RZA The Exclaim! Questionnaire

RZA The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Photo: Chris Oliver
What are you up to?
Right now I’m recording a Bobby Digital album, but also — the most important thing this year — Wu-Tang Clan. We got [Raekwon's] Cuban Linx 2 in the bag, we just have to wait for them to take the gag off. That shit right there is fire. It's what I was working on the whole last year, so my part for that is done now so I get to move on and do other things. If things go the way they should go, I think it should go like this: Wu-Tang in June and Raekwon in September, and it's a fuckin' great year for hip-hop. Afro Samurai is out right now, and that's something like a fusion I would say. You've got Japanese animation combining with hip-hop. That's something like a collector's item, know what I mean? I made the soundtrack in a way that it's also like a collector's item because here you've got Big Daddy Kane. When was the last time you heard a Big Daddy Kane verse? How about a new verse from Q-Tip? How about Big Daddy Kane with the GZA? So this is a soundtrack I made for the animation — five series on Spike TV. A lot of kids are goin' crazy for it and there was a big cult following ahead of time. It went to Comic Con and there were 3,000 kids, like it was a damn concert, for the trailer.

What are your current fixations?
I'm studying to be a chess master. I played chess all my life but I never studied it. So far I have a year of studying — they say it takes about five years to become a master. I've been studying guitar, and I have a year in on that. I'm being taught by Shavo of System of a Down. So in my leisure time I like to study and play chess and play on my guitar, which sounds kind of fucking funny and shit, I know. I'm still also into studying martial arts philosophy though. I watch kung-fu films every night — that's my fix, yo. Ten Tigers from Kuangtung, digitally remastered, you know what I mean? I got a 100-inch screen in my crib — it sure feels good watching that shit.

Why do you live where you do?
I live in L.A. because I wanted to change my polarity. I've been a New Yorker all my life and I think it moulded me to where everything in my life was aggressive — everything was tense. When I moved to Cali two years ago, I had a chance to chill for a second. Even though I was working out there and doing the scores. It still takes me eight hours a day and nine months to finish a project, but it's a different kind of burden on me, you know? I can't even describe it, I just think it's the polarity. And when you wake up in the morning, 90 percent of the time they'll be some sunlight out that muthafucka.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Music. There's days when I'm playin' that guitar for two hours, man. Three hours if no one fuckin' bothers me. Or I might sit at my piano for two hours. I get lost in that world to a point where I felt like it was wrong. That's a lot of time for a man to be sitting doing some shit that's just a bunch of notes. The world needs me! Sometimes I feel like I need to be out there helping the world and teaching, but these last two years I've just had time to be with myself. That might be a little selfish or whatever, but I think I needed that, yo. Gets me ready for this next war we got to fight.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Even though I could go through a whole list of them, but the first thing that popped into my head was Wu-Tang at San Bernadino with ODB (July 17, 2004). It actually ended up being the final performance he did with us. Nobody knew it was going to be that. I'm never going to forget that night — in a positive and negative way. The whole crew on stage, yo, with kids that have never seen that before. I'm so glad there's a DVD. I've watched it many times and I've got a box that I keep to myself and give it to good friends only.

What have been your career highs and lows?
Wu-Tang Forever. That was a career high. The year that album came out and the vibe that I was feeling? Personally I was fucked up with domestic problems, but on a business and celebrity side? I was the fuckin' man! I felt it, you know what I mean? Also the Hip-Hop Honours last year — I never smiled so much in my life! Most of those [honoured] were around for 20 and I had about 12, 13 years on them! I kind of got honoured as a young man, yo. That means I did that amount of work in that time, so that's a blessing too. The low point was actually the same year when we decided to chill on the Rage Against the Machine tour. I didn't understand what the crew wanted that we didn't have and we were getting. So that kind of confused me and pushed me to the Bobby Digital world and I started being crazier, and you can sort of follow my path from there. But I had a second wind on Kill Bill, you know what I mean? I had a chance to express a whole new talent with a whole new chamber of good people and good friends, and actually have a whole new career start.

What’s the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
The meanest thing happened during a show, on stage. U-God said, "Yo, get the fuck out of here if you're doin' that bullshit.” Let me tell you why he said it: he has an illusion that no matter what it is, I got something to do with it. It was one of those shows where we were running overtime and someone had to get cut. Now I don't know what's going on — I actually missed the first two days of the tour so this is my first day. So I don't even know the plan or nothing, I'm just jumping in and shit. So then the DJ starts to play his song — that he usually does I guess. And U-God thought I went up and told the DJ not to play his song. I don't know where he got that from, but in the middle of the show sometimes we give each other this look to make the energy go up or vibe in, and he was like, "Get the fuck outta' here. You're on some fuckin' bullshit." I almost wanted to fight and shit, nah mean? But then I was like, "This nigga's crazy." (laughs) Then after the show I found out why he said it and I was like, "Your imagination is crazy sometimes, son. Why the fuck do I give a fuck what you do?" I'm the Abbott, so being the Abbott makes you responsible for everything even if you're responsible for it or not. It was one of meanest things said to me because I only get love and respect at shows, even if that sounds corny.

