Few groups have had as much impact on hip-hop culture as Wu-Tang Clan. Emerging out of Staten Island, New York in 1993, the nine-man collective revolutionized the game. Not only did they deliver an instant classic with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) but the Clan refused to be shackled by the industry’s standard. While Loud Records had the distinct honor of signing the group, principle producer and leader RZA made sure that each member had the ability to sign solo deals with other labels. As a result, the Wu was to make a corporate takeover that has yet to be rivaled. Under RZA’s direction, breakout star Method Man won a Grammy (“You’re All I Need”), while the various members racked up platinum plaques, launched a clothing line, segued into successful film/TV careers and solidified the Clan as a worldwide phenomenon.
Recent years have seen the Wu’s flame flicker a bit, with the loss of the always-memorable Ol’ Dirty Bastard in 2004, and rumors of internal bickering during the recording of their 2007 reunion album, 8 Diagrams. But the end of ’08 proved that Wu-Tang is forever as the remaining members took to the road with longtime collaborator Cappadonna for their first national tour in years. RZA recently took time out to chop it up with XXLMag.com about the potential for one more Wu album in the chamber, signing ODB’s son and his plans for taking the Wu brand further into Hollywood.
XXLMag.com: After 8 Diagrams, there were a lot of murmurs about the Clan beefin’ about the musical direction you went with. So how is it having all of y’all on tour again?
RZA: It’s healthy for us and shit. The Wu-Tang Clan is like steel; you rub steel against steel it makes it sharper. I think we make each other sharper. So that’s what I see happening show after show, night after night. So it’s good that the conversations are getting more intimate. And I think we’re seeing more of who we are to the world.
XXL: What do you mean by that?
RZA: It’s different when you see how you are to each other, but sometimes you don’t recognize what you are to each other. Sometimes that’s not even important because there’s a bigger picture out there and that’s what you represent to this world and we represent unity. When we together, it inspires other people so it’s cool, yo. I’m having a pretty cool time. It’s gotta be a little tough having nine cats on a bus when you a grown man. The road is a bit tough for me I’ll admit that to you. Because I guess my conditions in life had changed dramatically ’cause when I tour I got my own bus with the suite in the back, got somebody cooking for me on the bus, my shit is kinda tight, yanahmean? And this particular bus I’m on the bunk, it gets cold and shit and I turn the heat up and somebody turn the AC on. We got them little technically difficulties and shit but it’s all good.
XXL: With all of y’all together in one spot, any chances of y’all recording a new Wu album on the road?
RZA: So far we haven’t recorded anything, but conversations have been coming up though. That’s pretty interesting to hear the conversations come up about maybe us going in and doing one more fuckin’ killer album, but this time just have everybody take they shirt off—even me, take my shirt off from the door. So instead of coming in with your ideas and this and that, everybody just come in naked and build it from there. I think that’s something that we never actually ever did. Usually I had all the ideas or something or some brothers had predetermined ideas, but I think now, it’s like everybody in the crew is a master at what they do. And so we all got to accept that, even me, that as the Abbot I gotta accept that. If we take that approach, I’m pretty sure we would come with something very, very unique. I don’t know if that’s gonna happen, but there are conversations.
XXL: If another group album doesn’t pan out, do you think the last project tarnishes the Wu legacy?
RZA: I want to say this to your readers, even if we don’t do anything ever again after this tour, we showed and proved, yo. Wu-Tang is forever. Nothing can’t keep us apart. After all the bullshit we back together. Most bands that’s it. Axl Rose don’t talk to Guns N’ Roses no more, he tours with a completely new band. The fuckin’ Temptations had to make three or four different Temptations. So we broke the mold on that particular idea of when groups break up they bring in replacement niggas and they try to… Nah, it’s us man.
XXL: Speaking of replacements, how does Cappadonna fit into the picture since ODB’s passing?
RZA: Cappadonna is a teacher of this shit. He’s a master. So he was always Wu but it was just that he was in jail when niggas got on. As soon as he came out, I put him on though, he got on quick when he came home, baby. But to the fans out there, they never knew him as a Clan member. But now they can truly accept him as that, not because ODB passed away, because nobody could replace ODB, but because Cappadonna has stood here through the thick and thin. Sometimes he comes out [on stage] for half price because he’s here. He comes out to show his loyalty and service to the Clan.
XXL: Any truth to word that you’re recently signed ODB’s son, Boy Jones?
RZA: Yeah, we in negotiations now with his lawyers and shit, but I’m real excited about that. Boy Jones is a real unique individual. There’s something about his father that’s in him. ODB said there’s no father to his style, Boy Jones do have a father to his style and to get a chance to see that style that ODB invented come out through the genes of his son—not somebody imitating him, not somebody that’s acting like it, somebody that got it in they blood and that kid got it. It’s unique.
XXL: How would you describe his style?
RZA: I can’t even put my finger on it ’cause sometimes I be like what the fuck is that? What the fuck is he doing? But I play it for kids and they love it. The kids love it. I got a big family, 11 brothers and sisters, hundreds of cousins, a whole slew of nieces and nephews, like 25 of them, and when I play his shit they love it. The kids love his shit.
XXL: So is he doing the sing-songy rap thing too or something totally different than his father?
RZA: Yeah, he just got his own thing. It’s unpredictable, man. Dude is crazy. And he don’t even get high so it’s natural. That’s what impressed me, ’cause ODB had drinks and shit but this is Boy Jones’ natural ability.
XXL: Over the course of the past 16 years you’ve been able to find success not only in music but Hollywood as well. Given the current state of rap sales, is it safe to say you make more money doing films than albums?
RZA: In hip-hop I was already icon status, I was making mega dollars, millions. I sold over 50 million records when you start counting all the records I did with Wu-Tang and other artists from Biggie, to Mary to all these other artists, I sold millions of millions of records so I was caking. But in film I’m new so I gotta start back at zero again. I had to put a lot of money on hold and take the short end of the stick to build up my credibility [in Hollywood]. Now that my credibility is building up, now the money is getting good again. People think that you get more money in film than you get in music, or sports, but it all kinda balances out over time… The difference goes like this; in 10 years an artist might not be as popular no more. So his money will be decreasing where as the actor may have started off slow, but his money is going upward and you can always act. Ice Cube is a good example; he probably get 10 million a fuckin’ movie. He has enough fan base for that. So he might only do one or two movies a year.
XXL: You haven’t been doing too bad yourself. You played opposite Denzel in American Gangster and even snuck the Wu logo in a scene when they showed your tat. How’d you pull that off?
RZA: To me, it’s like for the fans that know Wu-Tang, we always had our logo on the end of our videos and shit and then I guess MTV started acting funny and they stopped that shit. But I would love to see that logo in every one of my films somehow. It’s on my arm and shit, so if the directors don’t wanna paint over it, I’d like to see it up [on the screen]. Just as a branding. Just to keep that Wu-Tang spirit in your heart. ’Cause that logo to me helped change this world. —Anslem Samuel