As the unofficial leader of the legendary rap crew known as the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA - who turns 47 today - made a name for himself with lyrics that offered razor sharp criticisms of American society. And songs like "A Better Tomorrow" reveal that marijuana was an important part of his creative process while he worked in his "lab" (i.e. recording studio).

Inside my lab, I'm going mad.
Took two drags off the blunts, and started breaking down the flag.
The blue is for the Crips, the red is for the Bloods
The whites for the cops, and the stars come from the clubs
or the slugs that ignites, through the night, by the dawn
Early light, why is sons fighting for the stripe?

Yet RZA gave up his muse in 2012 when he announced that he had quit smoking marijuana. But it wasn't a matter of outgrowing cannabis culture. RZA simply found that weed helped him write rap tracks but got in the way of another passion: making movies.

"Making music and weed kind of went together for me," said RZA during an appearance on Chelsea Lately (2007-2014) . "Many years, I've been in the studio making music, making hits and weed was always there but I've transferred myself to directing now. I'm a movie director. You gotta play it sober. I've been playing it sober. Superman focus, Superman stamina, zooming in."

Since 2012, RZA has directed the martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) and the forthcoming rap feature Coco (2016). He's also appeared in front of the camera in roles including the pot-smoking rapper Samurai Apocalypse on the Showtime series Californication (2007-2014).

But he didn't resume smoking to get into character. "Even when you're acting, you've got to keep your mind focused," he told Chelsea Handler. "It's a very unique craft to be taking on different personalities."

He added that giving up marijuana wasn't hard because he's matured. But he hasn't given up all his Wu-Tang ways.

"A few years ago, it would have been hard but with the maturity I've grown into, I'm good," he shared. "I have no vices, besides pretty women."

But for old time's sake, check out RZA hitting blunts to rap about the stars and stripes.

h/t Hip Hop DX

Banner image: RZA (Wu-Tang Clan) in Zénith, Paris, May 26th, 2013 (Coup d'Oreille / Flickr.com)