Last Thursday [Oct. 2] Warner Bros Records called all members of the press to their headquarters in Burbank, Calif. to announce that they had signed a nine-man team of lyrical assassins known collectively as the Wu-Tang Clan to release their 6th studio album, A Better Tomorrow. Even more impressive was the fact that they got each and every living member of the crew (The RZA noted that Ol' Dirty Bastard was there in spirit) together at one table.

After fielding a few questions from the assembled press, Ghostface Killah, U-God, The RZA, GZA, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, Raekwon The Chef and Method Man all split up to do one-on-one interviews. XXL was on hand to make that mic connect with hip-hop's most legendary crew to bring you six Wu Hollywood stories. [Ed. Note: GZA, Inspectah Deck and U-God were not available to speak with XXL.] From Cappadonna recalling the time O.D.B. slept through an entire concert on stage to Method Man sharing a blunt with UGK on the night Tupac died, here are some exclusive stories from the Wu-Tang Clan’s 20 years in hip-hop. —Jake Rohn

The RZA | Method Man | Masta Killa

Raekwon | Ghostface Killah | Cappadonna

Related: Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow LP Is Dropping In December
Wu-Tang Clan Updates Fans On New Album, A Better Tomorrow
Wu-Tang Clan’s 20th Anniversary Album To Be Titled A Better Tomorrow
Raekwon Ensures Things Are Coming Together With New Wu-Tang Album
Raekwon Is The Elder Statesman Hip-Hop Still Needs
Raekwon And RZA Call Truce 

wu-tang clan the rza
Photo: Getty Images


As both an MC and the architect behind the Wu-Tang sound that yielded multiple classic albums, RZA followed in Dr. Dre’s footsteps as “a producer that can rap and control the maestro.” In the early 1990s when the Wu was on the rise, the up-and-coming hit-maker became friends with Gang Starr producer DJ Premier and almost immediately the two were engaged in a friendly battle of the boards. In an exclusive interview with XXL, which took place at a recording studio in Hollywood, the MC/composer revealed his respectful competition with Preem in the early days. While RZA credits Premier with motivating him to step his game up, he also gave props to another source of inspiration, Prince Paul, and detailed the difference in creating a hit versus cultivating a movement. It's the Abbot in his natural environment.

XXL: If you could affect one change for “A Better Tomorrow” with your music, what would it be?
The RZA: If I could spark one thing I guess it would be the opportunity for everybody to enjoy their natural freedom of life with all that encompasses. And if I had to define it I could break that down, but just think about how much water is in the world. There’s no way in the world any place should have a drought because the water is like the veins of the planet—it goes where it’s supposed to be. But then you look at a country like, say, Ethiopia. You read in the Bible that that was the Fertile Crescent, but now it’s famine and droughts and people go, “Why [are] there droughts? How can there be a drought there?” So basically, for man to continue to prove himself, he must correct his mistakes in his process.

Do you think people could ever care about the message of music today like they did in the Woodstock era?
I don’t know. I think there’s a strong enough population of people that do have their qualms with things, and not like in the '60s. The '60s were a time, it was so ridiculous, I could see how the empathy of struggle resonated with every American. Not only are you seeing the Civil Rights Movement, you’re seeing your own president get gunned down in broad daylight. That’s crazy.

So that generation had a lot of mental and social things to deal with. Our generation, it’s not so broad and it’s not so much in our home, but it’s around our world. And for us as Americans it’s like, it’s not our duty to police the world as they would say. We don’t have to police the world. But we can at least set an example for the world if we are great, if we are the greatest country in the world, which is one of our slogans, then let’s show our greatness. The big bully in my neighborhood who could whip my ass was looked at as the greatest guy in the neighborhood 'cause he could whip everybody’s ass, but that doesn’t make him great.

We live in California and they’re always talking about a drought, but there’s water in every damn store, right in the bottle. So I’m not trying to be political or spark a revolution but I do wanna inspire people to go, “Yo, we could make that a little better. We could do that a little better.” Because yo, I’ve learned to do things better within myself: How to communicate, how to talk, how to not lose my temper. Just things that made me become a better person. And as years of that was happening, I started seeing my life around me get better.

