One of the most charming and frustrating qualities of New York's legendary Wu-Tang Clan is the group's sprawling nature—they draw their energy, unique chemistry, and part of their commercial longevity from this diversity, but the logistical challenges it creates can also be an impediment. As much as the Wu-Tang Clan has accomplished, one of its biggest failures is how the members have been unable to reconcile their ambitions in recent years. Most recently, that disorganization has led to the disjointed group album A Better Tomorrow. Yet the scattered nature of the Clan is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the Wu empire is concerned. Beyond the core nine members that are at the heart of the Wu-Tang mythology, there are dozens—closing in on hundreds—more, the Wu-Tang Affiliates. a.k.a. the Killa Beez a.k.a. one of hip-hop's unseen armies.
For all the recent chaos of the Wu, the chaos of the affiliates can be even harder to follow. Earlier this year, Wu-Tang-affiliated producer Cilvaringz made international headlines for his work on Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, a one-of-one album Wu-Tang RZA said would be sold to the highest bidder for millions of dollars and potentially presented as a museum object fans could pay to listen to in a single destination. Then there are cases like Christ Bearer, the guy who cut off his own penis. RZA hasn't worked with him for years, so imagine his annoyance when he had to take time out of his day to talk about a severed dick. Time is a flat circle, and over 100 beez is too goddamn much.
Maybe the Wu weren't meant to be the full blown empire RZA envisioned and were supposed to stick to the gritty, kill-you-for-breathing-my-air style they came on to the scene with. Or maybe they are supposed to be an empire but just haven't been doing it correctly, introducing far too many side groups, henchmen, guest features on Wu-Tang Forever, and half-baked collaborations into the world. Being a Wu-Tang affiliate might mean anything from collaborating on an actual Wu-Tang album to being one of the members' kids to being an affiliate of an affiliate. It's actually hard to figure out just who all counts. Not that the Killa Beez were a total waste. Killah Priest was spitting some lyrical miracles on Liquid Swords closer "B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)." Tekitha was a welcomed operatic presence on Forever. Cappadonna is not just a de facto Clan member but a legitimately valuable presence. Still the nation's best—like Killarmy—lie sequestered and unnoticed under massive amounts of junk left by mediocre MCs and others who struck once or twice before falling off, like actual killer bees.
The affiliates haven't destroyed the core nine, however. Ghostface Killah's 36 Seasons is out and it's great; even it wasn't great, you should still be willing to give your life for him. To commemorate, I perused YouTube, looked at pictures of ∞XL clothing, and searched through Wu-Tang Corps forum posts that range from informative to this…
… to make a definitive ranking of the Wu-Tang Affiliates. The rankings are based on the musical output, affiliation and name (Shorty Shitstain didn't do so well). This writer listened to as much Killa Bee material as a 22-year-old with some semblance of hopes and dreams can, which amounts to barely a fraction. The world of the Wu is vast, but let this count as a more or less definitive taxonomy.
1. Cappadonna: He's hip-hop's perpetual sixth man. There was a time he lived off just props and his car, but Cappadonna has been hanging in there for 20-plus years. Gotta give him credit. Listen.
2. True Master: Be at peace with the fact there's a 90 percent chance nothing you'll ever do in life will be as good as the "Heaterz" beat. Listen.
3. 4th Disciple (Killarmy, Orphanage): Three reasons: "Guillotine (Swordz)," "Criminology" and "Impossible." Listen.
4. Mathematics: For being the architect of "Mighty Healthy," the final temptation of Theodore. Listen.
5. Gravediggaz: It may be unfair to include this RZA side project, since it's basically a 90s New York supergroup, but, hey, who even knows what counts as an affiliate? And nobody else in this Top 20 has made an underground classic that's near 6 Feet Deep's status. Not Tekitha. Not True Master. Although Popa Wu might've solved life, his shit ain't on my iTunes. Long live Gravediggaz. Listen.
6. Killah Priest (Almighty, Sunz of Man): Because his performance on "B.I.B.L.E." will make you shed a tear, turn to your friend and say as you're caressing his cheek," Reah shit, man. Real shit." Listen.
