Hipgnosis acquires 50% stake in RZA catalog, including Wu-Tang, Kanye West songs

Hipgnosis Songs Fund is building up its ownership of timeless hip-hop catalog.

Earlier this month, we learned that the Merck Mercuriadis-led company had acquired a catalog from Kanye West and Jay-Z producer No I.D.

Today (August 24), Hipgnosis tells us that it has acquired a 50% stake in the music publishing catalog of Robert ‘RZA’ Diggs. (Like the No I.D deal, Hipgnosis has declined to announce a purchase price.)

RZA, founder member of the Wu-Tang Clan, has sold Hipgnosis a 50% stake in the copyright interest of 814 songs – including a 50% stake of both the writer’s share and publisher’s share of the catalog.

Between them, these songs have accumulated over 3bn streams, and include almost all of the full Wu-Tang Clan catalog, with RZA having co-written and produced close to the entirety of the hip-hop group’s albums.

Those albums include classic debut LP Enter The Wu (36 Chambers) from 1993, which is widely heralded as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time, and an influence on artists such as Nas, The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z.

RZA also co-wrote and produced successful solo albums for Wu-Tang members, including Tical by Method Man. Tical featured single All I Need, winner of the “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group” at the 1995 Grammy Awards.

RZA also produced Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s album Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, released in 1995. In addition, RZA produced Raekwon’s debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… which featured Nas; GZA’s debut album Liquid Swords; and Ghostface Killah’s Ironman in 1996. All of these albums went Top 5 in the US.

RZA subsequently co-produced Raekwon’s sequential solo album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II with Dr. Dre among others

The second Wu-Tang Clan album Wu-Tang Forever was released in 1997, and debuted at No.1 in the US and in the UK. Having gone 4-times platinum in the States, it earned a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Rap Album” in 1998.

“RZA is globally recognized as a true renaissance man of hip-hop and most would argue that he is the G.O.A.T.”

Merck Mercuriadis, Hipgnosis

Wu-Tang’s third studio album The W was released in 2000, with fourth album Iron Flag following the next year. Other LPs to have emerged from the group include 8 Diagrams (2007), A Better Tomorrow (2014), Once Upon A Time In Shaolin (2015) and The Saga Continues (2017).

Outside of Wu-Tang Clan, RZA worked with Kanye West as one of the producers of his fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released in 2010 (RZA co-wrote and co-produced opening track Dark Fantasy, and performed on, co-wrote and co-produced So Appalled). He also worked on West and Jay-Z’s collaborative studio album Watch the Throne, for which he co-wrote/co-produced New Day.

RZA has released four solo studio albums, his first being gold certified Bobby Digital in Stereo in 1998.

This was followed by the first album’s sequel, Digital Bullet in 2001, and Digi Snacks in 2008 – both released under RZA’s alter-ego, Bobby Digital – as well as Birth of a Prince in 2003.

RZA was represented in the transaction by long-time manager Tyler Childs at Forward Artist Management and attorney Tim Mandelbaum at Fox Rothschild.

Merck Mercuriadis, Founder of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited and The Family (Music) Limited, said: “RZA and the Wu Tang Clan did not invent hip-hop but they took it from being fun to something that represented a true reflection of what the streets, and being black in America, was really like.

“They were and are the most authentic band and brand in hip-hop and it all starts with RZA’s vision, his songs and his struggle, manifested in music, that could show the entire world what was really going on. He is now globally recognized as a true renaissance man of hip-hop and most would argue that he is the G.O.A.T.”

RZA said: “I wear various hats in my artistic expressions  but the one that has been so deeply reflective of my life’s journey is my songwriting. I’m honoured to partner up with Merck and the Hipgnosis team to usher my songs into an exciting future.”

Tyler Childs said: “Merck and Hipgnosis are true music people through and through. RZA and I are thrilled to partner with them on these songs and continue our long standing relationship with Merck.”Music Business Worldwide