I’ll give you one story. There’s a musician named Syl Johnson who I sampled a lot from and he had a song called “Shame On The Nigger” which was a sample of his, and I called to clear it. And he was one of my favorite artists at that time and I talked to him on the phone. I saw him recently and he reminded me of what I said to him. And the way that he described me was like, “Whoa.” I forgot that was me, because he’s looking now at the better me. Now I wasn’t bad then because I did something for him that changed his life, but just my demeanor about how I did it was more aggressive, more pointing fingers at the man kind of mentality. And when he saw me now he was even more impressed with me. But he reminded me that I was on some shit, yo. I was ready to chew a nigga neck off.

What's your relationship like with DJ Premier?
Premier’s ahead of me. I think Premier might be my senior and have a few years over me, and he’s definitely ahead of me in hip-hop as a producer. When I was just trying to be an MC before I was a DJ, before I ever learned how to make a beat, he was making beats.

But there came a time when I did learn how to make beats and I was going all day making beats and me and Premier kind of had a friendly competition going. We would run into each other. I’ll never forget, after he recognized that I was getting good [he’d be like], “Yeah I like that one thing you did right there.” “Yeah that’s right, watch me here, this piano joint I got. It’s crazy. Clan in the front.” [And he’d be like], “I’ll watch out for that, yeah.” And we’d kinda go back and forth.

But then I came with Liquid Swords; I’ll never forget the first time I played Liquid Swords, I think DJ Clark Kent and a few other people was there and I had the beat already looped. It was at like a Zulu Nation party and it wasn’t a song yet. I was just like, “Yo, let me and GZA get on." We didn’t have a name for ourselves to let us get on. I threw that shit on [and] niggas went, “What the fuck was that? What fuckin’ records you diggin’ in? What crate are you in?” I was in crates that they was ignoring.

But Premier has always been a strong influence and a strong friendly competitor with me, especially in the early days. And I think that he’s proven to be a cornerstone of hip-hop.

So who were you the senior to that maybe you had that type of impact on?
Well, Kanye always says that I was one of his biggest influences, and I think especially in his early work, you know, you listen to his production on The Blueprint, I guess he’s one of those. A few other producers would give me credit for inspiring them. Being a producer is a very egotistic thing so you don’t wanna tell where the fuck you get it from. But I remember Just Blaze, 9th Wonder, a lot of them, they was like, The RZA was the one that sparked their minds for a lot of this generation’s producers. I sparked their heads to look for something different.

Now if I think about who made me look to something different or feel comfortable looking different, I gotta say Prince Paul. Because Prince Paul, with 3 Feet High And Rising, even though that was considered kind of mild compared to what Wu-Tang was, he still was in some different fuckin’ crates, man. The Turtles? That’s not a normal record in the black man’s crate. [Laughs] Nah mean? He fuckin’ had The Turtles and pulled out samples from that shit.

So I’m the type of dude, I was sampling from Disney, Peter Pan if I had to. I think some producers are looking for the perfect beat; I was looking for the perfect sound. What I mean by that is that, I’m making the beat, maybe I need a horn. I’ll go through records just looking for a horn. I’m not looking for all that other shit. Then, okay, now I need strings. Now I’m just looking for strings. And you won’t find strings on some old records that are clear. But you get a fuckin’ Disney record, Peter Pan, you’ll get a clean string and you can chop that shit up and make it your own thing.

wu-tang clan ghostface killah
Photo: Getty Images

Ghostface Killah

“That’s when Ghostface said it on The Purple Tape: ‘Bad Boy biting Nas album cover,’ wait.” But despite Nas’ account from his 2003 LP God’s Son, Ghostface Killah has long insisted there was no real beef between The Shaolin MC and the Diddy-led label. In fact, in an exclusive conversation with XXL, an introspective Ghostface dismissed any beefs he might have, whether it be older rappers are the new kids coming through. The Wu-Tang Clan's most vivid storyteller breaks it down, bar by bar.

XXL: If you could affect one change for “A Better Tomorrow” with your music, what would it be?
Ghostface Killah: Probably the people’s minds on God. To make them focus more. To make them dedicate their heart, their soul and spirituality to the most High, to know that he’s the Creator of all this and everything that’’s happening now. God gives you the power of choice to do what you wanna do. So a lot of us made the wrong decisions, whether it’s killin', or this and that and the third, nah mean? But a lot of that wouldn’t happen if they had that power in their own life to know that, because you would know that doing that was wrong. So I would have them dedicate, 'cause once they do that and they’re going in the right direction, [they're] good. Everything else will just fall right in.

