Just because I've been dropping science over at Metal Hammer and The Quietus and Playlouder lately, don't you go thinking I'm new to this writing stuff. No sir! I've been doing this since '98. I am officially Long in The Game.
With that in mind, I figured I should share some of my old joints with you. Today I'ma hit you off with a chat between me and The RZA, from '03. It was originally on PlayLouder, but I found it by accident at WuTangCorp, so there you go.
"All they got on TV is War and porno, nah-mean?"
"This nigga's kinda sick, so pardon me," mumbles a sleepy looking RZA. "Normally I get more into what I'm doing, but nigga... I'm blasted. All this travellin' and shit."
That's cool. Most rappers don't bother coming over. 'Specially now.
"Yeah, well fuck them! Fuckin' lazy niggas, stayin' at home like they fuckin' scared an' shit. Heh."
The RZA is fucking tall and fucking sleepy. He lopes into Virgin's interview room like Frankenstein's monster and knocks his fist against mine and I almost forget that I was shitting it about this interview. I mean, dude, this is the fucking RZA! The architect! '36 Chambers'! 'Black Widow'! 'Domestic Violence'! Dude changed my life, and many million others. If there had been no RZA... God knows. Dude is important.
But dude is also a notoriously lunatic, mumbling, random deep-thinker, prone to falling asleep during interviews and storming out in huffs. So I worry. And as ever, I didn't bother thinking of any questions, figuring a nice chat is the best way to get interesting copy.
You sleepy RZA?
"Nah man," he chuckles. "I'm cool. I'm a drama queen, hur hur. Check this out man."
RZA shows me some big ass book.
"I like this book. Somebody gave it me. As a gift."
You get a lot of that sort of thing?
"What, gifts? Hur hur. Yeah nigga. Not enough though. You got anything for me?"
Oops. No, I tell him. Don't be rude.
PlayLouder got all excited a few years back, over the prospect of this new project called, "The World According To The RZA'. The idea was, Bob Diggi ran around the globe meeting rappers, and the best wound up on a collaborate LP. Finally, after much legal wrangling, the LP is ready, and ace. It features a whole host of guest stars, including class acts like Saian Supa Crew, IAM, Blade, Skinnyman, Xavier Naidoo, Passi, and Kool Savas.
How'd you go about getting everybody involved?
"Well, I had a lot of help and shit. I had some colleagues keepin' they eyes out for me and shit, makin' phone calls. Shit came together."
Are you happy with the results?
"Well... yeah. But I'm kinda disappointed with the fact that four of the songs didn't make it. Nah-mean? I think maybe somebody had a political problem or a business problem or... always some kind of stupid shit, nah-mean? So a couple a songs that I think we coulda made ya see, more, than one song, you nah-mean? But ah, some people got no honour. You got some people that work from the heart, some people that got they dreams, some people that always try and milk you and shit... so you always got some situation."
So you've actually got people's language on there?
"My language? Who language? Oh, shit, yeah! Ha ha ha. I got the language! Yeahyeahyeahyeah! Ha ha! They speaking French. Ha! I don't speak no language. As you can see, I don' even speak English too good, ha ha, I'm like, 'uh'? Ha ha ha. Nah, but it's good tho', because the principle goal with this album is to prove that hip-hop can be performed in any language. Like me, I think that music, it's just noise, nah-mean? I think it's music, you think it's noise, or you think it's music I think it's noise."
Yeah. Like you do that whole, 'I got an apple in my mouth' rapping thing and no one can understand what you're saying.
"Ha! Yeah. Like the Ol' Dirty Bastard an' shit man."
RZA stands up, puffs out his chest, and starts singing ODB lyrics.
"Up on stage I got mah dick-daaaaaaaahng!"
Hoooooooooo! That's the rage coming out.
"Stinkin' ass hoooooooooooooo! Ha ha! That's the rage right there. So, um, this album is all about that. Nah-mean? It's about the values of what hip-hop is. We don't really understand how or where hip-hop truly started, nah-mean, how you trace it back, whatever argument you get into, back to those five brothers from New York, some cats in the Bronx, whatever. Hip-hop is universal now, there's ciphers everywhere, all over, nah-mean?"
I think there was always hip-hop. Stone-age man beat a rock with a stick and mumbled over the top. He probably sounded like you.
"He did! It's true! If you go back that far it proves it's already around the world, so you don't need me! Hur hur! So that's what it's about right there, for me, hip-hop is a sound, that's the soul of our generation now...you think it's like, the 9 to 25 age bracket, but then you realise it's like 9 to 45 an' shit! Hur hur! It's the sound of our generation bitch!"
Indeed. The form has come a long way from Sugarhill and kids in tracksuits breaking. Now, we have the Nellys and Ja-Rules of the world doing their platinum thing, while, lyrically, progressive rap stays underground. Does RZA care?
"I got the 'Cure' album I been workin' on, and I'll probably finish it at the end of the year."
