Wu Tang Clan: Interview With Masta Killa
Jan. 09, 2008 The Power Of Perception
by: Patrick Slevin
Six years was the longest period fans had yet to wait for a reconvening of the Wu-Tang Clan, but following some festival plays in 2007, the group released 8 Diagrams last month to a warm reception. Its very anticipation was a breath of fresh air for the hip-hop community that theyâ€™ve been such an influential and integral part of, pervading all aspects of the business and art.
Strangely, though, coming out of production, it wasnâ€™t the album Masta Killa thought he and his fellow swordsmen would be releasing. A more reflective listen than what many were expecting to hear, the grand return of the Wu is not the joyous record that might have been expected from the conquering masters of hip-hop.
Their first release without their beloved Olâ€™ Dirty Bastard, the direction taken on 8 Diagrams was expressly what has made the Wu-Tang Clan unique over the yearsâ€”their power to create what no one else is. As MK describes, the swordsmen are simply conquering another chamber.
8 Diagrams was a long, long time in the making and a lot of things changed in that time. Working on another Wu-Tang project as a collective, was it difficult?
Not for me, because my formula never really changed from a Wu-Tang formula even when I do my own solo thing, because thatâ€™s the formula that works. Even with our first solo careers, the formula was still a Wu-Tang Clan project, because you had all members participating. Thatâ€™s what worked. So even, for me, itâ€™s never really hard to want to be in that mode, because I know thatâ€™s whatâ€™s been most successful for us, the formula of being together.
Has it gotten easier over the past fifteen years to stay in that mindset?
Itâ€™s never hard for me. I was a fan of the music before I became actually even a part of making the music, so for me itâ€™s always beautiful to come together with great minds and do what we do naturally. You feel the vibe when youâ€™re really in pocket, and you have the fun in there and youâ€™re doing what you love to do.
So were these cuts kind of stewing for a while or was the material basically written during the sessions?
Most of my material was written during the sessions, on the spot type things, because no one really had or knew a direction where the production was actually going to come from. And RZA, when he came, he definitely came unorthodox, meaning he came original, he came like no other sound youâ€™d ever heard. It was like another chamber to conquer, because it wasnâ€™t necessarily what you might be used to hearing. His philosophy was that you can find that just about everywhere, everybodyâ€™s kind of making that type of sound.
He felt it necessary to elevate it to a real music level. I wasnâ€™t mad at him, Iâ€™m still not mad at him. Personally, I think the album is very original and it sounds like nothing else out there, but it just might not be what the people were ready to digest. Even some of our own were not ready to digest where he was musically.
The picture, or at least the overall tone of the album, is very serious, mournful.
See, thatâ€™s where it kind of goes to the production. Sometimes production kind of lifts you up and makes you want to party, be joyful. I think more people was looking for a Friday/ Saturday night, which like Ghostface Killahâ€™s Big Doe Rehab is a Friday/Saturday night. RZA came with a Sunday morning, Sunday evening. Thereâ€™s nothing with that. Thatâ€™s the NFL football games and all the good shit, you know what Iâ€™m saying? Weâ€™re going to kick back, cool out, itâ€™s time to listen, letâ€™s think a little bit, but it might not be what the peopleâ€”or ourselves as MCsâ€”were ready for.
We probably werenâ€™t geared up for Sunday. We were ready for that Friday/Saturday night feeling. That being said, some thoughts were probably already written towards a Friday/ Saturday night, but had to be curved to a Sunday/Monday type feel. When youâ€™re not bringing your all to the table, youâ€™re not going to get the most productiveness out of a song. It kind of changed the mood of certain things. I wasnâ€™t looking for a mournful album. I wasnâ€™t trying to make that type of album, all serious. I mean, certain things are serious, most things are serious. Wu-Tang has always mostly been serious, thatâ€™s us regardless. Itâ€™s good to have fun with it also, because people need that.
Well, with tracks like â€˜Gun Will Go,â€™ itâ€™s not like youâ€™re avoiding a good time, but youâ€™re kind of getting something that makes you think a little more. Was that not where you expected it to go?
The balls that were being pitched, it was totally surprising. It was like â€˜Oh shit, weâ€™re looking for the fastball, and [RZA] came with that slider shit. Weâ€™re looking for the motherfucking curve, and he came with a knuckleball.â€™ On the mound, he was pitching some shit, but every pitch he was throwing, it was like we were looking for something else. So to say how the overall picture was going to come out, I was just as anxious as you to see. Whatâ€™s going to be the perception of the art that weâ€™ve painted, based on what weâ€™re given? Iâ€™m still learning to this day the perception of certain songs and how people feel. Every day, Iâ€™m learning something new.
Are you happy with the overall perception?
Yes and no. Iâ€™m always happy because itâ€™s an accomplishment, itâ€™s another one to add to the library, but Iâ€™m never satisfied, because I know the potential of our work ethics, and how they can be, and I know the potential of what we can do, and I think that on the scale of one to ten, itâ€™s like a seven. And Iâ€™m not satisfied with a seven. Iâ€™m thankful to the world, how they received it. The world, they love it. Everybody got their favorites, their opinion on how they see it. But just to me, for me personally, like I said, Iâ€™m also a fan of the music. What I want to put in and ride to, 8 Diagrams is kind of like a downer, and I think people wanted to feel in like an uppity spirit.
Well, there is the lingering presence of Old Dirty on the record, and that puts it in one direction.
Right. But even having the presence of Old Dirty, when you think about Dirty, the last thing you think about is down. Youâ€™re not thinking about down (laughs), youâ€™re thinking about excitement and â€˜somethingâ€™s going to happenâ€™ type shit. Thatâ€™s my brother, man. Like Method says at a lot of shows that we do, weâ€™re not here to mourn Old Dirty Bastardâ€™s death, weâ€™re here to celebrate his life.
So that being said, it shouldnâ€™t be in that type of chamber, to me. Musically, RZA did his thing as far as originality, and I can respect that, because Iâ€™ve seen where heâ€™s gone and how heâ€™s grown as a musician. Iâ€™ve witness someone whoâ€™s started to learn a keyboard or a little drum machine to playing instruments live yourself. So Iâ€™ve witnessed the growth, and I respect it. Everybody canâ€™t really accept change so easily, or can even adapt to it.
Thereâ€™s a general sense in all of Wu material, thereâ€™s a theme of struggle, but it seems very strong here. Was there any kind of idea when you were working on the material that there was some kind of fight or struggle?
To me, thereâ€™s always that when you meet in the chamber with other swordsmen. Thereâ€™s always that, because youâ€™re looking at someone that you equally respect as another artist, and his swordplay is just as profound and witty and intelligent as yours. MCing, we make songs together, but itâ€™s always still a competitive sport because itâ€™s always been personal and kind of braggadocious when it comes to the art of MCing.
I come from that era of MCs, thatâ€™s something you can not really teach, you have to have that. And to create those certain pictures and to create that type of vibe and feelingâ€”when a person is just speaking to you, he could be speaking to you with no beat, and you hear music, how heâ€™s bouncing his words. Thatâ€™s the art of MCing. So when you respect someone on that level, you always want to bring your A game to the mic.
Wu-Tang Clan will be performing at Hammerstein Ballroom on Jan. 12 and Jan. 17. 8 Diagrams is available now. For more on Wu-Tang, visit wutang-corp.com
Source: Aqua Mag
Is there anyone within the clan that likes the album, besides RZA?