How can hip-hop be dead if Wu-Tang is forever? 14 years after releasing their groundbreaking debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the crew from Shaolin is reuniting for their fifth album, 8 Diagrams. The LP will be released this summer due in large part to the work of The RZA and SRC Records founder, Steve Rifkind. But perhaps the busiest clan member is the one often perceived as the most reserved, GZA. The Wu’s elder spokesman is currently working with RZA to plan and organize the group’s first album since 2001’s Iron Flag. The Genius is also busy preparing two new solo records: a collaborative album on Babygrande Records with his son, Young Justice Kareem, and another LP with The RZA. The clan’s cerebral lyricist is also staring on Raekwon’s Cuban Linx II, releasing a DVD documentary, Wu-Tang Revealed, and penning his own graphic novel this year. It’s safe to say, GZA has a lot on his plate for 2007. XXLMag.com talks with the Staten Island native about the Wu’s reunion, his upcoming solo albums and outside projects.
What’s the status of your next solo album on Babygrande Records?
It got pushed back a couple of times because I was on the road and working on other things. My son produced a few tracks [on it], so I want it to be him and me for this Babygrande project. I’d like to get a couple songs in with RZA, as well. I don’t [have a title for the album yet], but I want to deliver…not a mixtape, but something a little bit above that. But for the next official GZA album, I expect it to be mostly [done] by RZA and myself.
Before Raekwon signed with Aftermath, you and Inspectah Deck were supposed to be featured throughout Cuban Linx II. Has your role changed since then?
It all depends on what songs he chooses to use. I haven’t heard his project in a while. We were in L.A. two years ago recording and we knocked out quite a few songs together. I think he might use some of those, but then again, he might not. But if he ever needs me, I’m here. I think the longer he takes to put it out, the more it will probably change.
You’ve stated your intention to write screenplays and direct films. How’s that coming along?
I write every now and then. I’m kind of laid back with it. I have a whole bunch in my head, as far as ideas I’d like to use for screenplays. I’ve been working on one for the longest, then I put it down for a couple months and started working on something else. I haven’t officially finished my first one yet, but I will this year. I’m also working on a graphic novel right now.
How did director Jim Jarmusch approach you for your scene in Coffee and Cigarettes?
I don’t remember exactly, but I’ve known Jim for years. I met him on the set of Ghost Dog with Dreddy Kruger. I knew he was cool with RZA and he’s always been a Wu-Tang and GZA fan. But I was cool doing [the film]; especially [since I got to] work with Bill Murray.
What was it like working with Bill on the set?
It was fun because I’m not an actor and you’re walking on the set with a heavyweight. He made us feel comfortable, [though]. We were sitting and drinking Saki. We improvised some of it. He’s just a natural. I wouldn’t mind working with him again. I would probably step it up a level or two.
Tell us about your new DVD Wu-Tang Revealed.
I’m still working on it, so I don’t have a set date. It was just me with a camera, shooting some things when we were out in L.A. Most of it started from the shows. We were out on the road and I was recoding stuff in Europe. I’ve always been playing with the camera. I’ve directed all my videos from day one. It all started with a Hi-8 camera back when I was on Geffen Records. But [for Wu-Tang Revealed], I started recording things when we were working on The W. We’ve had so much fun through the years, but there’s still some more things I need to shoot. I’m trying to figure out a storyline because I want it to be different. A majority of the DVD’s I look at, you see artists in the camera saying, “This is our studio, this is our house, we’re backstage.” But I feel as if no one should really be talking into the camera unless you’re a fan. I want to have a different approach. With the stuff I have, if you see anyone talking into the camera, they’re talking to me. It’s quite different.
How involved have you been with RZA and the other members for 8 Diagrams?
I speak to RZA all the time. I don’t speak to every clan member as much and that’s not by choice. Some people you don’t see for a while and some you do. The love is still there, though. Some just reach out more than others. I speak to Rae every now and then. I haven’t talked to Deck in a minute. I haven’t seen Meth since we were on the road. I haven’t spoken to Ghostface since we were on the road, but when we were, I was on the bus talking to him for eight hours. [We were] just kickin’ it until four in the morning, just building. Usually, I speak to RZA like every two or three days and we talk about the project [8 Diagrams], what’s going on and what approach we should take.
Some Wu fans have complained The W and Iron Flag didn’t feel cohesive. With 8 Diagrams, is everyone going to come together and do it all at once, or will certain members come in and do a few tracks here and there?
I definitely think it’s [going to revolve] around everyone’s schedule. But when we start on that first day, I think everyone will probably be there. I think we should all be together a majority of the time and vibe with each other. I’m not too good with writing in the room with eight other people, [though]. I usually write alone, so I would have to be in the next room or take the beats home. I like to come prepared most of the time. I’m usually not in the studio writing because that could take a long time for me. That’s how I did Liquid Swords. I was writing to the “Cold World” [beat] and that night I crashed out. RZA left the next morning to go take care of business in the city and he came back and the beat was still running. I was still working on a verse. I can write a rhyme in 20 minutes, but I’m not a quick writer. I put a lot of time and effort into it and I think it shows.