Twenty years ago this Saturday, an atomic bomb was dropped. The Wu-Tang Clan released Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), launching one of the greatest empires in the history of music and forever pushing the axis of hip-hop toward a stranger, darker, and indubitably better place. To commemorate the occasion, we called up RZA to briefly talk about the past, the future, and just what the hell is going on with the new Wu album.
Last year you told the New York Times there’s “one last job Wu-Tang Clan must do. The 20th anniversary is next year. And we need to, one time, completely, efficiently, properly represent our brand.” So how’s it going?
A lot of us are picking up on it, but there are a few of us who are late to the table. I’m still pushing forward full-strength, till my energy run out. The dream was to have it come out this week. It should have came out on our anniversary date. But what I feel spiritually is that that day is gonna trigger a change. I don’t know if it’s gonna trigger a change in everybody but it’s definitely gonna trigger a change in me. I’ve been really refocusing the last few days, refocusing my energy on the legacy of what we created, and what’s gonna come in the future, [in order] to uphold what we said, to uphold what it meant to us and to uphold what it meant to the fans. Is that gonna be in the format of making albums and songs? Is that gonna be in the format of writing books or performing on TV or film? And whatever the format that it leads to, I’m gonna live out the legacy of Wu-Tang forever.
A lot of fans are probably hoping that everyone in the Wu falls in line behind you, the way it all happened in the beginning. But is that realistic at this point?
Well, I think if I was one of the other members, if I wasn’t RZA, I would fall in line. Because it worked! It ain’t work one time. It worked multiple times. It worked more than it failed. The batting average is good. And at the same time, I’m not so egotistically conceited whereas I’m not gonna fall in line if someone else came with a great plan. And that’s where I feel a little remorse as this day is approaching. It’s like, wow, I kept trying to pull people together. I spent a lot of money and a lot of time this year. I put my movie career on hold for the first half of the year because I was focusing on making this. I went down to Memphis, I went down to Philadelphia, I came back to the East Coast to reopen the Wu Mansion [RZA’s old house in New Jersey, where a bulk of post–36 Chambers material was recorded]. I invested thousands of dollars to rebuild it so that we can have a place to record a new album. And when I scheduled that to happen, only a few good brothers showed up.
And one of the guys who showed up the most was Method Man. He showed the most tenacity, he was the most vocal, he showed up the most, and he got the most lyrics on the new album. He’s already recorded eight or nine songs. He’s been on it. You know, I give Cappadonna credit, he’s been really on it. U-God has been present. Masta Killa be representing. Inspectah Deck has been somewhat present. Ghost has been, you know, 20 percent present. And Raekwon hasn’t shown up at all. When you look at somebody like Masta Killa and U-God, they seem to have that original hunger to complete the legacy. I respect that everybody [is] busy with they own lives. I started with a plan that I thought would work. Now maybe my plan not working.
Do you ever say anything like, “Remember the first five years? When you guys stayed in the fold and we made multiple, multiple classics?”
I do try to throw that back and shit. But I’m dealing with masters. We all agree, me, you, and the rest of the world, that these guys are great by themselves any fucking way. But they are greater when we come together! I’m doing a lot of things. I’m making a good living for my family. I’m putting out at least a B-plus class artistic expression. Some A-minuses in there. A lot of good work, a little bit of great work. But when I was with the crew, I was doing great work. You become immortalized off of great work. I say, “Yo, Ghost, you been doing good work. Ten albums! But if you look at the history, your only platinum ones are the ones I produced.” Same thing to Raekwon, same thing to Method Man, same thing to GZA. Even myself. I got gold albums by myself but I got platinum with Wu-Tang. Whatever element that we bring together, that’s more powerful than the element of us being apart. We come together, we make platinum, G. That’s the true fucking reward for our top talent. And I say that to the guys. I don’t know who hears me.
So, how are you feeling about it right now?
I got optimism off the summer tour we did in Europe. It was so healthy. We got a lot of time on the bus to talk, to argue, to laugh, to hug, to see fans loving us. And to see the potential of what we can do. To see the potential of the legacy of what we did. We got a lot of work done [recording in Europe]. I feel like we have enough material on the album. I just need Raekwon to come onboard fully. I need some more energy from Ghost and GZA. If they give that energy, I will give us a great last album. If they don’t give us the energy, I gotta figure out a plan B.