|© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2003-10-31
Every so often it's interesting to give The RZA a call because the often-mimicked producer is always dabbling in so many different areas. For instance this month, he dropped his third solo album, Birth of a Prince and also scored Quentin Tarantino's latest violent dance, Kill Bill Vol. 1. But beyond his present projects the Wu organizer has a bigger feat at hand - properly closing the book on one of hip-hop's greatest collectives. Armed with martial arts references and Five Percent dialogue, RZA appears able to resurrect one last Wu banger.
Q: What's the difference between scoring a film and producing album?
A: The main difference is that with a film score the music must back the picture and therefore it's not like producing a song with a constant tempo. IN some cases, doing an album I'm used to doing in a studio environment. You get more freedom doing an album. Doing a film score you gotta stick to the theme of the movie. The initial process is similar but the midpoint process is different.
Q: How so?
A: Because just the way you doing it. With producing a beat for an album you produce track after track. In the middle point of the score you produce the track but then you may have the chance to alter it, chop it, switch it up. If you notice in Kill Bill you see some of the music comes in off beat, not so many times, but it comes in the middle of the phrase. It still plays in with the flow of the film.
Q: What's your favorite film?
A: One of my favorite martial arts film is The Eight Diagram Cudgel. The story is great, the choreography of the martial arts is great, and the cinematography is great. The music is great. It's just classic.
Q: How about a classic hip-hop film?
A: You got Belly. Menace II Society. As well as Juice. Beat Street was the sh!t of all sh!ts. Wild Style is ill but it was low budget.
Q: What were you doing when Beat Street came out?
A: When Beat Street came out I was basically doing what those kids in the movie was doing. I was MCing, DJing, and a breaker and a graffiti tagger. I was basically hip-hop. My graffiti name was Razer. I used to travel around throwing it up.
Q: Has graffiti culture died?
A: The graffiti culture in America has been disseminated because the laws against it. But there's a lot of Internet bombing going on and lot graffiti is seen in Germany and Switzerland. They still take pride in throwing up.
Q: What's the difference a hip-hop head from BK to one in Germany?
A: Hip-hop fan in BK has probably been more spoiled with hip-hop as far as all the variations. As a hip hop fan in Germany seems still to be in the hoodie stage of it.
Q: Who would you rather perform to?
A: I take both because I like rocking the hoodies and going up straight raw. But I also like coming out and flossing a little and having a little style in myself. I love touring Europe. I do more of my Gravedigga stuff out there. When I tour here I make sure that my lyrics and delivery is more of an MC type thing. I'll get nice on the mike and beat. In Europe it's just about me having a good time. It's a different type of freedom.
Q: What's the best type of freedom?
A: The real type of freedom is to do what you want. Say what you want, not to be really controlled by the media or controlled by the style of the game. True hip-hop is just an expression of obscurity. To be able to express obscurity at any given moment. Whether it's your walk, talk, your look.
Q: Would you say they're a lot of manufactured rappers?
A: There's a lot of manufactured rappers. That happens because of the time rap has been so powerful for so many years and now people see it on TV and clone an image or an old school image of what they see. In the early days rap wasn't so exposed. When I first started MCing there were probably 1,000 MCs, in the '80s maybe 100,000, in the '90s, in 2000 there's a trillion motherf#@$ers (laughs).
Q: Do kids today know the true meaning of the Wu?
A: They know about Wu Tang but they don't know what it is. I know a lot of kids that say they 'Wu' but they don't know how to define it. They're not really in tune with it. To me it's good and bad. For the old fans those are the ones that grew with us. They lived like we lived. For the new fans they don't have the same cycles. They have similar oppressions but they're not in the same cycle. They get to in enjoy it as music itself without the whole movement. Certain songs I put out over the years, like the Bobby Digital stuff, or "La Rumba," it was just a song. It wasn't about teaching on the mike. On my new album, Birth of a Prince, you notice that I took it seriously and went back into teaching and back into a Wu mentality.
Q: Will there be another Wu album?
A: It's hard to measure. I'm pretty sure that all of us understand what we must do another album. We owe it ourselves and to our fans. We can't close the book like that. We have to close the book properly. I think everybody understands that when the time comes which should be pretty much next year. If Wu Tang doesn't have an album out by the end of next year we got a serious problem (laughs).
Q: So if there's no album how will the problem be resolved?
A: If there's no album next year you might as well just let it ride.
Q: Will it be the official end of the Wu?
A: I'll say it's the end of group performances on an album. You'll always have a member doing something. Whether it's making movies, rapping, producing and being executives. There's always gonna be a member representing. Meth is a movie star, and he'll do that for the next 10 years, he'll always be repping Wu Tang. You hear [Wu references] in a Chris Rock movie. It's in American culture. We got a scene in Scary Movie 3. There's a movie called Coffee and Cigarettes with me and GZA, Soul Train with Method Man, Raekwon on a TV show. ODB all over the place with his new clothing line.
Q: Is ODB still a part of Wu?
A: He's repping for the WU, for the grain. Roc-A-Fella is a record label. He's repping their family because it's a smaller family-based record label. It's not the average label like Elektra was. But it is a record label. They offered him money to be on their label. It's not like Wu Tang was offered money to be down (laughs).
