Bronze Nazareth Explains Conceptual Growth As Emcee, Learning From RZA
Exclusive: The Wisemen producer/emcee breaks down some deeper moments from his "School For The Blindman" album, and says that watching RZA and Divine allowed him to learn to multi-task.
Bronze Nazareth, Detroit, Michigan’s official Wu-Element producer designated by the RZA, has gained much acclaim and praise as a beat-maker since his critically acclaimed debut The Great Migration. Last year, he produced nearly all of 60 Second Assassin’s soulful debut Remarkable Timing and returned with his group, The Wisemen for Children of a Lesser God, where he and his brother/fellow Wisemen Kevlaar 7 helped offer progressive tracks bolstered by live band, Project Lionheart. This year he handed Raekwon “Butter Knives” for the Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang LP and many tracks for Timbo King’s debut, From Babylon to Timbukt2 including “Thinking Cap.”
Still, it is his lyricism that he seeks to draw everyone too and offered his thoughts on the best ways via some of his concepts, themes, use of double entendres and conveying sincerity on his new School For The Blindman album and how he has continued to learn from the RZA.
HipHopDX: How should an emcee perfect his craft?
Bronze Nazareth: I feel like an emcee should be progressing with your lyrics, rhymes, thoughts, wordplay and of course, flow. I feel it’s good if somebody could look at my paperwork and be like, "How the fuck is this rhyme supposed to go? I can’t read it right. I gotta hear it." [The Wisemen are] very particular about our rhymes - like when I do an album as opposed to [the] Thought For Food [mixtapes]. For Thought For Food, I just sit there and let the pen go. But something like School For The Blindman or Great Migration that’s something I’ll really plan. I might be chipping away at something for like two weeks.
The importance of each word is heavily weighed on. What I say? - "Tempted by Satan, put a slug in his smile / Arms up made him shout like a church choir." Those two sentences are so connected but they’re opposite. In the first one I’m talking about Satan and busting a shot at him. The next one I’m making it look like Satan is at church with his arms up singing with the church choir. To paint a picture inside of somebody’s head where when you say it, they see exactly what you saying that’s something different. I think that takes talent and skill. We ain’t tryin to run up in there and say, "I’m a dark person." I’m gonna say, "I’m a whimsical, metaphysical stunning black hole / Sippin’ some vodka next to Gandhi and a concrete rose / We got muscle, like the side of boats / With enough rope to choke the Hillside Strangler’s ghost." We go over with it. Try to color it with the words.
DX: What have you worked on hardest to elevate School for the Blindman from The Great Migration, back in 2006?
Bronze Nazareth: Some cats is up on the Unknown album [2000’s self-titled debut LP from Bronze Nazareth and Kevlaar 7 as duo] back in the day. There you’re gonna hear me rushing words, fitting way too many words in a bar but that was all working in getting the flow right. I’ve definitely elevated since the Unknown album through The Great Migration and now the flow is even more polished. Cats out here are saying anything but when they say it with good flow it might sound cool and some people pick up on it. If you can combine a beautiful flow with straight lyric--that’s a perfect combo.
DX: How about balancing flow with lyrics that take time to decipher?
Bronze Nazareth: Back when I was doing “Blowgun” and earlier joints people would always say, "I like the beat but it’s like you way over my head." Over the years I’ve tried to perfect still saying something deep but having it sound simple. So a lot of double meanings, a lot of triple meanings, a lot of connections to other shit and then I put something like, "Uncle Jerome pissin’ himself," [on “Master Builders”], That’s just something raw and personal. People might not say that but that’s just me letting the listener know that I’m being honest with you. If you can believe that I’m being honest with you then I think I can pull you in more to listen to the rest of the things that I’m saying.
DX: School For The Blindman has many interesting themes and concepts. Tell me about “The Letter”?
Bronze Nazareth: It’s a true story dedicated to my homeboy, Kirk Jackson, straight outta Detroit who went into kind of a bad spiral. He got addicted to some bad things. One day I’m calling him up and he sounding crazy. I started seeing him less and less. I find out through a couple of people I know that he fucking with them [Oxycontin pills] and then next thing you know he was busting the heroin. I know something going on and he just won’t budge. We end up getting off the phone and I’m still contemplating. "Okay, what I’m gon do is just tell him straight. No bullshit." And then he died before I could talk to him again. So that song is really my experience with it. What happened, what I went through and it’s written in the form of a letter to him.
DX: And “Stem Cells”?
Bronze Nazareth: “Stem Cells” is a joint of a bunch of verses where I’m looking at these pictures and I’m smoking a blunt. Before I know it the picture is talking to me like, "Yo, what are you doing with your life, homie?" Like the first verse is talking to my grand-dad who passed, and the second I’m talking to my cousin who got shot down in Florida and passed. In the first verse, it’s multi-layered because I’m talking to my grandfather who passed. Through the smoke I’m talking to him about my life now and I go into a situation of my man, [Wisemen member] Illah Dayz, who’s in a wheelchair. He left a studio session one night. We was trying to get him to stay and boom--he gets in a car accident and gets paralyzed. In the song I’m talking to my grand-pops like, "Yo, for one I feel responsible for Illah Dayz / shouldn’t a let him leave/ he tried to walk and breathe." Then this picture of my grandfather says back to me, "One thing y’all, with stem cells y’all gon’ rock live with 14 feet," which means all 7 Wisemen gonna be walking including Illah. So I just named it “Stem Cells.”
DX: You have three bonus tracks aside from the lead single, “Fresh From The Morgue” with RZA? How did these come about?
Bronze Nazareth: When I did the “225 Rounds” [track off Wu-Tang’s Legendary Weapons album], I was in Detroit. And then I shot out to New York for a minute. At the end of those sessions we had a couple of extra ones and we could use them for whatever we want. It was at the tail end of the Legendary Weapons thing.
DX: What have you learned from RZA back during the 2003 Birth of a Prince sessions and now?
Bronze Nazareth: I think back then I had a lot more time working in the studio with RZA. I was living in New York for a couple of months. So I was in the studio every day. What I really learned about RZA, even seeing Divine in there and everybody, was the business-side of things. I’m not saying I mastered the beats or nothing at that point, but I felt I was nice with the beats or whatever already before I even got to RZA. So watching him and the way he shuffled from one project to the next. Just to hear all the tracks with all the pieces laid out just was bugged to me. It kind of put me in a mode that I gotta be more than just a beat-maker. I gotta come with some composition with pieces here and there.
Working with him recently, we was out in Cali a couple of summers ago. They were workin’ on something and here comes somebody to work on another joint. Then another. It was like a locomotive in there. It was kind of good to see because at home we get lackadaisical in the studio. So seeing their work ethic makes you come back home with renewed energy. Let’s get on the turntable and bang it out in a more orderly fashion and boom. That’s basically what I gained from that.