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W1 — Wu-Tang Clan

W1 — Wu-Tang Clan

Bristol-based art editor and hip-hip aficionado Sam Freeman sings the praises of Wu-Tang Clan’s versatile, kung fu, comic book-inspired logo.

Wu-Tang-Clan-Logo.JPG

For every great rapper, group or record label, there is a memorable stamp of approval.

When you think about the most iconic hip-hop group logos of all time, Public Enemy, EPMD and RUN DMC instantly spring to mind. A lot of the great marques were designed in the labels’ in-house art departments by a few notable art directors — at the time they probably didn’t realise they were creating what would go on to become cultural iconography.

Wu-hoo: Released in 1993 and considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time, ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ set the template for the New York collective’s massive influence over the genre.

Wu-hoo: Released in 1993 and considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time, ‘Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ set the template for the New York collective’s massive influence over the genre.

Post-1990, however, it’s a bit of a struggle to think of any hip-hop logos as timeless as the mighty ‘W’ icon used to represent Wu-Tang Clan.

The logo was designed in 1993 by DJ/producer Mathematics (aka Ronald Bean) from the crew. In a February 2007 interview for the website hiphopgame.com, he offered this account of his design process:

“[The logo] just popped up. Really it was done in one night. When RZA [the de facto leader of Wu-Tang Clan] was still on Tommy Boy [Records], that’s when the Wu-Tang idea really came. I did a sticker for him in graffiti that was a ‘W’. That’s when the first ‘W’ really came. I was in the lab when I was still living in 40 Projects [in Jamaica, Queens] and sat down and that’s what I drew. When they saw it, they were like, ‘This is it’. That was it”.

Making the cut on lim-ed yellow vinyl: Says Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck: “The Wu-Tang logo is definitely up there with Batman, man, or the actual W-B Warner Brothers.”

Making the cut on lim-ed yellow vinyl: Says Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck: “The Wu-Tang logo is definitely up there with Batman, man, or the actual W-B Warner Brothers.”

Every member of the Wu Tang has their own distinct personality and played their position to the fullest. Each of the core members would also release solo albums.

Method Man, the Gza and Inspectah Deck reappropriated the logo to create their own personal branding — Method Man flipping it 180 degrees to form an ‘M’ and the Gza rotating it 90 degrees clockwise to form a ‘G’ for example — each creating a sub-brand that pays homage to the original.

Upside-down you’re turning me: Rapper and actor Method Man’s personal take on the Wu-Tang logo, first used on his debut solo album, ‘Tical’ (1994).

Upside-down you’re turning me: Rapper and actor Method Man’s personal take on the Wu-Tang logo, first used on his debut solo album, ‘Tical’ (1994).

Fippin’ it: Gza (aka The Genius) used a deconstructed version of the ‘W’ logo for his solo output.

Fippin’ it: Gza (aka The Genius) used a deconstructed version of the ‘W’ logo for his solo output.

As the song from their classic debut album goes, ‘Can it be that it was all so simple’? Seemingly so … but the impact of this icon will live on for many years to come.

Wu Wear was one of the first clothing lines started by rappers and has had notable collaborations with companies from ALIFE to Nike. The ‘W’ logo makes it one of the most recognisable rap-derived brands around.

Wu Wear was one of the first clothing lines started by rappers and has had notable collaborations with companies from ALIFE to Nike. The ‘W’ logo makes it one of the most recognisable rap-derived brands around.

X1 — XTC

X1 — XTC

V1 — The Velvet Underground

V1 — The Velvet Underground