What should everyone shut up about?
That's a good one, yo. Insignificant things of the past. If it's the good things then you should never shut up because it's your culture and thread, but the shit that don't mean nothing? Shut the fuck up about that shit. All the problems? I don't want to hear that. What's a nigga doing today, you know?

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
The trait I most like about myself? That's a little vain, ain't it? I got the biggest... Nah, I'm just joking. I like my realism. I keep it real and I know for a fact that righteousness is the way. I don't like to do negative things. Even though I'm forced to do them, I'm never content. If I have to go break a nigga's jaw? I'm not happy I had to do that. I don't feel pleasure in negativity.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
It came from my mother. She said, "Have children with only one woman." And I did not listen to her and now I have children with about four women — that I know of. It's not an easy job. Forget the money and all the support shit that goes with it, but it's about the child that's not going to get that time. I was a child with no time from his father and now I've produced children like that and I don't feel happy about it.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
As far as kicking someone out the band, anyone with a sneak mentality's gotta go. If it gets to the point where I've got to kick someone out, I might leave first. With Wu-Tang you kick your own self out. Nigga's ain't going to do it for you, you've got to step off it yourself 'cause of your own ways and actions, know what I mean? As far as out my bed, I don't like to share my women. If you with me then you're with me — I don't care if I got ten of y'all. As long as they're with me then they're my women. If she wants to be with someone else then she's a ho. If you want to be a ho and have your sexual freedom then be a ho, but you can't be with me. I divorced my first wife and I don't believe in divorce, but she didn't realise she was representing me. I'd rather her be that nigga's bitch or somebody else's bitch than being my bitch and acting stupid. You can still fuck me and suck my dick and all that stupid shit, but you're not going to be a part of my cypher, know what I mean? I don't know if that's chauvinistic or a double standard, but that's just how I am.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I've not been there since Blade: Trinity a couple of years ago, but I like Canada. Especially the warm part, know what I mean? But even in the cold part. I think about it like America's cousin. I don't really understand the border we've got when our cultures are so close.

What is your vital daily ritual?
I give praises daily, but I don't have a robotic type of life. I have a very rotable life. I strive to study every day, but I don't study the same thing every day. Yesterday I was studying Buddism and the day before that I was studying Hinduism. A lesson a day, keep the devil away.

What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?
When they first started talking about it I didn't really care, but I didn't know it was going to have such a major effect on the entire industry to a point where million dollar deals are now worth $300,000. That's kind of deep in a sense because the price of everything went up, like to live in New York used to cost $2,000 now costs $4,000. But you're not making that million dollars, you're now making half-a-million. The companies are losing so much money that the artists are losing so much money. So at first [piracy] wasn't a problem — I was actually one of the people saying, "Yo, let them download it, man! Music is made to be heard!" And I agree, music is made to be heard but at the same time it does cost money to make this shit. Studio's are $2,000 a fuckin' day sometimes. And I try to get a hook up and they won't give me one. They cost a lot of money for me to make music, so when someone just downloads it for free without giving any kind of compensation back to my cause it does create a problem. It's a touchy situation because I was kind of advocating downloads but I didn't know it was going to cripple the business, yo.

What was your most memorable day job?
I'll give you two of my most memorable day jobs. And they're not memorable because I liked them. I had a job putting screws in a box. I had to stand up on my feet for eight hours a day and I had to count out fifty screws, weigh them and put them in a box. And that was my job — a gorilla's job. A man with my scientific abilities and that was my job. I got paid 150 bucks a week to put screws in a box. And my second job was being a messenger in Manhattan. That was a job that paid me 90 dollars a week, but it was the job that helped my creativity because I loved to walk and think while delivering packages. It was a sucka job but for me as walker and a thinker? Actually, it wasn't that bad of a job. I just didn't make no money.

How do you spoil yourself?
I spoil myself with equipment. I start off every project by getting some new equipment. The only thing now is that I sometimes get it for free and shit, which is cool. So when I finished Afro Samurai I was going to buy a new piece of equipment, but Roland just gave me an 8800! I was making a beat with it just before you called. I don't celebrate Christmas or nothing like that, but around that time of the year I like to get some new equipment. I've got 35 keyboards.

If I wasn’t playing music I would be:
By now? I'd probably be a doctor or scientist. Whether being recognised with a degree or a mad scientist. So if I wasn't making music or a director — because I'm starting to make films as well — I would be a doctor of medicine and science. Those are my loves.

What do you fear most?
The first thing that came to my head was God, but I love God so that's a strange line there. So if you're not supposed to fear what you love, then I have no fear. I'm a father and I don't like nothing wrong done to children. I don't want to see them fucked up, poor, starving, beat, whipped, raped — none of that shit. But I don't fear that, I despise that. (Bidwhist Incorporated)