"Raw I'mma give it to ya, with no trivia," promised U-God on "Da Mystery of Chessboxin" almost 20 years ago on the instantly iconic Enter The Wu-Tang. Though much has changed in Wu-Tang nation since then—soldiers have fallen, albums have dropped, holograms have been built—the deep-voiced lyricist has stayed true to his word, delivering harsh truths and painful revelations from the stage and on his latest solo release, Keynote Speaker.

Whether it's internal squabbles about playing shows or inter-fan arguments about what direction the group should go next, the Wu-Tang nation is a country often filled with strife. Despite the recent publicity bump that the Clan got following Drake's name-checking of the group throughout his latest album, Nothing Was The Same, and the subsequent buzz about a remix to the track "Wu Tang Forever," it often feels like they can't catch a break after the recent cancellation of the group's headlining Rock The Bells appearances. U-God has had his own issues, blaming label Soul Temple Records—headed by RZA—for mishandling the release of Keynote Speaker.

Despite these setbacks, U-God sounds hopeful about the future, stopping by the XXL offices on Tuesday (October 8) afternoon to talk about the reception of his latest album, the current political climate and his upcoming book. And it turns out, U-God does interviews like he does anything: raw and with no trivia. —Dan Jackson

Reception To Keynote Speaker | Making Of Keynote Speaker

Issues With Soul Temple Records | Working With RZA | Current Political Climate

The Rock The Bells Cancellation | His Upcoming Book On His Own Life


On The Reception To Keynote Speaker
U-God: All over the web they're saying it's fire. I'm getting a good reception. I've had a couple failures before and it ain't like that. This one is cool. I feel like people are really starting to feel me now, starting to change a little bit. I might have to hit them like two more times for the "Ohh. Ohh… Ohhh…" Before we get the real "Oh's."

Right now you can look on the Internet and fans give it to you straight up front. You get a whole bunch of comments right at the bottom. "Oh, this is trash." "Oh, this is fire!" "Oh, I can't believe it he topped Dopium!" That's what they're saying right now so I'm happy with that. Now I gotta come back and top Keynote, so that's gonna drive me crazy even more. I try to better myself every time. That's the key to longevity.

You always think your new sneakers are your best sneakers. That doesn't mean they might be the best. Some people might like it, some people might not. I can't please everyone. But I think it's one of my best works to date.

On The Making Of Keynote Speaker
People submit music to me and I rhyme to it, but if it don't come out the way I want it to I'm not going to use it. That's how I pick my joints. They all have to be on the level. If I get a hot one, that means I have to top the next one and that means I've gotta top the one before that. I've gotta keep going up. It has to add on. When I got Styles P on it, that added on to my record. When I got Deck on my record he added on to my record. He didn't bring it down. If you bring it down, you're not gonna make the record. So that's how I gauge who gets on the record. No disrespect, but if you didn't make the record that means your rhymes weren't really there and you need to go back in the cut and give me something better.

"With all these years of being in the Wu-Tang, people always talked for me. Now, you get a chance to speak to me.”

The new ones I'm working on might mesh with that. I don't like to start from zero. I like to start with 10 [tracks], so I'll probably use one or two out of 10 that didn't make the previous record and try to work my way up from there. I calculate my stuff from a body of work. I do a whole lot of work then I pick out the best fruit off the tree. I got a couple of bangers that should've made the record but there was just too much. I've got 17 joints on there. They don't hear that much of me so I can hit you with that. People don't hear me enough so I'm still brand new. It's a good and a bad thing, but I think it's more of a good thing.

More people are starting to reach out to me. More people are starting to say "Yeah, I'll do that." With all these years of being in the Wu-Tang, people always talked for me. Like Rae might say something. You might ask Rae like, "What about U-God?" Then he'd answer the stupid shit with a stupid fucking answer and you've got the whole world thinking I'm some grump, some other motherfucker. But that's not really me. Now, you get a chance to speak to me. I'm here right now and you get a chance to see where I'm coming from and how I choose my records and how I chose my music. People reach out to me now cause they can contact me now.


