[Ed. Note: This interview was conducted Thurs., April 17, prior to RZA's recent 30-day ultimatum to Raekwon.]

The RZA is on a promo run for his upcoming movie, Brick Mansions, which comes out this Friday, April 25 and co-stars the late Paul Walker. While on his press run, XXL spoke to him about the film and to get an update on the state of Wu-Tang, a topic that has become contentious in the past year and especially heated in the past few weeks.

Since last year, Wu-Tang's reunion album A Better Tomorrow has been in the news frequently. The album would be the group's first release since their 2007 album 8 Diagrams, and just about every fan of hip-hop is waiting for it to drop. However, ongoing disagreements have heightened within the past month, with the back in forth between RZA—who said in a since-outdated interview that he hadn't spoken to Raekwon in months—and Rae in particular getting heated, reaching its peak when The Chef said RZA was a liar and that he was "on strike" from the Wu, to which RZA responded, leading to The Abbot giving Rae what amounts to a 30-day ultimatum to either be on the new album or not.

Obviously, there's been a lot on RZA's plate of late; in addition to his public sparring with The Chef and his new movie out tomorrow, he's also readying a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang album called The Wu: Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, which the Clan will be auctioning off for reportedly millions of dollars, and has been dealing with news reports identifying former Wu-Tang affiliate Christ Bearer as the man who cut off his own penis in an apparent suicide attempt last week. So RZA might be forgiven for being a little distracted at the moment.

But with all these issues up in the air, RZA spoke with XXL in this second part of our two-part interview—the first of which, focusing on Brick Mansions and his relationship with Walker, can be found here—about the issues between him and Raekwon, the idea of a Wu-Tang album without the entire Clan, and the plans for the album's next single. —Emmanuel C.M.


XXL: Let’s start from the beginning. What were the issues between you and Raekwon?
RZA: I spoke to Raekwon, and Raekwon did tell me his business demands for the album. His demands for the company were at the level that wasn’t feasible. What he demanded would probably decapitate a budget for any company, for a budget on the Wu-Tang album. Every album got a budget; you take that budget and make that record. What he's demanding would cripple the budget in a way compared to whatever else we had to get. I don’t think the office is going to do that for him; that’s on the business side.

Creatively, it’s like I said—creatively, I haven’t worked with Raekwon in years. Maybe we’re on different creative paths, that’s very possible. He mentions that a lot in his articles. I can respect that. Creatively he may be looking at [things] one way and creatively I may be looking at [them] the other way. But we haven’t been in the studio together in years. So when you come into the studio with me, anybody, magic happens. It takes time to make art.

Me and Raekwon haven’t been in the studio in a long time for us to even say, creatively, I don’t know where he is at or I don’t know where I’m at. We can’t even speak because we haven’t been there rocking, yo. You hear some of the old Wu-Tang songs, brothers would come to my house, they’ll do a song and record their verses and they would come back three days later and be amazed at what I'd done with what they left. I sit there as a producer and I add things and I construct it and I’ll orchestrate it. I’ve been doing that for years now; I can define it, I’m an orchestrator.


RZA: The original "C.R.E.A.M." song was 6 minutes long and Raekwon had two verses and [Inspectah] Deck had two verses and their verses was all about different things. But when it came time to make that a song within itself, it’s a three-minute song. Then when it became a video song I had to go back in the studio, add heavier drums and the “ooohs” and “aaaahhs” and move the hook around and construct it. Back in those days it wasn’t as easy as cut-paste-drag-drop, and you probably could do something [now] in one hour that would have taken me six hours to do, because Pro Tools or computers wasn’t matching our ideas.

When I go back and I read what’s coming on in the press, man, that shit crazy. Raekwon put an article out that said that RZA told a bold faced lie; he just spoke to me [Ed. Note: The day after this interview was conducted, a representative for RZA reached out to XXL to clarify that the confusion between Raekwon and RZA on this point was caused by outdated quotes attributed to RZA that were published April 15, and that they had spoken since]. First of all, I don’t lie; I try to speak the facts every time I’m speaking to somebody based on my knowledge. I strive to speak on what I know and live off that as a man.


XXL: Raekwon told Rolling Stone that he's on strike.
RZA: I had a conference call with Raekwon and Ghostface last weekend [Ed. Note: The weekend of April 12], and Raekwon did send out his demands on what it would take from him to get on this record. Before talking to him last week I hadn’t spoken to him for months. We didn’t creatively get into a room; it’s been years since we sat in the studio, day after day, making that music. Now is the time where I’m open to do that and inviting them with me.

