Over the past few weeks, rumors have been circulating that the almighty Wu-Tang Clan is set to make a return to hip-hop with a new album, A Better Tomorrow. While nothing has been officially confirmed—Raekwon recently told XXL that the Clan's members are still trying to sort out the business end of the process—fans have gotten to hear one new track from troupe, "Execution In Autumn." In addition, the Wu is slated to perform at this year's Hot 97 Summer Jam Festival on Sunday June 2.

With demand for the Wu to return at a fever-pitch, XXL decided to take a look back at our 2002 interview with the group, as it prepared to release it's fourth album, Iron Flag.

Written by Elliott Wilson

RZA is bent like a comma. Twisted and feeling jovial in the comfy confines of a creamy white limo en route to Philly, the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan throws in his two cents on hip-hop’s current hot topic, the lyrical wax war between Jay-Z and Nas. “It’s real hip-hop, but I don’t know why they’re going after each other,” he says. “They’re from the same mutha- fuckin’ block—the Empire state.”

It’s clear that despite his exuberance the leader of hip-hop’s truest dysfunctional family would rather discuss his crew’s abiliuty to unify in troubled times than the con- flicts between others. The Wu’s new album, Iron Flag, is also heavy on his mind. That’s why when he digresses back to the topic of battles, one can’t help but be shocked by his impassioned revelation. “Rap battles is funny,” he muses, head down in the midst of a roll-up of the sticky icky. “I lost a battle one time.”

At this, his fellow passengers—including Wu’s spiritual leader, a 46-year-old gentleman named Poppa Wu, the Bundini to RZA’s Ali—shoot him confused looks, ‘til he continues with a lengthy diatribe. Ain’t no shame in his game.

“I never believed I would ever lose a battle and shit. Plus the corniest nigga in the world beat me. The only reason why he beat me was because he was so stupid. It was at some Blaze battle. I was sick, plus I had been in court all day. I’m on my way home and I heard, ‘Yo, the rap battle is going on, stop by, your man Cappa’s over there.’ I’m in the audience and my man Cappa got burnt down. He repping Wu, so I felt offended. I was like, ‘Hold on! What the fuck is this shit?’ I just jumped in and joined the shit out of nowhere. I wasn’t on the list but I came in and defeated a bunch of cats in the name of Wu.

“And then it came down to the last three niggas. Me, the fuckin’ kid who won, and Craig G. It got down to us and they threw on a fuckin’ Master P beat. When they threw that on the kid was at home. He said some comedy shit. The crowd started laughing. And they saw a laugh as a victory.”

RZA snorts, still disgusted. He can’t stand when theatrics override true lyrical skills. It’s his pet peeve and today he’s still teed off. He has no regrets, though. If it hap- pened again tomorrow and one of his brethren was gettin’ served on the mic, RZA would jump in again—no matter the conse- quences. That’s what it’s like when you’re part of a team. One of us equals many of us. Disrespect one of us, you’ll see plenty of us.