"Hip-hop's goin' through the cycle like it always do, nah-mean, where these fake niggas are getting' they chance to shine, and some of the real niggas gotta back on up outside the cage... Waitin' for new niggas to emerge, and bring it back to the essence and shit, but you know, hip-hop has many faces anyway, so, nah-mean, it always been like his, always these different shits, you know, Tone Loc, Hammer, Young MC, nah-mean? Then you had Run DMC, and shit, Slick Rick an all them quality niggas... It's always that way, always some shit deteriorates shit down, then there always someone new and fresh, saying, 'ya'll forgot about this'..."
A lot of cats are taking things back to the old school at the moment. Missy dropped 'Under Construction', Nas did 'Made You Look', even Cam'Ron's rocking cartoon denim...
"Ha ha! Yeah. Well, they all got kids now, nah-mean? The state of it is, well, there's definitely a lot of money to be made. But you know, I don't think hip-hop had given a lot of inspiration lately."
I was gonna ask about this. Why do you think that is? And how about you? Ten years ago, Wu-Tang re-invented hip-hop, but you haven't changed much since. Where's that proper solo album you've been promising for the past decade? Is that gonna change shit? "Ha ha! Maybe though! Yeah! I got the 'Cure' album I been workin' on, and I'll probably finish it at the end of the year."
I don't believe you.
"Nah! Really! Trust me! Hur hur! Maybe that will be the one for niggas to get re-writing and shit. I dunno if it's new or not. Nah-mean?"
Well, this is what we were saying. Ain't nothing new - hip-hop blatantly is in the bones of humanity... but...
"Exactly man. That's why, instead of calling shit new, we like to say we renew it, we renew the history, bring out the ghosts. It's just like when Wu-Tang first came and shit, I thought I broke the seventh seal of time! Nah-mean? Because when we came with that shit, I felt I was opening people's imaginations. For all the people. I broke the imitations of thoughts. Everybody was popped."
Which is true. The form proceeded to expand, but the anal swine remained, complaining whenever things stepped out of the supposed rules of hip-hop.
"I wasn't like they had rules at first," barks an animated RZA, banging his fist on the arm of his chair. "There were no rules! Then some nitpickety niggas had to come in and make rules! Fuck that! I came in and was like, 'bring the mother fuckin' ruckus! Uh uh uh uh uh uh! Boom boom boom boom!' Huh huh! Like, damn nigga that's some half time to a finger-snap shit! Nah-mean? Like, kung-fu shit, 'caught in the still', nah-mean? People always forget where they get shit from, nah-mean? Easy forget. This other interviewer was tellin' me, he said Ja Rule said that rappers should be thankin' him, that he's the one that made it possible for all these R 'n' B duets. Hur hur!"
RZA falls about laughing. What is he talking about?!
"Yeah! That stupid nigga! That's been always happenin', nah-mean? It was fuckin', Bell Biv Devoe and shit! Always! And then, didn't us New York niggas get a Grammy for 'All I Need'? Hur hur!"
People in hip-hop do have a notoriously short memory spans, however. Look at the current magazine wars raging in the US - The Source, once a relevant, articulate mouthpiece for the form is now reduced to mud slinging racism. What does RZA think about the whole Source/XXL, Benzino/Eminem Beef?
"For Benzino to challenge Eminem, that's a wrong swing," he laughs. "He's being real stupid. It's obvious what is doin' there. Eminem proved to motherfuckers that white niggas can rap. It's been proved. They say white men can't jump, that white men can't play ball, look at Steve Nash. Fuckin' white niggas can't play ball. Fuckin' bullshit. All men are created equal, nah-mean? Ain't no fuckin' difference in it but what's created by man. We all got equal potential. You can't forget that. There ain't no stereotype for me. You can't say white niggas can't rap, man. Someone take their time and skill with any technique, you gonna learn it, and you gonna master it, nah-mean? Whether it's football, whether it's playin' basketball, boxin, martial arts, if you put your time and skill into that shit..."
Which reminds me of something I was wondering earlier. Does the kung-fu obsessed producer and MC, whose whole style references Martial Arts, actually practice Shaolin Kung-Fu?
"Somewhat," says RZA, darkly. "Somewhat. Nah-mean? I know the principles very well, I do that meditation shit. That cool? Good. But you know, Benzino against Eminem, that's a mismatch, that's a motherfucker. You know that. Maybe he could beat him up. He could probably beat him up, hur hur. He's a big fat mo'fucker. Hur hur. But tryin' to rap against Eminem, ain't no two ways for that nigga yo. Hur hur."
And speaking of Beef, what does RZA make his homeland's current "War On Terrorism"?
"Well, my album's called 'The World According To The RZA'. Nah-mean? It's really to bring peace. I'm putting all these different pieces of a project together. I'm showin' the connection we do have. Listen. I don't agree with this war an' shit. At first I didn't wanna make too many comments about it, 'cos I didn't know too much about it, nah-mean? Then I started watchin' CNN, and all this shit, because I'm on tour, and all they got on TV is War and porno, nah-mean? That's all you got. And there's only so much porno, so I'm back on CNN again, hur hur.
