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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.