By Vish KhannaNow based in New Jersey, Wu-Tang Clan figurehead GZA/Genius put Staten Island, NY on the map, changing hip-hop forever. Revered as the Clanís strongest lyricist/MC, GZA emerged in 1990 with Words from the Genius through a sour deal with Cold Chilliní Records. After the Wuís 1993 debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) exploded, a renewed GZA recorded Liquid Swords, setting such a benchmark for underground rap, the Genius still thrills fans by performing the entire record live.
"It was just perfect timing,Ē GZA explains. "It was the beginning for us, the whole new Wu era. I was coming off the Cold Chilliní thing, which was a disappointment, so I was striking back hard but, at the same time, I was having fun, doing what I love to do. And the Clan ó everyone was fresh and came through to help; it worked out well.Ē
On new record Pro Tools, GZA remains on point, connecting multi-layered lyrics with swinging beats, even chopping down 50 Cent on "Paper Plate.Ē Clan infighting reports notwithstanding, GZA says recent Wu tours are encouraging. "As far as doing another album, I donít know, I canít really say. Certain things still need to be ironed out. Itís not a big fire any more but thereís still smoke in the air.Ē
Before we begin, please state your name, your hometown, your current HQ, and any of your upcoming activities, especially Canadian tour dates and new releases. This is the GZA, born in Brooklyn, New York. New York is the hometown I represent. I got an album out called Pro Tools and Iím working on a couple of graphic novels and scripts right now. And Iíll be on the road again soon. I just came off a Liquid Swords tour. I be doing a Liquid Swords tour in Europe and Iíll be in Canada for one show and then Iíll be back there, probably next year, for a tour.
What are you up to? Iím just writing man. Iím working on a few more albums. I mean really, really great work; something youíll really appreciate. Iím stepping it up a notch lyrically, as far as subject matter and what I choose to speak about. Iím healing right now, Iím healing the people.
What are your current fixations? I like science and mathematics. When I say mathematics, I donít mean algebra or math in that sense, but the mathematics of things. I love nature and I love information. Every now and then I like to look in the dictionary, and yíknow, just A to Z. Itís just basic knowledge, to sum it all up.
Why do you live where you do? I live in Jersey but Iím from New York. Jerseyís a cool place, where Iím staying now, and I like it there. Thereís a lot around and itís very convenient and everythingís within armís reach, so itís cool.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art: Chess! Itís like an unsolved Rubikís Cube and you only got one side.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why? I would say some of the Liquid Swords shows, especially some of the first few that I did in London. It was about a year ago, last December. It wasnít the first, it was about the third. Actually I would say several Liquid Swords shows, only because the crowds now, theyíre extremely young. Itís surprising and itís a blessing. Itís an honour also to be blessed with the young like that, considering that hip-hop is an art form where you donít really have fans like that. Especially for an artist that put an album out 13 years ago, and then to perform those songs and have 14 year-olds singing words from that album.
What have been your career highs and lows? I would say the career high was the peak of Wu-Tang and just the new start, the spark, the birth of a new sun. And also the rebirth of my career coming off the Cold Chilliní situation; we had many different highs and that was one or two of few. And I would say the lows were just the heartaches, the setbacks, and the financial situations at times. The death of O.D.B., the death of any family member. The death of rappers themselves; those were all low points, regardless of who it was. On the Grandmasters album, I said "This language is so captivating/When we lose a rapper, the news is devastating.Ē So, those were some of the lows.
Whatís the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig? Iíve never even heard anything that I consider to be mean, or I canít think of it right now.
What should everyone shut up about? Thatís a tough one right there. What should everyone shut up about? Hmmm. Religion, because everyone thinks their religion is the shit. I mean, respect all.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself? I like the patience that I have. I once said on the "Crash Your CrewĒ song, "I seen a million try to set a flow/thousands at shows/observed with the patience of watching a flower grow.Ē So, I have a lot of patience when it comes to writing. I mean every rhyme that I write, I usually draft five or six or seven times. What I dislike at times is that Iím just so laidback-slash-lazy when it comes to work (laughs). I work under pressure. I mean, I recorded Pro Tools in three days. I had many deadlines but that was like the final straw when I knew they were spending money on ads and I didnít want that money to go out the door. They threw a date at me and I had to deliver.