Interview: The RZA Talks Headphones, Hollywood, and Working On “Watch The Throne”

Interview: The RZA Talks Headphones, Hollywood, and Working On “Watch The Throne”

Switching gears, we recently interviewed Method Man. We talked about Cuban Linx he mentioned that, at that time, you started working with True Master who influenced those records. And his album and ODB’s first album didn’t have True Master—

No, no, no. True Master worked with Meth on his second album. True Master came in on Tical 2000Judgement Day. He did “Fish” on Ironman and that was his first production. Then he did a lot on Judgement Day. What was Johnny saying though?

He was saying that one of the reasons there was a big growth for you as a producer—you went from the lo-fi sound of 36 Chambers to the cinematic sound of Cuban Linx—was because you were working with True Master.

Nah. I think that's a miscalculation for him because True Master’s actually my student. What happened to me was I just got challenged by musicians. Some musicians were saying I wasn’t a musician and that I’m fucking up music because I’m sampling and using drum machines and all that shit. So I challenged myself. I went and picked up some music theory books and started going through that, and that was in ‘96-’97. Judgement Daycame out when?

After Wu-Tang Forever. It was '98.

 

I signed Mathematics and True Master to my production company and I assigned them [people to work with]. I told True Master to work with Meth and Math to keep up with that grimey stuff and I’m going to move on. I don’t know if Meth knew this, because it was more of a business thing. It wasn’t like, a discussion. [Laughs.]

 

Exactly. So by then, True Master was still using the same EPS-16 Plus that I used for the first album. I gave it to him, okay? And Mathematics, I gave him a whole stack of records that I used and the idea was for them to facilitate the classic Wu sound as I head to a higher level. That was a physical plan.

I signed Mathematics and True Master to my production company and I assigned them [people to work with]. I told True Master to work with Meth and Math to keep up with that grimey stuff and I’m going to move on. I don’t know if Meth knew this, because it was more of a business thing. It wasn’t like, a discussion. [Laughs.]

That’s when I did Bobby Digital and went electronic. I went to what I call “digital orchestra.” That’s when I started learning music. Then that led to Ghost Dog, which led to Kill Bill, and I’m here now. So it was a long path.

But True Master...Nah. I mean, True Master’s always been a good producer. I’ve known him for years. We always used to swap samples and stuff like that, but if you talk to True Master, I’m the Abbot. I’m the one who schooled him and shit.

Another thing he said was that on ODB’s first album, a lot of the records were actually written by you and by The GZA.

Lyrically, yeah. Well, we were a crew. That was the first crew. So a lot of the old rhymes and the old stuff that we had, Dirty just loved saying it. He loved rapping that. I mean, he wrote a lot of his own stuff. Don’t get it twisted. He wrote “Brooklyn Zoo,” every word of that for himself. “Hippa To Da Hoppa,” he wrote that.

 

ODB would go right to my rhyme book and take a rhyme right out the book. But I had stacks of lyrics, books of it. But I would just say that he was like a singer though. Singers don’t write, they sing. They perform. Dirty was a performer.

 

GZA wrote [some of his rhymes]. I would say maybe 50%. Some songs were definitely written by us, but ODB wrote a lot of his own stuff. At the same time, Dirty always would get rhymes from me.

I mean, he would go right to my rhyme book and take a rhyme right out the book. But I had stacks of lyrics, books of it. But I would just say that he was like a singer though. Singers don’t write, they sing. They perform. Dirty was a performer.

You recently worked on Watch The Throne on the record “New Day.” How did you get involved with that album?

Well, it really started from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. I spent some time with Kanye. I took a lot of tracks down to him. He got a lot of tracks. What I’ve been doing is this: I’ve been cleaning out my machines. Meaning, I’ve got so many beats that it will never all be heard. Simple as that. I know that. I have to accept that.

But more should be heard. [Laughs.] So Nas came to my crib and just took 10 [beats]. I don’t know what he’s going to do with it. Busta took 10 [beats]. I don’t know what he’s going to do with it. ‘Ye, I probably left him with 20. I don’t know what he’s going to do with them.

So is the “New Day” beat from back in the day?

No. It’s not from back in the day like that. It’s from Dark Fantasy times. When I went down there I was like, “Yo, here goes a stack of joints.” “New Day,” he called me when I was in China on that one. I might have sent that one from China.

Bottom line, I’ve got 10 beat machines full of beats. Talib Kweli just took a few too. It’s just time for them to air out. They were all saved for Wu-Tang. [Laughs.] But they’re doing all other kinds of shit.

 

I’ve been cleaning out my machines. I’ve got so many beats that it will never all be heard. But more should be heard. [Laughs.] So Nas came to my crib and just took 10 [beats]. Busta Ryhmes took 10 [beats]. Kanye, I probably left him with 20. I don’t know what they're going to do with them.

 

I never produce for other people like that. My shit was for my brothers. But now it’s like, “Yo, the world can have it. I’m making movies now. Y’all can have the music.”

I’ll just say this last thing, I’ve got a buddy named John Frusciante [who is the lead guitarist of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers], and he said something to me that changed my whole perspective. He said, “RZA, I don’t do music for money. I do music for music. And my music belongs to the world.”

It’s like, it’s so personal. I was doing it for fun at first, when I was young. Then I started doing it for money. I started getting paid for it. Then if you don’t pay me, you don’t get the beat. Yet, I’m still making them. If nobody’s buying them, now what’s happening? They’re accumulating and shit.

He freed my mind to be like, “Yo, it’s music, man. It belongs to the world, whether I get paid for it or not.” Of course, I prefer to get paid for it, because my equipment is expensive, and I’ve got bills and shit, but since he opened my mind that helped me give away all these beats. I didn’t ask nobody for nothing. I’ve got a manager that’ll probably go back and charge these brothers and shit, but as far as I’m concerned? Help yourself.

Your famous for your five year plan of starting Wu-Tang and getting a #1 album in five years. What’s in the next five years for The RZA?

Well, I didn’t tell people this plan about directing. I just did it and completed it. So the thing is, complete the plan first. If you talk it out it becomes air. Keep that in your mind, as a young man, grow above it.

Don’t throw it in the universe as air because somebody else will breathe it in. You’ll be watching your shit somewhere else. I’ve seen that happen to myself as well with Seratto [and the Wu-Replicator].

[My original plan] worked. It’s working right now, again. I left the East Coast to come here to be a movie director. It took five years, but I worked on it. As a man you’ll realize because you’ve probably done the same thing in your life, you had a goal, and you reached it.

They say a wise man sees that. He sees ahead of himself, and then he walks the path to get there. The earth already knows where it’s going, buddy. [Laughs.] You’ve just got to ride it until we get there.

Tags: rza, the-rza, wu-tang-clan, interviews, dr-dre, beats-by-dre, kanye-west, watch-the-throne, raekwon, ghostface-killah, nas
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