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah, represents
“the quest of life… If you take everything I’ve done and will do and put it all
together, that’s that Zig-Zag-Zig, right there.” Bobby Digital is a different
characteristic, “a growth to RZA. Bobby Digital is somebody who actually fell
down from grace and needs to rise up, back to the RZA.” The character debuted a
decade ago on the In Stereo album
(Gee Street/V2/BMG) and appeared again with 2001’s Digital Bullet (Columbia). The saga continues now on the newly
minted Digi Snacks (Koch), which
features guest spots by John Frusciante, Shavo Odadjian, Dexter Wiggles and
backing band Stone Mecca, and is due next month.

 

RZA likens Bobby Digital’s arc to the story of the Silver
Surfer, particularly when he was exiled to Earth by planet-gobbler Galactus. “Because
he tried to help the Earthlings, he had to win back the ability to travel the
universe with his cosmic power. He was contained,
and he had to keep doin’ deed after deed to win back his freedom. That’s how I
peg Bobby as: he’s trapped in limbo, but he’s allowed to travel… and get enough
merits to escape limbo and rise up to the higher plains of life.”

 

Digi Snacks finds
RZA fleshing out the Bobby Digital character’s identity and story (in the songs
and the apt added-value: a comic), which parallel RZA’s own. “This is the snack
pack, showin’ you some sides of him,” he says. “It includes songs that’s
life-related; it includes songs that are totally like science fiction.” The
line between the two is hard to differentiate, and RZA alludes to his own
promiscuity and bad deeds-ostensibly, when he shot that dude in 1993. It’s
nothing if not perfect superhero lore.

 

“[Bobby Digital]’s still strugglin’ with his sex-tryin’ not
to be so promiscuous,” he chuckles. “His growth is basically at that point
right before I started Wu-Tang Clan. Right before I started Wu-Tang Clan, I was
at that point where… I had demons inside myself. And it took a tragedy for me
to snap out of it.”

Leave a Reply