7. Force MDs: They've been together for over three decades and form the soulful core of the frantic Ghostface highlight, "The Soul Controller." They presumably have more soul than all you jive turkeys. Listen.
8. Tekitha: For one, she replaced Blue Raspberry as the Wu-Tang's main singer. Secondly, she sang on "Impossible," which features a Ghostface verse so good that it forces this writer to question if he was even deserving of it. He could've been in the zone or it could've been Tekitha's voice that took him to that place. Whatever it was, you probably should take as much credit as possible. Listen.
9. Popa Wu: Popa Wu's presence is the mystic equivalant to Supreme Clientele. They're so off the wall that you start to wonder that perhaps it's you who needs to get your mind right. His statement at the end of OB4CL is somehow gospel: "For no man is good and bad at the same time / Either you good, or you bad." Dawg, wut? Listen.
10. Hell Razah (Black Market Militia, Sunz Of Man, T.H.U.G. Angels): Badass name; decent verses. Listen.
11. 60-Second Assassin (Sunz of Man): An all-star just by being the most memorable shout-out on RZA's monologue at the beginning of "Clan in Da Front." Not only is the name tough, but you'll also get some gems when you go through his catalog. But to be fair, you're not missing on a life experience if you decide not to. Listen.
12. La The Darkman: If only he got the mistaken Drake co-sign a year later. Listen.
13. CilvaRingz: He executive produced the one existing copy of the yet-to-be-heard treasure Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. By association, he's also a treasure. Verdict: Protect this man at all costs. Listen.
14. Blue Raspberry: Loses points for not just being named after a fruit, but the worst fruit. Redeems herself by having OB4CL on her resume. Listen.
15. Killa Sin (Killarmy): If you dig Killarmy give your props to this guy Listen.
16. Bronze Nazareth (Wisemen, Almighty, The Unknown): It's bad name, but like Ol' Dirty Bastard said, Wu-Tang is for the kids. And these kids need to learn work ethic. It's clear Bronze Nazareth quietly has that when you glimpse at his production credits. Listen.
17. Shyheim The Rugged Child: His sentencing isn't just tragic because of what caused it, but also because there was a time he had the world ahead of him. Listen.
18. John The Baptist: We're not sure if this is the holy figure or not. He's in the top 20 because we're not trying to get smote over a list. Listen.
19. Trife Da God (Theodore Unit): An underwhelming but much appreciated member of Ghostface Killah's gang of merry men. Listen.
20. Sun God (Theodore Unit, Ghostface Killah's son): He's OK, but he really should be puting the city back on the map with Ghostface's miracle genes in his blood. Listen.
21. Young Dirty Bastard: I mean, he's ODB's son. Listen.
22. Prodigal Sunn (Two On Da Road): Listen.
23. Dom Pachino (Killarmy): Listen.
24. Hanz On: Listen.
25. Darkim Be Allah (A.I.G.): Listen.
26. Doc Doom (Black Knights): Listen.
27. JoJo Pellegrino: Listen.
28. Young Justice (GZA's Son): Listen.
29. The Rugged Monk (Black Knights): Listen.
30. Crisis: Listen.
31. Streetlife: Listen.
32. Y-Kim the Illfigure (Royal Fam): Listen.
33. Su-Preme: Listen.
34. Tash Mahogany: Listen.
35. Stone Mecca: Listen.
36. Allah Real: Listen.
37. Ms Roxy: Listen.
38. Makeba Mooncycle: Listen.
39. Thea Van Seijen: Listen.
40. Scotty Wotty: Listen.
41. J-Love (DJ): Listen.
42. Arabian Knight: Listen.
43. Big Deal aka Djehwti Awsar El / Khemwest (Harlem 6): Listen.
44. Mongood Allah: Listen.
45. Suga Bang Bang: Listen.
46. Timbo King (Maccabeez, Royal Fam): Listen.
47. Silkski: Listen.
48. Remedy: Listen.
49. King Just (Hillside Scramblers): Listen.
50. Lord Superb (American Cream Team, Orphanage): Listen.
51. Lounge Lo: Listen.
52. Maddam Scheez: Listen.
53. Allah Wise (A.I.G.): Listen.
54. Free Murda (Popa Wu's son): Listen.
55. DJ Ace Nyc: Listen.
56. Intell (U-God's son, Method Man's nephew): Listen.
57. Islord: Listen.
58. Dark Denim (Royal Fam): Listen.
59. ShaRecka (Royal Fam): Listen.
60. Roc: Listen.
61. Jahrule: Listen.
62. Shawn Wigs (Theodore Unit): Listen.
63. 12 O'Clock (Two On Da Road): Listen.
