It appears that RZA, founder of the clan, is quite the chess aficionado. According to a story in Saturday’s New York Times, by Dylan Loeb McClain, “Chess has long had an important role in the aesthetic of the Wu-Tang Clan.”
In a 2005 book about the group RZA wrote that chess is integral to Wu-Tang “because it’s a game of war — it’s about battle. And Wu-Tang was formed in battles, from challenging each other.” RZA also mentions that he lost his virginity to the girl who taught him the game when he was 11 (the Times story is unclear on whether he was deflowered the same year he learned chess.)
The full story is absolutely worth a read, and I also recommend the related video of RZA playing chess with the author. RZA and GZA, another of the founding members of the group, now play daily and RZA just started a website, WuChess.com, where users can create profiles, play online, chat and get news about the group. While there is a fee to register for the site, its developer, Chesspark.com, plans to give memberships away to school age children for free. In the online version, the chess pieces are non-traditional and are instead represented by martial arts and Wu-Tang symbols.
The idea of chess as a martial art is an interesting one, and the article briefly touches on the intersection of chess and hip hop, which is further promoted by the California-based Hip Hop Chess Federation.
As RZA puts it, “The way you have to think in chess is good for everyday thinking, really, especially for brothers in the urban community who never take that second look, never take that second thought."
By Ashley Herriman, Stark Contributing Writer