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RZA of Wu-Tang Clan to Receive 2024 NAMM Innovation Award at TEC Awards

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RZA, producer and the mastermind behind the influential hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, will be presented with the TEC Innovation Award at The NAMM Show’s 2024 TEC Awards on Jan. 27 in Anaheim, Calif. The award honors individuals who have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology.

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The award was formerly known as the NAMM TEC Les Paul Innovation Award, in honor of the legendary guitarist, songwriter and inventor who died in 2009. RZA will be the first recipient who is known primarily for hip-hop. Previous recipients include Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Stevie Wonder, best known for R&B, and Herbie Hancock, best known for jazz and R&B.

“RZA’s formidable body of work and talent is unquestionable,” John Mlynczak, NAMM president and CEO, said in a statement. “His legacy of accomplishments and lasting power on music inspires many music makers beyond hip-hop and he deserves this high recognition.”

RZA (Robert Diggs) is a trailblazer in culture and in hip-hop, having created the group’s widely-imitated core sound consisting of stark, booming beats, and chilling samples heavily drawing from vintage soul records as well as kung fu movies.

The Staten Island group debuted in 1993 with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Rolling Stone ranked it No. 27 on its 2020 update of its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, with the magazine noting, “Their raw, hectic debut launched rap’s greatest franchise and reasserted New York’s hip-hop dominance the early Nineties.” In 2022, the album was inducted into the National Recording Registry overseen by the Library of Congress.

The group’s second album, Wu-Tang Forever, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 in 1997 and received a Grammy nomination for best rap album.

RZA scored Jim Jarmusch’s 1999 film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and organized and orchestrated Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (the latter, in tandem with Robert Rodriguez). RZA is among the stars of the 2023 comedy film Problemista, which premiered at SXSW. He is also an executive producer for, and directed several episodes of Wu-Tang: An American Saga, the original Hulu series honoring his group.

Now in its 39th year and presented by NAMM, the TEC Awards recognizes the best in professional audio and sound production and takes place as a part of The NAMM Show, the world’s largest music trade show. All finalists will be celebrated at a reception being held on the campus of the Anaheim Convention Center on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 27.

The NAMM Show will include live music, including a performance by emerging female hip-hop artist Blimes, and sessions such as Innovate and Elevate: Exploring DJ Technology with DJ Hapa, as well as signature events such as the Parnelli Awards and She Rocks Awards.

Learn more about the TEC Awards here and purchase tickets here.

Here’s the full list of previous recipients of the NAMM Innovation Award, when it was called the NAMM TEC Les Paul Innovation Award:

1991: Bob Ludwig

1992: Bob Clearmountain

1993: Peter Gabriel

1994: Herbie Hancock

1995: Alan Parsons

1996: Brian Wilson

1997: Stevie Wonder

1998: Neil Young

1999: Sting

2000: Paul McCartney

2001: Steely Dan

2002: Robbie Robertson

2003: Bruce Springsteen

2004: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis

2005: David Byrne

2006: Steve Miller

2007: Al Kooper

2008: Ray Benson

2011: Lindsey Buckingham

2012: Steve Vai

2013: Pete Townshend

2014: Todd Rundgren

2015: Slash

2016: Don Was

2017: Joe Perry

2018: Jackson Browne

2019: Peter Frampton

2020: Joni Mitchell

2022: Carol Kaye

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