Q: Wouldn't it be ideal for all Wu members to be signed to Wu Records?
A: Really, if you look at it everyone was signed to one company, Wu Tang Productions. I gave everyone their contracts back. So I basically gave them their total freedom. The only rights my company retained was the rights to Wu Tang as a group. So that's a big move. That's 20 million dollar loss really. I basically eliminated the empire and gave everyone a piece of the land by giving them themselves which was the value of the land.
The original plan was that everybody had a percentage regardless. I told individuals my idea of the best way to split the stock. At the same time I said their contract represented the percentage of what the stock could be. Each contract is worth 10 shares because you figure the company itself is going to have its own value. Then 50 percent of the value would go to the value and the other 50 percent would go to the assets or commodities. With that philosophy we could have kept it going as one unit.
If we did proper bookkeeping on it, which was talked about in the year 2000, when we did The W and Iron Flag. Or the idea was to break it down. Every man should take their value from that angle. When Ghost got his contract back he was able to go and get his at Def Jam. Same thing with Rae at Universal. He collected his cheese and kept it moving. Everyone went and signed two, three album deals. If everyone got a deal for 4 million dollars. You figure 4 million dollars for 8 or 9 contracts, that's like 30 million dollars in the air for a five-year period. I signed off on not one dollar (laughs).
Q: What did you buy with your first million?
A: The first thing I bought was equipment. I didn't buy cars or clothes until later down the line.
Q: How about vanity-wise?
A: The first thing I bought was Range Rover and a Lexus 470 at the same time. But prior to that I already bought a couple of houses and things that are more beneficiary. I didn't floss.
Q: What's your take on the whole ice phase of hip-hop?
A: Hip-hop always had that feeling to it. You take one of Kool G. Rap's first records, "[why cause] I'm Fly." But now people use it as a status quo for themselves, what happens is it's also a trap for the artist. It's hard to keep up with that sort of blinging. It's easy to get in the video because it makes you rich for two or three days. You go back to your own apartment. Most of these rappers do their video at other people's cribs. Me too...I did it before.
Q: Who's next to carry the torch for producers?
A: There's a lot of new producers. To be a producer, it's to be open-minded. You can come across a kid in a college campus who has dope beats whose just as good of what's on the radio. Now even mixtape DJs use Protools and produce.
Q: A lot new cats tend to draw from three main cats: Dr. Dre, DJ Premier and you.
A: As well as Neptunes. We open the minds of people but at the same time now they on it (laughs). So if it costs $50,000 or $20,000 to get a beat from the RZA you might as well pay another ni99a $1,500 (laughs). When you put the sample on the credits you're basically giving away your record collection. In the Napster era fans can go and download a record that it took you five years to go find.
Q: Did you agree with the RIAA suing downloaders?
A: Nah. I love people and respect people. I definitely wanna make my money but at the same time I make music to be heard, first and foremost. To be heard it's a great thing. It's like reading the Psalms of King David. He didn't charge for those (laughs). Those changed the world, your life, and our mentality. They told me the other day, "Yo RZA your whole album is on Kazaa." I was like f#@$ it I want people to have it. I made this sh!t specifically for whoever get a hold of this sh!t here you go, here goes a couple of information as well as entertainment.
Stay tuned for The Cure, where I'm gonna let all the cats out the bag. I ain't trying to do this forever. I already felt like I did my job. I didn't really voice my opinion as far as I could. As a producer and an icon I did my job.
Q: How long do you see yourself producing?
A: For a producer you can continue forever like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Teddy Riley. Quincy Jones might still drop an album. As a performing artist trying to be the man of the hour, which is what being an MC is all about, sometimes it does get to a level where you have to back it up. Even if you great, they're not a lot of MCs that can match up to Wu Tang. Not being conceited but even my own lyrical prose there's not a lot of MCs that can match up to that. They're not coming with the substance.
Q: Da Band is going around comparing themselves to the Wu.
A: They were developed to be like the Wu. They were developed to have different flows, identities. But as far as what they're saying so far I haven't heard a line from them that has a substance like "why is the sky blue / why is water wet / why did Judas rap to the Romans while Jesus slept." That's like damn! Even the way he put it. Like this ni99a went and ratted on his man Jesus when he was asleep. That's what Wu gives you. You get substance inside that sh!t.
Q: Does having substance in today's market mean anything?
A: Yeah, but at the same time that don't mean that much sometimes. Like Jay-Z was saying on the radio the other day, how he's going to retire after The Black Album. I can understand his mentality behind it. What is he going to do? Keep proving to ni99as that [he's] one of the illest ni99as of all time? Even if he keep proving it there's always someone doubting him any f#@$ing way.
That's where Wu Tang is at. We should've closed the book in 2001. Definitely in 2003, where it would've been the 10th year anniversary would've been the best time to close it. Now we owe these people. You have people like Jay-Z retiring before Wu Tang. We all the same age bracket. He's been out before us but he got famous later.
Q: Do you see Jay pulling a Michael Jordan and coming back?
A: It's hard to let go. An MC is like a swordsman. You really don't stop until you get your head chopped off.
Written by Jesus Trivino for Sohh.com