SHAOLIN FUNK

Wu-Tang Clan's master producer The RZA built a hip-hop empire using Kung-Fu Theater dialog and mysterious, tension-filled music to create an aura of mythical legend around his crew of MCs. So no doubt he was the perfect man to score Spike TV's hip-hop anime show Afro Samurai.
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Wu-Tang Clan's master producer The RZA built a hip-hop empire using Kung-Fu Theater dialog and mysterious, tension-filled music to create an aura of mythical legend around his crew of MCs. So no doubt he was the perfect man to score Spike TV's hip-hop anime show Afro Samurai, which debuted in January and is coming to DVD this spring. In classic fashion, the show's main character Afro is an elite Samurai warrior whose only mission is to avenge the murder of his father. The RZA provides all the music and some rhymes as well, and the soundtrack — Afro Samurai: The Soundtrack (Koch) — available now, features guest spots by Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, GZA and Big Daddy Kane.

But the RZA's beats aren't the only things that are razor sharp on this show. Afro values the hip-hop ideals of individuality, one-upsmanship and freestyling when he fights. But unlike a dope MC, when Afro slays suckas in a battle, he really slays them. Wu-Tang may be for the babies, but Afro Samurai isn't. The show combines all the blood-spraying violence and sex of Japanese adult anime with the influence of hip-hop culture, slang and some good-old fashioned American cussing. Set in a futuristic wasteland, Afro Samurai fuses the ancient samurai ways with sci-fi trappings such as super-robot killing machines.

Samuel L. Jackson voices both the reticent Afro and the verbose Ninja Ninja, who latches onto Afro and provides comic relief. The two-disc unrated director's cut Afro Samurai DVD ($39.95; www.afrosamurai.com) is available for preorder now and has 15 minutes of never-before-seen footage, as well as exclusive art and an interview with the creator Takashi Okazaki. But what you'll really want to see is The RZA Music Production Tour, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the soundtrack's creation.