People are still hesitant to talk about God in their music.
Yeah, 'cause they might feel like they're a sucker and this and that and the third. But you know, when they get shot, who’s the first person they call on? “Oh God! Help me! I’ll never do it again!” Or if they’re so drunk, “God please! I’ll never do it again!” It’s like, by the time you need him seriously, it’s gonna be too late because you only want him for serious things. When death is near. You don’t call on him to be like, “Yo, good lookin’, thanks for letting me wake up this morning.”

Has any one confused you with Action Bronson?
Not really. He do sound like me but nobody ever told me like, “Oh I like that verse you got” and it was him. I didn’t get that one yet. Because a lot of people know the difference, so they'll run to me and be like, “Yo, you heard that dude? What’s up with that dude?” and stuff like that. But when I met him he’s a good guy, good kid. He was like, “[People] say I sound like you and stuff like that but I’m telling you I’m not trying to sound like you, that’s just how my vocal is, that’s how it comes out.”

And at the end of the day, I’m older now. I’m not gonna start a beef because you sound like me. I might have sounded like that on the Cuban Link album when I said, “I don’t want nobody sounding like me on no album.” But I’m older now. I’m here to do my work. He can do his work, I’ll do my work, and if he comes out on top or I come out on top it’s two different things, man. His tone might be his tone, but it’d be funny for you to try to mimic my shit just for you to get in and get ahead. It’s like, you gotta be a funny dude to do that. Like a comedian almost. So other than that, good.

Can you point to any one thing that you’re most proud of?
It’s a lot of things. Just the sound of the music that we had brought in when we came in. The way we rap. Like me and [Raekwon], I could see sometimes the influence that me and Rae had. 'Cause everybody in the Wu got their own style, so I can see RZA’s influences over the guys that wanna kick knowledge and this and that and the third, down to even the clothing.

It’s so much stuff that we did to the game that you can’t even really... Even [the slang], “Where that C.R.E.A.M. at?” Even going, “Yo, ayo, ayo” when you start the rhyme off. Rae was the first one to start doing that, but people don’t even know that. Now I hear people like, “Ayo, yo, yo” going in with the “yos”—that’s almost like the setup.

Crews have come back in New York hip-hop. Have you met the A$AP Mob or Pro Era?
Not really. I’ve met A$AP, but in passing. It wasn’t like we had time to talk and just spill everything out.

wu-tang clan raekwon
Photo Credit: Lauren Gesswein



Like Yankee great Derek Jeter, Raekwon has represented New York for 20 years and is known for game-changing hits. But he's also been the most combative of the Wu-Tang soldiers in recent months, going head to head against RZA in the press and pushing his own album before calling a truce and delaying his F.I.L.A. LP for the good of the group. XXL caught up with Rae as he was on his way out of the building, where he spoke about what Derek Jeter meant to the Big Apple and why it’s such a blessing to make the proper exit.

XXL: If you could affect one change for “A Better Tomorrow” with your music, what would it be?
Raekwon: I would like to see more open-minded people when it comes to being creative musically, spiritually, just moving your life in a better direction and not giving up. I see a lot of people give up so fast and they don’t even know that they have it. It’s just, what are you willing to do to get it going? And that’s my thing: I wanna see more people motivated to do better and believe in themselves and don’t be a follower. Be a leader and be the best at everything that you do.

And that’s the real A Better Tomorrow. Be authentic, but more importantly, whatever can help you grow, that’s what I want  to see. You gotta get there one way or another. We can’t say that there aren’t people out there that emulate other people, but if you’re going to be an emulator, be the best emulator. But don’t just do it and it don’t make sense.

It’s all about growth. We just wanna see people grow and be in control of their lives, 'cause hip-hop allowed a lot of people to eat and take care of themselves to eat and take care of their family. Without this culture, we’d probably be in trouble.

When you first broke into hip-hop, where did you see yourself 20 years later?
I don’t know. If I wasn’t in the music business I probably would be somewhere uncomfortable. But we here though. That’s the most important thing.

What was the most impressive moment in the studio this time around?
I think probably the most impressive thing to me is just having everybody there. We've come to this point in our career, we told y’all from the door we will be forming Voltron, and we did that ever since 20 years ago. So now you get an opportunity to still live the moment with us and still see us in our craft, which is what we love to do. Like I said, when it comes to making albums with the Wu-Tang, that’s the best feeling ever.

But more importantly, we told y’all we was gonna go out there and do solo projects. So we have a lot of things going on, a lot of things set. I had an album that was scheduled to come out this year that I pushed back based on respect for the Wu, because that’s my family. I would never want my album to clash with the Wu-Tang Clan. So me being a member of this organization, it was my business to say, “You know what? Let me push my album back. Pay homage to this. All my business is correct. Let me make sure that I do my job as a member and step up." And that’s what I did. Sacrifice is important.

