RZA: The World According to RZA
Known for his knowledge and business sense,RZA has become a Hip Hop professor, the ultimate music guru. At the age of 10 he began to develop a mental trick, when he read comic books he would replay the action like a movie in his brain, adding the wire-work cinematography of his favorite Kung-Fu movies. His imagination and drive...his very WILL has made Wu Tang what they are today.
Growing up with his friends and relatives in the Park Hills Projects (tha Killa Hills) of Staten Island, NY, he and his cousins Gary Grice (GZA), Russell Jones (Ol Dirty Bastard), Jason Hunter (Inspectah Deck) and Lamont Hawkins (U-God) would transform into the ghetto superheroes known as the Wu Tang Clan.
I had a chance to talk with RZA as he prepared to finish up production on his international album.
How was it growing up back in the day?
RZA: Those projects were all coke and crack fiend hangouts, bangers, overcrowded and piss smelling, graffiti and gang-tagged elevators. But, as kids we were a bunch of happy-go-lucky motherfuckers. It was like being in jail...we lived in our heads...but, twice a week we got a furlough and would go all the way to Times Square and watch nine hours of Kung Fu marathon flicks playing in the theatres there.
Did this affect you?
RZA: Hell yeah...my vision was the vision of the heroes in those movies...always puttin it to the man...I wanted to end the hypocrisy that existed in our lives...we (Wu Tang) came out with vengeance in our hearts...we wanted to kill all MCs lyically and on a business level. I was always thinking on the business tip...and still am...makin sure that me and mines never go hungry again, you know?
I feel you on that...what was your plan?
Well...I came to my true senses in April of 1992...I walked out of a courtroom away from charges of attempted murder...it was self-defense. When I was in lockup...35 fuckin days...before we raised my bail money. 35 days is a long time, bro...I had so much time on my hands to think about life...MY life! I mean...my first baby was about to be born and I was in jail! I was facing eight years...eight years of my childs life, you know? Three years mandatory on the charges, if anything. I was fuckin depressed...so, I sobered up. I started thinking positive, started getting back to my studies. I was always blessed in a way because I was always looked at differently...I could be in da Hills hangin with a bunch of thugs and the Po-po (police) would roll up and the cops would go Robby! Get your ass home...you dont need to be out here! My teachers would tell me Robby! You got a brain...use it! During that time...my moms told me after the not guilty verdict, Bobby, this is your second chance, boy...dont waste it. After that, I became focused...I stopped smokin weed...(laughs) for a minute, though. But, then I just walked man...you hear me? I mean for hours...and devised my plan. By October...SIX months after I was on trial for attempted murder, the first single Protect Ya Neck was recorded on Wu Tang Records....a year later 36 Chambers was released...and the rest is as God laid it, man.
With this new international album...youve been quoted as you want to reshape the Hip Hop world at an international level...Doesnt that offer a rather grand challenge?
RZA: To make this album was a ballsy move...because its not been done before. If you look at what Ive done throughout the course of the Wu you see that my moves have been pioneering ones. From ideas on how business should be conducted by artists and labels, to what sells and what dont. I have always had that pioneering spirit.
What did you do to prepare for the new album?
RZA: Id been composing music for a few years...some of it, I had no idea where I was going with it. When this international project came to mind...I went back home and re-laid about 25 tracks...I then gave those tracks to the European artists I had selected for the project. I sent beats worldwide, Baby...Sweden, Italy, France, Germany...everybody had a chance to choose between 2 or 3 tracks to work with. When I returned to Europe, most of the artists had already picked their particular joint, had worked on the lyrics...some...just a few had not found a track that was suitable...but I was prepared...I had brought another 50 tracks with me in my MPC 2000...those had tight drum patterns and loops. So, I had something for everyone.
Is that your style of working...I mean pre-production...is that how you normally work?
RZA: Thats how I do it, Baby! I get the drumbeat down...I usually picture the city or theme of the place I was in or going to first. Like Italy...you can hear a Mafioso kind of track on the album...Mafia and the opera...that Godfather sound. With France...I paced it...I know the French sound...its a certain combo of Hip Hop and Soul. For Dido...I programmed some RZA Soul...I wouldnt call it R&B...its soul at the deepest level...that Al Green...So Tired Of Being Alone heartache soul. It was a nice mixture.
What message are you trying to relay with this album?
RZA: Well...basically, I want to show what European artists are saying musically and lyrically. Its very similar to my feelings. That Love of Hip Hop...you know...that desire...I mean to bring your vision and art to the world. They are VERY political in their words. Overall I want to show the unity in Hip Hop worldwide.
Hip Hop is aggressive...dog eat dog in a way...I like it RAW and Im keeping it that way...but, now on an international level, Baby!
Now that the work is done on this dream album...are you satisfied?
RZA: Mac...no artist is truly satisfied...but, when a Phat song is finished...and everybody in the studio is feelin it...THATs when I feel good, you know? Thats when I know Ive achieved something.
Aiiight...you knew this one was coming...whats the future of the Wu? Rumors are runnin rampant about a breakup?
RZA: Fuck that shit...We are Wu Tang forever Baby? We are separate, but together or one mind and spirit...we are continuing to do what weve always done...HANDLE OUR BIZNESS!