Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon

Rapper Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan moves in various creative directions. In addition

to performing with the Clan and working on his soon-to-be-released second solo album,

Raekwon recently signed for an acting role in the film "Lucky Man," which is about the

relationship between African Americans and Italian Americans in New York City. He

previously acted in the film "The Show" and will be featured in the upcoming "Black &

White."

Raekwon was born Corey Woods 31 years ago today. He joined eight other MCs to form

the Wu-Tang Clan in Staten Island, N.Y., in 1993. They got their name from a mythical

kung fu sword. The group's 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, put

them on the hip-hop map.

Raekwon also is known as the Chef, Shallah Raekwon and Lou Diamonds. Wu-Tang's

other members are the RZA, Genius/GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Ghostface Killa,

U-God, Inspecta Deck and Masta Killa.

Though RZA mostly was responsible for developing the group's mix of hardcore beats,

menacing piano and samples, Raekwon has come to be known for his lyrical mastery.

Wu-Tang Clan's rapping deals with violence and martial arts imagery, sometimes with

warped humor.

The 1994 single "C.R.E.A.M." greatly increased the band's fanbase. Raekwon issued his

first solo single, the RZA-produced "Heaven and Hell," from the soundtrack to the film

"Fresh."

In 1995, Raekwon released his critically lauded RZA-produced debut LP, Only Built 4

Cuban Linx. It featured heavy participation from Ghostface Killa and came with such

tracks as "Criminology" and "Incarcerated Scarfaces." The Wu-Tang Clan's second LP,

Wu-Tang Forever, followed in 1997. The album, which topped Billboard's

200 albums chart, featured cuts such as "A Better Tomorrow"

(RealAudio excerpt) and "For Heaven's Sake."

Lawsuits have plagued the Clan in recent years. The group and its label, Loud Records,

were sued last year by a woman who claimed members of the group made derogatory

comments to her and held her against her will during the making of a music video.

In 1997, the Clan were investigated for allegedly starting a riot at a concert in Indiana

that left one concert-goer dead from an apparent heart attack. Bandmembers also

encountered allegations that they beat an employee at their label over comments he

made to a radio station.

RZA said of developing the Wu-Tang Clan's sound: "[The Wu-Tang Clan] couldn't rhyme

to that type of song because they couldn't hear most of it. Now they can. It took me to

exploit this music, and now I've got Raekwon coming to me and saying, 'Yo, man, you

remember that beat?' It's only now that they understand."

Other birthdays: William Lee Gordon (Oak Ridge Boys), 60; Cynthia Robinson (Sly and

the Family Stone), 53; Blixa Bargeld (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Einstürzende

Neubauten), 40; Charlie Gillingham (Counting Crows), 39; Zack de la Rocha (Rage

Against the Machine), 39; and Mike Ferrentino (Love In Reverse), 29.