64. Armel (Ancient Coins): Listen.
65. High Price (Ancient Coins): Listen.
66. Spanky Splash (Ancient Coins): Listen.
67. Destroya (Ancient Coins): Listen.
68. Merdoc (Ancient Coins): Listen.
69. Raison the Zoo Keeper: Listen.
70. Buddha Monk (Brooklyn Zu): Listen.
71. N-Tyce (Deadly Venoms): Listen.
72. J-Boo (Deadly Venoms): Listen.
73. Lin Que (Deadly Venoms): Listen.
74. Drunken Dragon (Da Manchuz): Listen.
75. Espionage (Da Manchuz): Listen.
76. War (Da Manchuz): Listen.
77. Babyface Fensta (Da Manchuz): Listen.
78. Chilli Black (Da Manchuz): Listen.
79. Finesse (Deadly Venoms): Listen.
80. Lee-Major (Da Manchuz): Listen.
81. Illumined Mafia (Harlem 6): Listen.
82. G-Note$ (Da Manchuz): Listen.
83. Professor King Bean (Da Manchuz): Listen.
84. Born U Majesty (Da Manchuz): Listen.
85. AGR (Harlem 6): Listen.
86. GFlexx Big Mo Biz (Harlem 6): Listen.
87. Nate Perry (Harlem 6): Listen.
88. BDub (Harlem 6): Listen.
89. Champ MC (Deadly Venoms): Listen.
90. Military Mind (Harlem 6): Listen.
91. Khilly Mo (Harlem 6): Listen.
92. Pop Da Brown Hornet Down Low Recka (GP Wu): Listen.
93. June Luva (GP Wu): Listen.
94. Rubbabandz (GP Wu): Listen.
95. Inf-Black, Kawz (Hillside Scramblers): Listen.
96. Desert Eagle (Hillside Scramblers): Listen.
97. Hah Flamez (Maccabeez): Listen.
98. Black Ice (Hillside Scramblers): Listen.
99. Autumn Rae (Hillside Scramblers): Listen.
100. La Banga (House Gang): Listen.
101. Du-Lilz (Theodore Unit): Listen.
102. Carlton Fisk (House Gang): Listen.
103. Meko The Pharaoh (Northstar): Listen.
104. Triflyn (American Cream Team): Listen.
105. RhymeRecka (American Cream Team): Listen.
106. Leatha Face (Hillside Scramblers): Listen.
107. Solomon Childs (Illuminati Network, Theodore Unit): Listen.
108. Bam-Bam (M.M.O.): Listen.
109. Dexter Wiggles (Illuminati Network): Listen.
110. Kryme Life (Theodore Unit): Listen.
111. Shaka Amazulu the 7th (Illuminati Network): Listen.
112. Kevlaar 7 (The Unknown, Wisemen): Listen.
113. Naisha (M.M.O.): Listen.
114. Itchy Fingas Sha (M.M.O.): Listen.
115. Jamie Sommers: Listen.
116. Trigg-nomm (M.M.O.): Listen.
117. K.O (Harlem 6): Listen.
118. Pearl Handles Naisha (M.M.O.): Listen.
119. Daddy Rose (Maccabeez): Listen.
120. Salahudin (Maccabeez): Listen.
121. Beretta 9 (Orphanage, Killarmy): Listen.
122. ShoGun Assasaon (Orphanage)
123. Begga Ooh (Tha Beggas): Listen.
124. 9th Prince (Killarmy): Listen.