Now, Method Man has come into the studio and put in over a dozen verses. He comes, he takes his own car service, he brings his own weed, and he comes. Sometimes he gets here, I got weed for him, I got drinks, the environment, and we sit there and we be there 'til 4 in the morning and we bust out what we bust out and that’s recorded for A Better Tomorrow. Inspectah Deck has come, GZA has come; he was in the studio with me last night until 4 a.m. I haven’t spent time with Raekwon in the studio over five times in the last five years. Far as him on strike, that’s with him to take up with the office.

I know his demands but I wont say his demands; he can expose that himself. His demands don’t seem logical or reasonable in the scope of, you have nine guys that have to perform for Wu-Tang Clan, that produce in the studio and record. Let's just say, everyone came to record the album for a $100,000 per man, you'd need a million dollars to make this record. How many albums get a million dollar budget these days? This is a business man, so I respect his demands. Like I told him, you got to get what your market value is. But if your office can’t sustain that, then that’s a whole other thing. On a creative level, you can’t say anything creatively until we get in the room together and start working.


Would you renegotiate with Raekwon?
I would love Raekwon to be on A Better Tomorrow; Raekwon is one of the dopest MCs in history. He has a voice to me; [when] Raekwon's voice gets on a record, it sounds like a hip-hop record. Like if some singer gets on your record like Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin or Mary J. Blige, you know that’s hip-hop soul. When Adele get on it you feel the big magic of pop broadway-type stars. Erykah Badu, neo-soul; when she does that unique neo-soul, we haven’t heard a voice like hers since Billie Holiday.

Raekwon is an MC like that. That’s his calling in life, and he does it very well. Many people have him on the top 20 list of all of hip-hop. Same thing goes with Method, GZA and the Wu-Tang Clan. This is a collaboration of some of the best lyrical talent ever to fucking walk the earth and I would love all of them to be on an album to celebrate 20 years of what we did. In 1993 we started, and by '94 we were a platinum group. November marked the 20th anniversary; this is a year that we're supposed to be celebrating it, and I want Raekwon to be a part of it.

I moved on to try new challenges in my life. You see me acting in movies, writing screenplays, directing films. You see me constantly looking for that artistic expressive quality and talent and doing better at it. At the same time I’m making a living out of it, too; I’m not going to act like I’m not reaping a lot of rewards of my labor. I’m grateful for the rewards I reap. I don’t think Wu-Tang can afford me in all reality. Like, can we pay RZA his market value to participate in this? I have a strong value for what I do, but I do this regardless because of the art of what it is. I would love Raekwon to be a part of it; I’m already ready to work with him. I'd love to get in the studio with him and rock and roll with him. That’s actual facts.


Would the album be as meaningful if everyone isn’t behind it?
My honest opinion is this: the concept of A Better Tomorrow is healthy for anybody and everybody, Wu-Tang and any man in America. Who wouldn’t want A Better Tomorrow, the concept? When I make albums, I think about the time I’m living in the world, I don’t just do shit. You go back and check my history, my art, you see meaning to my shit. There’s a reason why I do what I do; A Better Tomorrow, it's time for that, for our families, for America, for the world.

A lot of dreams and hopes haven’t been fulfilled that we all had. We had a strong optimism [of what] the world can be, and I want to make a record to reflect and inspire that dream more. I would love the whole Clan to be behind it, and it's something I got to think about and reconsider. If I’m the only guy to do it and hopefully inspire people like that, I’m going to do that regardless, personally. If we can make it happen together, we shall, and if it’s something at the end of the day that I have to do, then that’s what I'll do. I accept that in life. But I would love for every member to get on board and celebrate what we created.


How did “Keep Watch,” the Clan's latest single, come out?
That was a planned single that I didn’t put out. That was done by the office. I didn’t produce the track, that was produced by Mathematics. He’s a dope hip-hop producer; out of the few people from the camp I think he still got that authentic Wu-Tang sound. He still has the past sampler [and] he still uses that when he makes his beats. I guess the guy went into the studio and wanted to try that formula. I was actually in Thailand when that song was released. I was filming a movie. When I came back they said, this is going to be the new single. I asked, “It sounded cool to me, did everybody else love it?” They took a vote and this is what they ended up with.

I said I want to get back into the studio and work on some of the songs I was working on, because I think one of my songs is good for the world to hear right now, too. I’m doing that right now. The next single will be a RZA-produced track I have, a song called “Ron O'Neal.” It has Method Man on it, Ghostface on it, myself, Inspectah Deck, and I’m looking for that to be the next single.

Where did the name for the single come from?
Ron O’Neal, you ever seen Super Fly? The song is named after the actor in Super Fly, he was a fly motherfucker. It has that '70s pimp vibe.


Previously: The RZA Wants To Bring The Ruckus In New Movie Brick Mansions
RZA Gives Raekwon A 30 Day Ultimatum
Exclusive: RZA Speaks On The Wu-Tang Affiliate Who Cut Off His Own Penis
RZA’s 15 Best Beats