On His Issues With Soul Temple Records
You want me to talk about these dudes? I have nothing positive to say right now about that so I don't really wanna talk about that. Just how they handled my record. I'm not feeling it. I'm not gonna sugarcoat it. I'm not gonna be saluting somebody that did a bad job. Fuck that. I ain't come all the way here to be...it could've done 10 times better. For some apparent reason they always fumble my ball. If I'm throwing a fucking rocket down the middle, they gonna fumble my ball for some apparent reason, and I'm getting tired of that shit. It's not me. It's the company. But RZA is supposed to make some new changes and stuff like that. We'll see.

"They fucking handle my record like it's ghetto or something. I'm more of a businessman than some of these people.”

It ain't do shit. I'm not feeling that. The fans aren't receiving their mail, their autographed signings. I signed like 700 copies and fans are talking about how they didn't receive it. That shit pisses me the fuck off. They need to lift their game a bit. Right now I'm doing all this on my own. All this press and promotion and pushing it around. Thank you for having me come through and interviewing me. I'm really appreciative. That's basically where I'm at right now.

We're making changes up at Soul Temple. We don't know what's going to happen. It's a funny thing when you're trying to perfect something. You gotta work out the kinks. There's always going to be kinks with brand new shit. Now motherfuckers are probably like, "Damn, you shouldn't be going through kinks. You've been in the game for 20 fucking years!" But they fucking handle my record like it's ghetto or something. I'm more of a businessman than some of these people. But it's whatever. It's getting out there. Slowly but surely, it's getting out there.


On Working With RZA
I don't know [why] dudes be hating on RZA sometimes. To me he has some of the most organic music and it fits me because I can do things with his music. I can experiment with him. I can't experiment with everybody else. They want me to be straight-up. But when I get a RZA beat I can experiment, I can do things, I can go different places. That's what I like about his music. He has so much music. He has an overdose of music. He has too much. When you go sit down with him you go through a lot of tracks and it's like "Oh my god, I gotta step out the room. It's too much." I've got about 10 more on my CD now, so I'm saying to myself, "Damn."

"That's how I want to be as an artist. Creative. I don't wanna be stuck in a box."

To me this shit is hot because it's new, it's fresh, it's crispy. Our old Wu fans want to keep us sounding a certain way but RZA has already passed all that already. He has the new stuff that dudes wanna hear, that dudes need to be following. But some people get caught up in the past and think that's where they need to be. Now, I'm gonna give our core fans what they need but I'm also gonna give you that type of stuff like "Rooms Keep Spinning." I'm gonna give you the blues track. I'm gonna try to push the envelope with new sounding stuff and new styles. As an artist, that's what I hope people do. Paint new paintings instead of keep trying to paint the Mona Lisa over. That's done. Paint the Sistine Chapel. That's done. They're still finding new paintings all over the globe, like "Damn, he got a new painting? He got a new style?" That's how I want to be as an artist. Creative. I don't wanna be stuck in a box.

He likes fucking with me cause he can experiment with me. I'm like a guinea pig. He likes to give me shit to fuck with. Some dues might be like, "Uh, I'm not feeling that beat," but by the time I finish spitting on it they'll be like, "Yo, let me get on that. I didn't know you was gonna come like that dog." And I'm not gonna leave no room for a motherfucker either, especially if I got a joint I know is original and original sounding. That's how RZA's beats are. They don't sound like nobody else's shit. That's what I want. That's what separates us as Wu-Tang.


On The Current Political Climate
I just came back from Europe and I need to promote Keynote Speaker so I'm trying to get a promotional tour going, but it's rough out here right now. Everybody's trying to survive and the world is shutting down. People popping off in the capital and they're driving Obama crazy with the ObamaCare. All he's trying to do is get rid of these crazy insurance company dudes but the Republicans won't let him fuck they money up. They're standing on stern ground like, "Nah, nigga! We ain't having that." He's trying to help people out and get free healthcare, 'cause America is supposed to be in first. All this money we got out here, we can't get free healthcare? Come on. Or a small amount of healthcare that we don't have to be busting our asses for? If we get healthcare then we last longer and Americans can work harder. That's how it be.