But check it out. This shit is so phony man. It's so ridiculous. It's like, now they show me they're idea of what's out there... they must be stupid. They must think we all stupid. Everybody knows Americans are stupid. But now, nigga, hur, you stupid too! You got your Tony Blair representin' your shit, and the world's thinkin', yo, London is bad. Ah, shit. This shit is weak you know? That's what I know. They don't got no water, and that's weak. Talkin' about motherfucker's weapons of mass destruction. He a tyrant. I don't know if he a tyrant or not, you know? But, if he is a tyrant, and niggas drop twelve hundred missiles on him, hur, he should just throw tyres and shit at 'em! Hur hur hur! He ain't do shit! He still ain't do shit! He ain't got shit! How old is that guy? He's an old man! He'll be dead of natural causes in a week anyway! Stupid niggas!"
Our attention turns to the huge television in the interview room, which is showing some Right Guard advert. RZA is confused by "that weird Nike logo," and notes that "ya'll got better TV than we do, better adverts and shit. Our media is dumb."
He adds that his friend the Ol' Dirty Bastard stripped watching television whilst in jail because "it was murderin' his mind." How is Ol' Dirty?
"ODB's livin' man. He's out of prison, but he's not allowed out of the hospital for three months. He's in something of a mental, and medical situation. He's keepin' strong though, on the real. And when he's out, he's gonna drop the hottest shit."
And speaking of other Wu mysteries, what happened to Cappadonna? He was mysteriously booted out of the Clan a few years ago, amid rumours that included one that Cappadonna had slept with RZA's woman...
"Whut? He did my lady? Hur hur!" RZA guffawas. "Nah man. See, he made some bad business decisions and shit. Nah-mean? I'm tired of pushing people, I'm about letting people do what they wanna do, but that was bad, man. I try and look out for all my children man, I have to let my children touch the stove. Serious. You know, I'm like, look, that stove's hot! Then I ain't gon' say it no more. Hur hur. Hot! The stove is hot! They always gonna touch it I guess. See, experience is the best teacher. But a wise man don't need to experience what's been experienced by others.
"It's like, first there's the whole Wu-Tang Clan, then the solo stuff that's done by Wu-Tang Productions. And the average fucking' deal, like, 1.2 million for two albums? That's good money, that's fuckin', you can get 2 million dollars right there. Everybody scared of that. Nah-mean? For real. And Cappadonna's shoppin' outside the Clan. Nah-mean, I got my business partners, they like, how the fuck you just give away your empire like that? I'm like yo, it ain't about that yo. It's all about yo, let everybody live out they own full potential. Live your own shit. I ain't into this shot for money anyway. So when Cappadonna came through, I told him, yo, stay away from those labels yo. I'm your protection from these labels. I'm a get yo' money. You gon' get it in yo' hand. But you know, he put a piece of product out that didn't include Wu-Tang, and it didn't involve me, and he didn't get his money. And the he says to me all this shit. And it stopped right there. He did it to himself yo. And I still think he's one of the dopest motherfuckers, on the real. I mean his slang, his personality, his walk, his talk. That's a very special motherfucker."
He still making that LP with Lord Superb?
"Lord Superb's in jail man. It's a shame. And Shyheim's in jail too."
Lil' Shyheim? He was the Wu-baby! No!
"He in jail for the next two years. His problem, he's just... too gangsta."
RZA's PR brings in some tea, and tells us that time's up. RZA looks disgusted. "Chill out, we cool."
Then he looks at the tea, and groans.
"What is it with this place man? That ain't no tea. What the fuck is that? Damn. I am not no primadonna man, but would you drink that shit?"
I don't drink tea.
"No? That's dumb nigga! You English! Drink tea! That don't look like no tea though. Certainly not. "
It looks like it's got cum in it.
"Whoa. Nigga, that is not cool. Shit!"
[video url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6EZkIaJcCI" title="GZA, RZA and Bill Murray : Coffee & Cigarettes..."]
"That's dumb nigga! You English! Drink tea!"
RZA sips a bit, and grimaces. With time all but gone, I remember Kool Kid Fresh asked me to enquire about RZA's fabled Theory Of Mathematics. He smiles at the question, and leans forward conspiratorially.
"Well. OK, let me hit you off. The theory of mathematics is life, nah-mean? I been livin' mathematics. I deal with that shit. Every day you should think about mathematics, and try to arrange your day. Because everything is a cycle. Nah-mean? And so, it's like, the cycle goes higher and higher spirals ups and downs, but it's still a cycle. Whether it's a million or a billion or a trillion, it's still a cycle, and it's getting bigger, and you still gotta be aware. Nah-mean?"
Erm, sort of. But I read somewhere that the universe was shrinking?
"Nnnn. Maybe. But it's expanding at the same time. You got different scientists and weird scientists, but I know what mathematics does in my life, and that's what you gotta learn. What's happenin' is they startin' to find out that there's no thing for the smallness, and the largeness. You gotta follow your inner spaces up and down to your outer space. The inner space is in debt to the outer space, and you man try top trace space to find God, or or pure space. Nah-mean? Hur hur! Think on that shit nigga. Hur hur. Nah-mean?"
Um... Not really.
"You will man. You just need to sit the fuck still. Make some beats. Hur hur!"