Would you say Derek Jeter is similar to Wu in the way you both have been ingrained in New York culture for the last 20 years?
Absolutely. Derek Jeter’s the man. He paid his dues. He's been in the game for a long time. He’s been involved with a lot of champions and he knows how you have to have thick blood in this business. And I think, even though he’s an athlete, he’s still an artist. You gotta paint pictures when you’re out there on the field. And it’s the same for me.

We come from big teams and we listen to music and we listen to opinions and we do plays that we feel are important to our success, and I think that it just shows that he knows what time it is. He paid his dues and he went out correctly. That’s what I’m talking about. When you stop, just make sure that you leave in the most prestigious way. You step off with rings. His rings is my albums, my albums is his rings, so we’re kind of like on the same level of respect.

Fortunately for MCs like yourself, you don’t have to be in your physical prime to be able to rhyme your ass off.
But that don’t necessarily mean that you can still be here at a certain age level. It has to click off at some point. Not saying that you can’t keep going, because you can, but how many times you wanna keep seeing a 50-year-old rapper? I figure when I’m 50 I can’t be rapping no more. I gotta be doing other things.

When you do retire, how do you want that last moment to go?
A big party, and just the thought of being recognized. That’s important to me right there. Just knowing that, “He was an artist where he wasn’t a come and go guy. He was a dude that really put it down and really made it his business to represent this thing called hip-hop in the best way."

wu-tang clan method man
Photo: Getty Images


Method Man

The title of Wu-Tang’s soon to be released album, A Better Tomorrow, was especially fitting for Method Man, whose refusal to give more than a one word answer or look up from his phone during the group’s press conference suggested he was probably having a pretty shitty today. After the press conference he didn’t spend too much time with the one-on-one interviews but XXL was able to get one of the day’s more enthused one word responses. "Assholes," he replied when he was told he was speaking with XXL. But all of his personal feelings aside, Meth (or “Mef” to simplify the Google search in the post-“Breaking Bad” era) was cool enough to share his memory of where he was when he learned that Tupac died, and a few tales of the Texas OGs.

XXL: If you could affect one change in the world for “A Better Tomorrow” what would it be?
Method Man: Nothing. I like it just the way it is.

When the coastal beef was going on was there ever a time Wu didn’t feel comfortable coming to L.A.?
No, we were smart enough to know that it wasn’t a West Coast/East Coast thing, it was a man vs. man thing. Team vs. team thing. We were out here when everything was going down. When Tupac passed I was in a van smoking a blunt with UGK. [It was my] first time meeting those dudes. Cool as fuck. And when B.I.G. got shot we was out here recording. When everybody was jumping on planes and shit we were right at the Oakwoods. So, you know, not saying it’s not dangerous any place you go—Cali or New York—that was beef between B.I.G. and Pac and smart niggas knew that shit. So we never fed into it.

Any memories you care to share on Pimp C?
He was just always a cool muthafucka. He really was a pimp. Real cool, always dressed his ass off. I don’t I know, I just always loved him and Bun. I was a fan first and foremost and when I ran into him the first thing I did was start reciting the lyrics to “Pocket Full of Stones” off that Menace II Society soundtrack. Like, y’all niggas is that lick nigga, y’all that lick. 'Cause up to that point, with the exception of the Geto Boys, I hadn’t heard anybody with a consistent flow like that. Both of them. But they kept it Dirty South which I respected even more. So yeah, UGK baby.

wu-tang clan masta killa

Masta Killa

With the success of Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, the Wu-Tang Clan and all its members found themselves on a whole different plateau of stardom. And as each individual member ascended from the depths of New York to the stages of the outside world, group member Masta Killa tells XXL it became increasingly difficult to bring the lyrical dream team back together.

XXL: If you could affect one change in the world for “A Better Tomorrow” what would it be?
Masta Killa: That more positive songs would be played on the radio. More enlightening songs would be played on the radio. That the world would be able to listen and absorb, because it seems like all the songs that gave us the energy of love, togetherness and family are fading, so we need to get back to that awareness, that enlightenment. That love that was once in the music, that was once on film and radio. We need to get back to that.

Who would you like to work with that you haven't?
I would love to do a song with Jay Z. I would love to do a song with Nas. I would love to work with The Roots, personally. I would love to do a song with Gladys Knight.