The Republicans ain't budging. They are stuck cause those dudes have probably been shoveling them tons of bread and the bread is coming to an end. It's over. The bubble has burst. It's done. It wasn't gonna last forever. It's a bubble. Bubble's burst.

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On The Rock The Bells Cancellation
The tickets were overpriced. It's time to get back to grassroots, fellas. Hip-hop went a long way. We made a lot of money, dudes made a lot of bread, but you still need to have respect for the fans. Everybody's not rich. Everybody doesn't have a $100 to be in VIP or $50-$60 to see their favorite singer or act. You gotta lower it down. It's that time right now. It's back in the depression era. Music and certain entities don't get touched by certain recession and depression, so you gotta cater to what people need, and people need cutbacks. Tickets don't need to be $100. It could be $20 or $30 for a ticket. People still wanna come out. For $20 or $30 you can come out and have a little drink, have a little smoke, pop their little rock candy and get a little twisted and do their molly, whatever the fuck they do.

"You come out to be entertained, not sit out there and look at someone with a 100 gold chains on who thinks he's all the world or whatever."

People wanna have a good time. That's what it is: entertainment. You come out to be entertained, not sit out there and look at someone with a 100 gold chains on who thinks he's all the world or whatever. You come out to see them rock, shimmy, do their Mick Jagger, do whatever the strut is on stage. That's what I come to do. I know when I do my solo shit, I go in. I come from a very entertaining group, so I know how to shake and jive on stage. I don't just sit there in one spot, pointing my little finger. Nah, I do my little shimmy, I have my little lights going on, if I can have it I'll have bombs going off in the back.

We got mixed emotions [on the O.D.B. hologram]. A lot of people love it and a lot of people hate it. That's a part of the game, part of being a musician and having yourself out there. You're going to have people that like you and you're going to have people that hate you. There's a balance to it. But me personally, I love the fact that they brought my brother back. It's kinda spooky. But I respect it for what it was. It was a chance to see my brother's aura again and he did his thing. Technology is a motherfucker. I can tell, another 20 years from now it's going to be some shit. We ain't gonna have no more phones. It's gonna be a little chip and its gonna pop up. It's gonna be some other shit. It's gonna be crazy.


On His New Book
I'm putting my book together. It's not a Wu-Tang book. It's my life story. I am Wu-Tang, but this is my story from my angle, what I went through. It ain't got to do with no RZA, no Meth—even though they'll be in the book, talking about how I met them, what we did, little things we do, little street shit we went through—but it'll be my life story from the beginning to end. How I grew up from Brownsville to Staten Island, those were my main stops, even uptown in Harlem, that's where I circulated. That's where I was moving around. I'm a Staten Island/Brooklyn baby. That's my essence.

"At the time when I was young I didn't think the things I was doing were negative anyway. My environment called for survival."

How I grew up was crazy. My life story is insane. You're gonna be like, "Get the fuck out." You'll be sucked in 'cause I've lived a very adventurous life. I was crazy growing up—not saying uncontrollable crazy, but we did a lot of things as kids that normal kids wouldn't fucking do. I lived a very outgoing life. Had balls the size of fucking cathedrals. Huge balls. I don't even know how my balls were that big. They shrunk now, but I was big back then.

I always start from the beginning then I go over it and think about things I might've missed. Then I go over that and add on, take out some names 'cause I'm gonna reveal some names and people might get upset. Who knows? People always trying to sue somebody. I'm always gonna put people in good hindsight. I'm not on no negative shit. I'm gonna talk about negative things even though I'm not gonna glorify those things. That's the life lived. At the time when I was young I didn't think the things I was doing were negative anyway. My environment called for survival. People will do anything to survive. That's what I've learned and that's a part of the book. Talking about the treachery, the good, the bad, the tears. It's what it was.

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