Syl Johnson on the House That Wu Built

Syl Johnson on the House That Wu Built
While Chicago, IL-based soul singer Syl Johnson's recently released six-LP set Complete Mythology is getting R&B fans familiar with a mammoth portion of the under-the-radar performer's long career, contemporary music fans have most likely heard some of his work before. Johnson certainly had the pipes to compete with Hi Records labelmate Al Green back in the '70s, and the dude was primed to be a mega-star, like James Brown before him.

But for some reason, Johnson just never caught on. That is, until the hip-hop community started crate-digging for his old singles. From the Wu-Tang Clan to Will Smith and 2Pac, Johnson's soul grooves have been sampled on a number of rap cuts. And while he may not be the most well-known soul singer, Johnson feels lucky that hip-hoppers have supported him all these years.

"I'm sitting in the house now that was built with the Wu-Tang money," he said recently in an interview with the Village Voice.

While the report explains that Johnson is by no means a millionaire, the sampling of his song "Different Strokes" on the Wu-Tang's "Shame on a Nigga," among others, has paid off handsomely.

"I'm not a star or nothing like that, and I'm not bragging that I'm so rich, 'cause I'm not Bill Gates, but I'll never have to worry about money again because of the rappers," he said. "Kid Rock -- he was beautiful. The Geto Boys, Mr. Scarface, D.O.C. -- those people pay really well. And I can't forget the Wu-Tang Clan."

The soulful crooner seems especially fond of Wu producer RZA, who has sampled the artist more than a few times.

"I've met RZA, Raekwon and Ghostface. They were cool, man, but it was a lot of cursing! When I first met RZA, everything he said out his mouth was 'motherfucker!'" Johnson laughs. "I got several gold and platinum stuff from the Wu-Tang. They paid up for 'Different Strokes,' and then said they wanted to do seven more songs. Paid me for seven more of mine, but I think they did more than seven! But they paid me good, so I ain't going to fight with them. They was really good."

Complete Mythology is available now from the Numero Group.