U-God Talks "Dopium," Sharpening Skills
Exclusive: U-God says he's been studying his Wu-Tang Clan brothers, and explains how real Jim Jones and Sheek were to work with.
Names have always played an important role in the Wu-Tang Clan. From their epithets like “the Man of All Rainbows,” to their Cuban Linx pseudonyms, the nine members of the classic Hip Hop ensemble have always paid careful attention to their numerous monikers. This summer, U-God introduces a new name into the Wu-Tang vernacular. His latest album is called Dopium, dropping June 23 on Babygrande/Frank Radio.
“[The title Dopium came about] one day. I’m sitting in the house and there are all these drug commercials: Xanax, Lithium, and all this other crazy shit. I’m just like, ‘Damn, all these companies are coming up with these names for these drugs," said the Staten Island emcee. "The Like, shit, where do they get all these names from?’ And they’re legalized drug companies. So I’m sitting there, saying to myself, ‘Damn, [Dr.] Dre had The Chronic, and shit, [these companies] make billions and billions of dollars off of these names and these legalized drugs,’ and I also had the thought…that everybody says ‘I’ve got the crack rap.’ I’m sitting there thinking, ‘You know what? I’ve got to come up with a drug name that represents my music and how I feel my music is.’ U-God deduced, "'I’ve got that dope shit. I’ve got dopium.’ I cut off the words ‘dope’ and ‘opium’ and put them together, and said ‘I’ve got that dopium.’”
Since the Wu-Tang Clan’s emergence in 1993, U-God is infamous among his fans and his fellow emcees for his hard-hitting guest verses, garnering the epithet “the 4-Bar Killer.” He promises that Dopium will even surpass his past lyrical brilliance.
“[In] my years of rhyming, I’ve been able to sit back and study my brothers [in the Wu-Tang Clan],” said U-God. “I can’t deny nothing: I learned all my craft from the nine greatest emcees to ever embrace this earth. Being that, I [sat] back and gathered what I call in my mind ‘the manual’ for Rap. Being that I sat back and was taught by the best, I’ve been able to sit back and see things in music and rhyming that other people probably can’t see right now. He continued, "In other words, you’ve got spiritual Rap, you’ve got compressed Rap, you’ve got bouncy flows, you’ve got stutter step, you’ve got all types of different rhyming. What [I’m] able to do [is]…I can bring [those styles] about anytime now because I went through the so-called ’36 chambers,’ and I completed my dragon stance. This is what I’ve been able to do so far. I completed my chambers and my chamber task, and I became a master. So now, I can master any style that’s brought about. Any which way somebody wants to take it, I can do that with ease right now.”
Although releasing two albums in 1999 and 2005 respectively, U-God admits he's had a slower rise than some of his brethren. “It took me awhile to get like this. I believe in the story of the tortoise and the hare. You’ve got dudes that are real fast, and can go in things and do them. I’m not that dude; I’m the turtle. I take my time, but I get across the finish line when it’s time to get across the finish line.”
While many of Wu-Tang Clan members’ albums boast features from their associates, Dopium features an even more diverse list of guest artists. Included on the album are collaborations with Jim Jones [click to read], Sheek Louch and legendary producing emcee Large Professor [click to read].
Looking at the guest list, U-God said, “[Jim Jones], that’s my man, that’s my peeps. I was always up in Harlem [when I was] growing up, so I always felt [there were] certain dudes I could reach out to. And then one day, we were in the studio recording shit, and I happened to know that he was going to be there in the same studio. So what I did was, I just went to the studio session. He had a hundred dudes up in there, them niggas were smoking weed, he was doing whatever. I just went straight to the dude and said ‘Yo dag, I want you on my joint,' and he said ‘Aight.’ Two weeks later, he was up at my favorite spot, and I went up there and met him. I sat there with my man and I got a verse from the dude. Dude is a real dude; ain’t too many real dudes left in the game. I recognize real dudes. I can see a lot of dudes are faking, acting like they’re the shit, acting like they’re like this, that and whatever. But Jim [Jones] is a real dude. I approached him, and he gave me his verse in 15 minutes. Bang, it was nothing. Same thing with Sheek Louch. Bang, 15 minutes in. [There are] certain dudes I can see ‘He’s hood oriented, so he ain’t going to take me through that movie-star status shit, or not call me back he because he doesn’t feel level I’m on his level'...[Sheek] gave me a nice dart, too.”
The album also features the Ghostface Killah and Scotty Wotty-assisted single “Train Trussle” [click to listen]. First leaked in early May, the song created a significant amount buzz about the album. U-God noted his intention in making the song was to bring back the original raw vibes of the Wu-Tang Clan.
“[The single 'Train Tussle'] has a Wu-oriented sound right there,” recounted U-God. “I felt like that’s going to wake up my Wu fans. Dudes that like Wu-Tang, it ain’t about me all the time. Sometimes, when you put out an album, you want to please your fans. You want your fans to be like, ‘Yo, I miss these dudes and I need that fix.’ Ghost’s always been the tip of the needle, [that’s why] I chose him, and Scotty Wotty has been around for years and years and years. He’s the one that really inspired a lot of my crew members to rhyme. I went and got him out of the depths of the world and put him on there. He came with his flow and all that flyness. Basically, [the song] did exactly what I needed it to do; it woke up a lot of my Wu fans. A lot of Wu fans were like ‘Yo, if this shit sounds like this, I’m going to cop that album.’”
Dopium also marks U-God’s first solo album in almost four years. Unlike his last effort, 2005’s Mr. Xcitement, U-God affirms that the album has a polished yet equally raw sound to it.
“I can’t really compare [Dopium to Mr. Xcitement], because this one right here is more professional,” noted U-God. “I’ve got a different manager, I’ve got beat makers, I’ve got heat rhymers. This one is more raw all the way through it and it all meshes together. Ain’t no disc [that] sounds like this. This shouldn’t be together with that, [and] that shouldn’t be together with this. All the way through, you can put this one in and let it rock.”