Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The RZA's Interview | NY Times Magazine

I think that's the American dream: to be at peace at home. (the RZA)

The RZA: ‘A Servant Sometimes Needs to Be Served’

The rapper and actor talks with Jon Caramanica about wrangling the Wu-Tang Clan and a cure for recurring nightmares.

The new Wu-Tang Clan record, “A Better Tomorrow,” is the first time all of the group’s members have been together on an album in years. It sounds very grown-up. I gotta take the blame for that. I always felt it was our duty to express hip-hop from a grown man’s perspective. The brothers give me what I ask for. Sometimes they don’t agree.

But they understand that part of being in the Clan is following your vision? Yeah, give RZA a shot. Now when they finish and they don’t like the vision, they’re gonna voice that, too. It’s like, Yeah, I was in that movie, but I don’t like it.

What percent of your work is psychological? I imagine that for every hour you’re in the studio, you probably put in three more on the phone wrangling the group. Today we had a conference call. Inspectah Deck was like: “You’re telling us what to write about, you’re telling us how to rhyme. I got nothing but respect, but I’m a grown man.” I said: “You’re right. But you can’t just plant the seed and expect it to grow; you gotta nourish it. If you don’t nourish it, it may grow, but it’d be a weak crop. If you do plant, nourish it and it grows, and you don’t harvest it, the crows eat it.”

Not all the members and affiliates have had lucrative solo careers. A while back, Cappadonna was driving a cab for a living. I assume that’s gotta pull on the heartstrings. Yeah, pull on my heartstrings. But Cappa, one minute he’s driving a cab, next minute he’s driving a Benz. He’s going to figure it out because he is not a normal guy. He has talent.

You’re paying for a lot of this record out of pocket, right? Studio time, musicians, everything? Everything. And I won’t recoup. I’m already overbudget. Maybe I’ll net out a half-million-dollar loss.

Some people with half a million dollars, they buy themselves two fancy cars, or maybe a house. What did you buy yourself for half a million dollars? I invested in the album. Look, if I never did anything again in music, it wouldn’t affect my life materially. I live a very satisfying life. Not because I’ve made a few dollars, but because I have a wife who loves me and children who wait for me to come home. And that is beautiful. I think that’s the American dream: to be at peace at home.

You’re 45. Are you a better parent now than you were in your 20s? I think I’m better. Parenting is something that I got early, because when you grow up without a father being there and you see a single mother struggle to feed the kids, you do not want to put your own blood through that.

What has it been like for you cultivating interests away from music, like acting? I got a chance to act in a film, “Derailed.” I was having a recurring nightmare, and after doing that film, the nightmares stopped. That character gets killed in that film. And the fear of the way he died, getting shot, left me.

The recurring nightmare that you were having was that you would be shot? Exactly, and it happens in the film. That helped a lot, psychologically.

You’re also not in charge on the film set. All I do is get up in the morning, I don’t even gotta really wash my face because they’re going to do that in the makeup chair. You just go downstairs, and the car guy, he’s waiting. So that life gave me something different to think about. A servant sometimes need to be served.

Wu-Tang has another album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” that no one has heard. The plan is to sell the only copy to one person for $5 million. How did you come to that figure? When we made the announcement, emails came in. People just started — “Yo, I want it.” My boy from London, 1.2. The biggest offer that came in was, “Yo, five million.” Whoever pays five million for this, I don’t know what they’re going to do with it. There’s potential to make much more, but I don’t think it’s a commercial thing.

You don’t? No, I think this is an art thing. You don’t buy the “Mona Lisa” to sell it.

Jon Caramanica | New York Times Magazine

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