RZA: Still Bringin’ the Ruckus

As Wu-Tang week winds down, a running theme with the Clan members has been one of disenchantment. Whether it was Meth’s dissatisfaction with Def Jam, Raekwon’s pressure to meet expectations, or Inspectah Deck’s need to be heard, the brothers from Shaolin all seem to have something to talk about. And as it’s been years since […]

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As Wu-Tang week winds down, a running theme with the Clan members has been one of disenchantment. Whether it was Meth’s dissatisfaction with Def Jam, Raekwon’s pressure to meet expectations, or Inspectah Deck’s need to be heard, the brothers from Shaolin all seem to have something to talk about. And as it’s been years since the Clan last released an album together, many fans have wondered whether the rumored internal strife will prevent them from ever recording together again.

The RZA is no stranger to such questions and he’s left the door open to the possibility of a return to the 36 Chambers—if all the remaining members are willing to put their differences aside and reform like Voltron once again. At the same time, however, RZA reveals that he’s not shielded from the quarrel himself—and even though The Clan recently finished a whirlwind reunion tour— difficulties lurk beneath the seemingly still water. Add in the fact that he’s found his niche in Hollywood as a film score musician, and it might leave you wondering whether vintage Clan is gone for good. RZA candidly admits these matters are mere figments of the imagination. But could he be mistaken? Read on and decide for yourself.

AllHipHop.com: I see that you’ve been tapped to score another martial arts film, The Protector. With Ghost Dog and the Kill Bill movies under your belt, does it seem like you’ve kind of been pigeon holed to the genre?

RZA: Most of the movies that I’ve done so far—except for Soul Plane—were my choice. I did that one for the money. The funny thing about Soul Plane was that Meth was in the movie, and I was doing the score, but neither one of us had anything to do what with the other one did. As far as doing Asian films, that’s my first love; martial arts is my favorite genre. But don’t get it twisted: I love movies. If you look in my closet, you’ll see mafia movies…comedy movies…I love Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Woody Allen.

AllHipHop.com: Woody Allen! You like Woody Allen?

RZA: Yeah, I like Woody. Woody Allen is a genius, yo. He’s definitely good at comedy. He knows there’s a science to it.

AllHipHop.com: One of the more memorable parts of your National Public Radio interview last year was your dissection of the letter Z. You defined it as zig-zag-zig: you start in one direction, change course, then realize the first path was the correct one all along.

RZA: I say that all the time. That’s my life.

AllHipHop.com: With that said, could that mean a return to the RZA of the 36 Chambers era? Some would say your touch with the street has diminished over the years. Do you think that’s something you could touch on?

RZA: I don’t live in the East Coast. I live in California. As far New York, 50 percent of the streets is my family. I got cousins and cousins, ya knawmean? I was just in New York the other day and I thought I didn’t look like me because I had a Thelonius Monk hat on. But everywhere I went, people were like, “Peace, God.” I definitely feel connected with the streets and I feel the struggle. Everyday. [I feel] like I’m okay, but being black and living in poverty—is hard. You gotta come up with, like, a billion dollars to get out that s**t.

AllHipHop.com: I want to quote a rhyme you said [on Supreme Clientele’s] “The Grain.” “Clinton ‘bout to cut W.I.C, maybe one of you rich rap n***as need to politic.” Would you consider getting politically active for yourself, as a way to give back to the community you came from?

RZA: I don’t know if I’d be a good candidate based on my history in New York and other places in the country. When you get into politics, they start digging you up. All that s**t I did from the age of nine to 19, they’ll throw that s**t right back in my face. I don’t know if I’ll be a good candidate if I get into that particular arena.

AllHipHop.com: A skeptic would say that was too easy to want someone else in the rap industry to get politically involved, when you have the resources—and the firsthand knowledge—of fighting poverty. How would you respond to that criticism?

RZA: Okay, let’s look at somebody like f**kin’ Bill Clinton. If he get his d*ck sucked, he all on TV. I ain’t really into that “Go into my personal life with the public.” When you get into politics, that’s all a part of the game; they pull all kinds of sh*t on you. They’ll be like, “Oh, Robert Diggs? Oh, this motherf**ker’s been arrested 15 times! This n***a wants to be President?” [Laughs] They pull all kinds of s**t on you in that arena. I’d prefer to be some kind of advisor to an up-front man in that arena, black or white. It would have to be a real man that really got concern about the people. I would give him the advice that the people need because I know what the people need.

AllHipHop.com: Fair enough. Are you involved in charity? What I’m saying is, what do you do personally to give back to the community?

RZA: When n***as is f**ked up, I try to help who I can. I gave a lotta n***as money over the last ten, 12 years. I gave n***as money on top of money. I gave n***as I don’t even know money on tour; I said “This n***a’s inspired, here’s ten cent, do your thing.” I gave five G’s to people in Germany, students, to start up a company. But sometimes, giving people money is now what’s going to help them. You have to give them knowledge. You gotta give them wise words so they can have a wise soul.

AllHipHop.com: That wisdom was given warm praise by Kanye West last year when he got the cover of Time Magazine. He credited a part of his success to your use of sped up samples on vintage Wu-Tang productions. He mentioned you by name. How did it feel to get that kind of recognition?

