Three years after releasing the 2-CD sophomore, Wu Tang Forever, WORD caught up with the elusive RZA (pronounced rizza). He has been touted as the behind-the-scenes leader with the spooky, lyrically explosive, trademark sound responsible for the creation of a massive loyal-to-the-bone Wu fan-base.

RZA is in the Big Apple. His voice is thick, his speech fast, and his conscious profanity-laced words are slung tightly together. RZA, the producer with defined, unique beats; the visual artist; the businessman, was ready to come straight up regarding the Clan’s objectives on their highly anticipated 14 track release The W which finally drops in November.

The album features cameos from Nas, Busta Rhymes, Isaac Hayes, Redman, Snoop Dogg and dancehall reggae star Junior Reid who is featured on two tracks.

“People gotta realize one thing about Wu-Tang, why this album’s called The W is it’s a brand of it’s own. Lyrically we eased up. We killed it but first off I didn’t even drop no lyrics on the album. What, 25 lines the most probably. So I kind of restrained myself and let a lot of other brothers throw theirs down. It’s hip hop. You can’t put it in no other category but hip hop; whereas a lot of other hip hop stuff you can put into other categories. There’s no other explanation for it (laughing). And even though you hear soul, you hear all kinds of different formulas combining to make it unique. We didn’t’ wanna really get too complex on this album. Wu Tang Forever, people still tryin’ figure out some shit we said. But if you’ve been listening, then you start realizing that, ‘Oh shit, that’s me!’ And that’s the inner quality I think that we attack.”

Wu TangFellow Wu member Raekwon has stated wisely that there’s more to life than getting jewels and cars. The Wu have contributed to the hip hop nation both on a business level and within the community. A clothing line, comic books, music and websites ( are just a few of the ventures that RZA and the crew have successfully delved into. Case in point, the group owns two Wu Wear stores their clothing line is now available in over 20 countries.

“We have instructed the world on a lot of different shit man. On how to make money in hip hop, the universal tone of it as well as the diversity of it. Wu-Tang has sparked so many imaginations it’s incredible. I love it,” says RZA.

When young cats give them props for showing leadership on those levels, it’s a given that the community gets a high rating with Wu-Tang says RZA. “Guaranteed. We’re still really committed. We all got so many communities that we lived in throughout the course of our history–from Brownsville to Parkhill, to Bronx, Queens, Long Island. I personally moved over 20 times in my life but we’re a real product of those different communities so of course we’ve got to give back to it. Giving back through a word, through a way, through an action. Sometimes we give direct back physically through food clothing or shelter.”

On a temporary hiatus from solo endeavours–the Wu stormed the studio as a collective once again. From sold out concerts to their landmark solo deals in the rap industry, these nine crew members from Staten Island, New York, have returned to their roots. Back to the cooperative brotherhood created in 1994. Enter the Genius/GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killah, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah & Method Man minus Ol’ Dirty Bastard who remains incarcerated.

The most challenging aspect in reuniting the members was not egos which RZA brushes off as “comin’ and goin’ in and out the door like clothes”, but T-I-M-E. And in working together again they have found their own way to deal with it all just as they did in the early years.

Work together? We lived together man

we slobbered on each other’s shoulders before. We fell asleep on niggaz heads. We’ve been through it for real. It’s been a real life.

Handling the individual Wu members and their needs was “no thing” for the modest group leader either. “Actually,” RZA explains, “we don’t deal with a leader. We deal with leadership within each other. So everybody has leadership qualities at any given moment. Anybody is prepared to take the position to do what they gotta do to make whatever gotta happen pop off. They consider me the best knower, know what I mean? So, it’s like the deciding vote.”

According to RZA, when the Wu Tang Clan started out together, then separated to record their own solo joints, and established Wu-Wear, there was not much realization how groundbreaking these moves were at the time.

“Not then,” RZA recalls. “We didn’t realize it was a groundbreaking effort because it was just a strive. We’re always trying something new, we’re trying to improve, trying to add on. But that just seem to be the nature. So we gonna keep poppin’ it off. Cuban Link Part II, that’s what I’d like to do next. Method Man, maybe.”

If the karate movie-obsessed rappers tour Canada it will be without Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Ghostface Killah. “Ghost aint never comin’ back cause they f****d him up at the border. It’s a hassle, but Jamaica’s worse. I had locks on my bag and I lost the keys. They made me break my own locks. It’s tough, man.”

Experience comes with living but it’s rare that an MC will look to his peer for advice. “MCing is a very valiant type of attitude that a man has within,” says RZA, taking the time to spell ‘valiant’ so he won’t be misquoted as saying ‘violent’. “But it’s also bloody and egotistical like that, too. So when you see another MC, there don’t be that much talkin’ ’cause we all know all you do is just nod your head. When I see Mos Def and those niggaz, those niggaz does be like, ‘yo–sheeeeee.’ Ain’t nothin’ to say. What they gonna’ say that I don’t know? They know I know it, ’cause there’s much respect. Just love. Ain’t got nothin’ to say. Just shake your head that’s it. This type of understanding was also at work in the studio with Wu members.

“In the studio we were there for maybe four, five hours or whatever. We smoked mad blunt, but we didn’t say not one word. Smoke weed and nod our head. It was all good. They knew what I meant and I knew what they meant.”

An unspoken thing?

“It’s a very Samurai type of mentality that the great ones got.”


Cover photo courtesy of: FACT Magazine