Popa Wu, the longtime Wu-Tang Clan affiliate and spiritual mentor to the group, has died, a representative for the Wu-Tang Clan confirmed to Rolling Stone. While no cause of death was given, according to The Source, Popa Wu — who was also known as Freedum Allah — died at his home in Brooklyn. He was 63.
Popa Wu was the older cousin of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and also related to GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He played a crucial role in the group’s formation and would go on to serve as a spiritual advisor of sorts, preaching the philosophy of the Five Percent Nation on songs by the Wu-Tang Clan and its members.
News of Popa Wu’s death broke Monday as tributes from various members of the Wu-Tang Clan began to appear on social media. “Can’t believe you’re gone!” wrote Raekwon, while Method Man shared a picture of himself and Popa Wu with the caption, “No words!” Ghostface Killah also posted a photo of himself with Popa Wu and wrote, “Rest in paradise my brother. Forever. Tell Dirt we love and miss him.”
In a testament to Popa Wu’s influence on the Wu-Tang Clan and hip-hop as a whole, others outside the outfit’s orbit chimed in with tributes as well. “R.I.P. eternally to the God Popa Wu” wrote DJ Premier, while Pete Rock tweeted, “Damn say it ain’t so man. Wow. The angels got you.”
Some of Popa Wu’s most famous credits include “Wu-Revolution,” the first track on 1997’s Wu-Tang Forever, Ghostface Killah’s “Black Jesus” and Raekwon’s “North Star.” Popa Wu helmed two releases of his own as well, the 2000 compilation Visions of the 10th Chamber, and its 2008 follow-up, Visions of the 10th Chamber Part II. He also appeared in the new Hulu docuseries about the Wu-Tang Clan, Wu-Tang: An American Saga.