RZA: Not to be egotistic, one name he forgot to mention—which is very important—is “RzaRector.” I resurrect. I bring s**t back so the new generation can get on to it. Even that group, The Grave Diggaz, had new names for old identities: Too Poetic was the Grym Reaper; Frukwan was the Gatekeeper. When we started doing concerts, there were 50 other MCs outside feeling our vibe of horror styles who never had an outlet for it; [Because of us] they then had an outlet for it. Then they eventually merged onto other styles and sh*t. I think I did contribute a lot to hip-hop and this generation. Ten years ago, I sparked what’s going to this generation. Ten years from now, someone who’s out now will spark the next generation.

Allhiphop.com: Building on that, you once criticized producers who used Ultimate Breaks and Beats to create their tracks. And now, we’re in an era of Hip-Hop that relies on software like Fruity Loops to make music. Do you think the quality of music has gotten better or worse now that a lot of new producers don’t even know what Ultimate Breaks and Beats is?

RZA: I can’t say if it got worse or better because music is always beautiful. But one thing about Fruity Loops is that some of those [players who compose for it] are musicians playing different instruments over and over in a certain groove. They’re very trained, technical musicians. Whereas, somebody like Thelonius Monk, or Coltrane, or Syl Johnson, or Willie Mitchell, or Al Green—whether they was trained or untrained—had a certain soul. We captured that soul when we sampled the records. You’re not going to capture that same soul when you sample Fruity Loops. You’re gonna have to inject that soul with the artist. That’s the only flaw with using something like Fruity Loops. The people that use it may never become a musician and never really get the chance to enjoy music.

I went from being an MC to being a DJ, to being a musician. While you called me homie, I was playing my bass [Plays riff]. I’m glad I can do that now, yaknawmean? [Laughs] It’s fun. I don’t gotta make a record out of it or nothing. I be in my crib, smoke my weed, sit there and play my bass, then—boom—go and score a film with all my people. That’s something that people might miss if they don’t take the chance to respect the musician’s part of music instead of just the electronic part.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s shift gears and talk about The Wu. A common theme in a lot of Wu-Tang interviews is that The Clan lacks focus. It seems that every individual member of the group is frustrated to a certain degree about a lack of unity. Why is that?

RZA: Wu-Tang Clan is a group of individuals, homie. It’s a group of nine scientists. Each one has the ability to do onto himself, enough for himself. But if us n***as combine our energy together, it’s enough to change the world. I’ve used Voltron as a metaphor before. If n***as know what time it is, [it’ll happen]. Or, if not, let the legacy stand as it is. I’m proud of the legacy. If n***as are down to reform and add on to it—and crack these sucka n***as heads open with some ill s**t—I’m down to do that too. Either way, I’m all peace with the s**t. I’m self-satisfied.

If Wu-Tang do come together and make another album, the potential of that could affect the world. But, at the same time, that would take everybody—individually—to see that.

AllHipHop.com: Isn’t that your responsibility to make everybody see the same vision? You’re the leader, you’re the Abbott. Doesn’t it rest on you to get their trust?

RZA: Think about that. How could you get trust?

AllHipHop.com: That’s your responsibility as a leader. It’s on your shoulders.

RZA: No, I’m asking you. As a man, how do you gain trust?

AllHipHop.com: You go through it. You have to prove yourself to be trustworthy to them.

RZA: I can agree with that, if you apply that statement to the Wu-Tang members. You know Wu-Tang history as an outsider looking in. There’s nothing out there that’s trustworthy, son. If I haven’t gained a n***a’s trust by now…I’ve taken a n***a from Hell, really. If you looked at our lives, it was f**ked up. F**ked up. I’ve taken a n***a up into a whole new life and to see the world. I’ve done all kinds of s**t [for them]. Unnamable s**t. If you can’t trust a n***a like that, son, you got to be crazy.

AllHipHop.com: Where did the trust go, then?

RZA: Imagination is the problem. I told The Clan this on the tour. N***as is living inside of their imaginations. When you live inside your imagination, you can imagine anything. You can smoke some weed, get paranoid, and say that this n***a right next to you is a cop. You can let your imagination go out of control and it can take you away from the truth. That’s like the world thinking that Jesus was white. You can’t tell someone Jesus Christ wasn’t white. You know why? We got 2,000 years of pictures. The imagination is confirmed in the myth.

This is an example of imagination: I was on stage with U-God. The DJ f**ked around and turned the sound off right before his verse. He was ready to do his s**t and was pumped. I was ready to back him up too. It was rocking. Now, we do this every night, but for some reason, it cut off. Do you know that this n***a looked at me and put his middle finger up? I’m like, what the f**k is that? I tried to ignore it because we’re on stage. I turned away and then looked back at him. He gave me the middle finger again. I step over to the n***a and put my arm around him. The n***a moved my arm! Then I grab him with a more firm grip and I’m like, “What the f**k is wrong, my n***a?” I got him now. He’s like, “You’re on that bulls**t, n***a.” I said, “N***a, if I’m on any bulls**t, you ask me with it, because if I am, I am. F**k it, but I ain’t, n***a.” I come to find out that he thought that I told the DJ before the show that when his song comes on, to turn off the record. That’s his imagination. It had nothing to do with me.

AllHipHop.com: I gotta play devil’s advocate about this U-God thing. A while back he was on HOT97 and dissed you. You called in—yelling at him—and he confessed it was a publicity stunt. Is all this stuff really just a publicity stunt?

RZA: No, it ain’t no publicity stunt! I don’t know why he did that s**t! But listen, man, I’ve met many men in my lifetime and I don’t think I’ve ever met a group of brothers like the Wu-Tang Clan. It’s crazy to have love for n***as that ain’t your blood. I love them all like my brothers. Our brotherhood is unique and that’s what gonna change the world.