125. T.W.I.Z. (Theodore Unit): Listen.
126. Mikey Jarrett Jr: Listen.
127. Bugsy Da God (Team Napalm): Listen.
128. Shabazz the Disciple (T.H.U.G. Angels): Listen.
129. Mega Soul (Tha Beggas): Listen.
130. Scorpion (Tha Beggas): Listen.
131. Samo Heung (Tha Beggas): Listen.
132. Got Flow (Ancient Coins): Listen.
133. Bolo Gah (Tha Beggas): Listen.
134. Buda Love (Tha Beggas): Listen.
135. Jewels Polaar (Team Napalm): Listen.
136. Jim Kelly (Tha Beggas): Listen.
137. Majik Sword (Tha Beggas): Listen.
138. Rocks The World
139. Yukon Black (Tha Beggas): Listen.
140. Father Lord (Tha Beggas): Listen.
141. Tommy Whispers (T.M.F.): Listen.
142. Bomshot (Warghosts): Listen.
143. Phillie (The Wisemen): Listen.
144. Chapelz (Team Napalm): Listen.
145. Salute the Kid (The Wisemen): Listen.
146. Popa Chief (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
147. J.R. Spoons (Ancient Coins): Listen.
148. Napoleon (Illuminati Network): Listen.
149. June Megalodon (The Wisemen): Listen.
150. Illah Dayz (The Wisemen): Listen.
151. Beace (The Wisemen)
152. Impetus (Wu-Latinos): Listen.
153. 5 Foot Sniper (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
154. Rambo (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
155. Rameses (Wu-Latinos): Listen.
156. Black Lantern (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
157. 2Cara (Wu-Latinos): Listen.
158. Hook Ninja (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
159. Break Bread (The Wisemen): Listen.
160. Raw (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
161. Shown Black & NP Killah (Wu-Latinos): Listen.
162. Shaheed (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
163. K-Blunt (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
164. Dragonfly (Tha Beggas): Listen.
165. P.C. (House Gang, Ice Water Inc.): Listen.
166. D.C. (House Gang, Ice Water Inc.): Listen.
167. C.L. (Zu Ninjas)
168. Ninja Scroll (Zu Ninjas): Listen.
169. Celo (Zu Ninjas)
170. Young Man (Harlem 6): Listen.
171. Christ Bearer (Northstar): Again, can you imagine how pissed RZA was? On top of failed anniversary plans and a movie press run, now he has to talk about a dude he doesn't even speak with. All because he can't control his angel dust. The Abbot doesn't deserve this. Listen.
172. Black Jesus (Harlem 6): Aaron McGruder's Black Jesus has done more for the community than reggaeton Black Jesus—who's actually Latino Jesus. Listen.
173. Shorty Shitstain (Brooklyn Zu): There's just no way a grown man was complicit in this. Did he manage to piss off Ghostface Killah by shitting himself in his presence? "You got some fucking nerve, god," he probably said. "Your boy Theodore is trying to get this work in this studio, and you in here all happy-go-lucky flippin' and bouncin' you bowels like it's gravy. You proud of that shitstain? You know what, that's about to be your new name: Shorty Shitstain." Ol Dirty Bastard, being Ol Dirty Bastard, nodded excitedly in agreement nearby. Listen.
174. Long Axe (Tha Beggas): "Long Axe from The Beggas." Let's bring The Source back to give him one mic just on principle. Listen.
175. Moongod Allah: Scroll down. Do not press play. Listen.
176. Polite (Ice Water, American Cream Team): Raekwon set him up. How do you let some go by a pleasant-ass adjective? Listen.
177 Stumik (Ice Water Inc., American Cream Team): Because nobody saw the name Stumik and thought, "Now that's one kid who's going to succeed." Listen.
178. Cigar: "Cigar" is what happens when you don't really want to rap anymore, but you don't want to disappoint Raekwon. So you secretly sabatoge yourself. Listen.
179. Falling Down: If you think his skill on the boards justify one of the most bland names for a producer imaginable, don't bother. It doesn't.Listen.
180. Mike ADHD: The link is there because everyone else has one and no other reason. Don't click it. You deserve better. Listen.
After compiling this list, Brian Josephs is now an honorary Wu-Tang affiliate. Follow him on Twitter.