Do you feel like rappers have lost their edge?
In everything you have corporate, you have your artistic part of it. You have to be able to find that seam, and walk that fine line to be able to bring those two worlds together, and that’s called success.

How were the studio sessions after the success of Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers?
The first album was kinda put together with us just basically because RZA’s house was the foundation where everybody would meet at to hear music and kick rhymes and just chill out. So that’s how the first album was basically formed. From everybody going to one basic foundation, that’s RZA’s house. After the first album was birthed then here comes the business. Here comes the career of it. Then once careers blossomed and took on and everybody became their own entity, now recording was a little more difficult, because of everyone taking on their own identity as far as a brand. Now we said earlier in the interviews, this person might be in Japan, I might be in New York, he might be in France and somehow we have to find a way to pull all of that energy back together for one common cause. Which is not an easy thing to do.

wu-tang clan cappadonna


Though Cappadonna has been considered an honorary member of Wu-Tang ever since he first appeared on the Wu-Tang Forever single “Triumph” back in 1997, The RZA finally made it official, clarifying that the “Black Boy” MC was an official member during a Q&A session with WBR staff. In almost 20 years of recording and performing with the group, “Cappachino” has experienced his fair share of wild moments and in an exclusive interview with XXL the former cab driver shared one of his favorites. And of course it involves O.D.B.

XXL: If you could affect one change in the world for “A Better Tomorrow” what would it be?
Cappadonna: I’d try to just keep all my music positive. Try to get the best verses I could out. [At] the same time just keep it real for the fans and just know that this is not for me. This is my ministry, this is what I’m giving to the people. Raw hip-hop. Uncut, unadulterated. My main thing is I don’t wanna be boxed in. I wanna be able to do music on all levels. I don’t want to be looked at like just a hip-hop artist. I wanna be looked at as a musical artist.

What’s a sound you experiment with that people don’t know about?
Right now, I’m dealing with a lot of Southern rhythms and a lot more mellow stuff. I’m working on The Pillage 2, which is the sequel to the first album called The Pillage that I dropped in ’98, and this one right here is just phenomenal, soulful and just very creative. I think this is the one that I’m more comfortable. It’s a toss up between soulfulness and Southern comfort. I got that balance now. I did a little thing called Wu South. I got an artist out there called Ratchet Rush and he got some stuff coming too, so be on the look out.

Is there anyone you can point to as an influence on your live show?
LL Cool J—that was one of the first raw shows I ever seen. It was like some Tougher Than Leather shit or something. That was the deepest spot of inspiration. But all of the legends. I did a tour with KRS-One. But the illest live show I’ve seen was Onyx. That shit was high voltage. Never seen it that hype.

In 20 plus years, what have you learned about yourself?
I learned that there’s no limit to the things that I can do as far as music. Music is not limited to just making music, it’s just a stepping stone for acting, it’s a stepping stone for producing and all forms of entertainment, anything from dance to self-expression. And I think that that right there has given me the opportunity to be on all different levels and with different [types] of people.

What has been the craziest moment in your career that you’ve ever seen in person?
I’ve seen a lot of things. I think Method Man and his acrobatics on stage were some of the most creative and exotic movements I’ve ever seen. Him and O.D.B., I really rarely see anybody perform to that altitude. I seen Meth do a backflip on stage one time with one hand while he was performing. And I seen Dirty sleep through a whole show and wake up at the end and just make one sound and the crowd went crazy. Money slept on the stage on the floor, right there. People walking over him the whole time we’re performing and all his verses coming on. I think it was out here in Cali. He had countless episodes.

Any work with Young Dirty Bastard on the new album?
Young Dirty came to the Hook Off album release party. I just dropped an album called The Hook Off June 17th. It’s the first hip hop album with no hook. So I did a release party in Manhattan and Young Dirty came through to perform and he did a great job. He also came to perform with us out in San Francisco and L.A. with the hologram. We paid $1 million dollars for a hologram of O.D.B., he came out and represented his father, and that was epic. So definitely a lot of good moments with him. He’s got a lot of energy. Looks just like his father.

Related: Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow LP Is Dropping In December
Wu-Tang Clan Updates Fans On New Album, A Better Tomorrow
Wu-Tang Clan’s 20th Anniversary Album To Be Titled A Better Tomorrow
Raekwon Ensures Things Are Coming Together With New Wu-Tang Album
Raekwon Is The Elder Statesman Hip-Hop Still Needs
Raekwon And RZA Call Truce

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