"It's a hard thing coming out from the hood that we're from," says Z1, the eldest member of WuLords. "We ain't got no pool. They took our school from us. There's an ice-skating rink in Hazelwood right now and nobody got skates."
It's from that environment that the group of brothers — Z1 (age 18), Lord Elite (14) and D.I.G.I. (12) — rose. Despite their age, the brothers are heavily influenced by legendary '90s group The Wu-Tang Clan.
"The thing that caught our ear about Wu-Tang is the brotherhood," explains Lord Elite. "We are the family-based movement in Pittsburgh."
And it's not just a one-way street: WuLords have garnered the respect of Wu-Tang Clan's original members. They opened for Raekwon on a tour stop in February 2012, and he spoke words of praise for them.
"When we was making our music we was saying, 'Yo, the youngsters ... if they just take the time to listen and they catch what we're saying, it's gonna be so great for their future,'" Raekwon said at the time. "[WuLords] know what lyrics is about, they know the history, they paid attention and they dissected. And that's why we was like, 'Come in, and welcome to the school.' They earned that stripe."
WuLords have taken Sun Tzu's acclaimed military-strategy book, The Art of War, and implemented the tactics described within into their music; they're currently in the midst of a 13-chapter series of album releases. Chapter 6: Illusions, Reality, Substance, Vacuity was recently released, and Chapter 7: Mortal Combat will be available soon.
"We represent kids who are from the gutter, and came from nothing," explains Z1. "We're giving them tools and weapons to succeed in life by having them use their mind and knowledge as a weapon to achieve their goals."
WuLords have become a premium alternative to the more commercial sound that has put Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene on the national radar. Don't let their youth fool you: They manage to speak a consistent message of uplifting urban communities through raw, but real rhymes.
"You can't survive off of Twizzlers, Skittles and a whole bunch of candy," says D.I.G.I. "You gotta get some vegetables, and that's what we are — the vegetables."
For more on WuLords, see www.wulords.com.