Friday, December 21, 2007

Sales Figures Are In

Unfortunately, the Clan only managed to sell just under 69k in their first week, which landed them at the #25 spot. Of course, the days of huge album sales are over for pretty much everybody, but the telling number is that low rank: in the past, when a Wu album dropped, it was going to land at the top of the chart, no questions asked. The somewhat disappointing numbers can be attached to several things, from all the public infighting perpetrated by Rae & Ghost that I think turned a lot of people off--either from listening in the first place or otherwise giving the record a fair enough shot when it landed from out of left field. Also, where is the video? Supposedly a dual vid for The Heart Gently Weeps & Take it Back was about to be filmed several weeks ago--but then again it seems so unlikely that the RZA could manage to get Rae, Ghost, & everyone else involved to show up for a video shoot in the first place, who knows if it even happened. But recently Inspectah Deck's comments seem to show that the Clan is swaying away from the RZA & that the (RZAless) Shaolin vs Wu-Tang project might actually materialize after all [even though both Inspectah Deck & the GZA have very recently discussed plans for fully-RZA-produced solo projects]. Add to this growing list the fact that the Wu tour just kicked off in Chicago a few days back with everyone in attendance except for the Abbot, & that according to people at those first shows, not a single 8 Diagrams track was performed.

Originally I had thought the first week's sales figures might make a natural stopping point for this blog project, but obviously there is still more & more relevant information to chronicle even after the release of the 8 Diagrams.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More VV: Your Favorite 8D Moments

The Village Voice keeps up it's fairly heavy coverage of 8 Diagrams with a feature about writer Tom Breihan's favorite 10 moments on 8D. It is an interesting format for discussion as Breihan points out in his intro: the format provides "a good excuse to write about [8 Diagrams] without bringing up Rae and Ghost's increasingly dumb jihad against it." His taste is his taste--no need to call anyone wrong here, especially someone who clearly enjoys the album--but it is funny to note some of the things he doesn't like--such as the Heart Sutra rendition at the end of Life Changes or more notably either of George Clinton's performances. Replace Clinton with ODB saying the same shit in the same way & these bits would be universally applauded. But the list is mostly spot on, from the very first item--I can't help but sing that part at the top of my lungs whenever I play Stick Me for My Riches.

1. "Stick Me for My Riches," 0:54-1:00. So the catchiest, most accessible song on Wu-Tang's big comeback record is a six-minute hood-is-dying epic with a guest vocal from the 65-year-old former lead singer of the Manhattans and no actual rapping for the first minute and a half. It's an inspired choice. Gerald Alston has the kind of grainy, raspy grown-man David Ruffin voice that's just completely extinct from R&B these days, and he just kills it over that haunted RZA beat; the whole thing reminds me of the Horace Andy tracks from Massive Attack's Blue Lines. This is the part where the key changes and the horns come in and Alston just starts frothing: "Now with success, I've become a target / They wanna set me up / I guess more money equals more problems," and I can't listen to it while I'm walking down the street without punching the air and screaming along, which makes me look like a crazy homeless man.

2. "The Heart Gently Weeps," 1:36-2:51. Ghostface's verse here is a totally richly textured and beautifully observed narrative, and I like it better than any of the story-songs on Big Doe Rehab. In his 8 Diagrams post, Brandon Soderberg has a great line about how Ghost's verse here is "next to the hood." The guy who tries to kill Ghost in Pathmark is mad because Ghost "murdered his uncle Tim / I sold him a bag of dope, his wife came and copped again." So Ghost is there in the moment, but he also recognizes that he basically killed this kid's family just by selling them drugs, which lends a whole new level of moral complication to the story. It's a dark moment, but then Ghost busts out this ridiculous cartoon falsetto ("You better kill me! / You know you booty!"), and it's just fucking hysterical and overblown. Ghost's story about fighting the kid in the grocery store has all the telling little details that only Ghost seems to be able to conjure these days: "In the aisle busting them paper towels and wiping my Wallies down," "shots was whizzing, hitting Clorex bottles." Ghost delivers the whole thing in this great urgent breathless voice, and he even gives it a satisfying ending. Nobody tells stories like Ghost, and when the music industry completely dies, I'll be buying his novels.

3. "Wolves," 0:21-0:57. When that godawful George Clinton hook dissolves, and RZA's mariachi whistles and humming Ennio Morricone choral moans come in, U-God jumps on the track and just murders it. U-God has always been a really stealthy rapper, the type where you might not realize how good he is on certain songs until years later. But on a track as weird and esoteric as this one, he brings it down to earth with this great authoritative baritone verse, not really talking about anything in particular but sounding absolutely badass and concrete: "I do the honor, the Shaolin bomber / Sharkskin armor, I bring the drama." U-God's always been a role player in the group, but here he's just insanely spry and on-beat. Out of everyone else in the group, U-God probably has the most to prove on 8 Diagrams, and he steps up and goes in hard every time anyone lets him near a mic.

4. "Life Changes," 2:02--2:13. "Life Changes," the ODB tribute, hasn't grown on me the way so many of the other songs on this album have; it's too long and chaotic to really come off as a moving tribute to the one guy who didn't make it. But GZA has a couple of utterly heartbreaking lines where he talks about recording the song in the same studio before he died: "I cried like a baby on the way to hate place of death / Hate not being there the minutes before he left / Now I'm in the booth, ten feet from where he lay dead / I think about him on this song and what he might've said." GZA sounds haunted and broken, like he's not sure if he [should] really say what he's thinking and like he might cry if he keeps talking.

5. "Campfire," 0:58-1:21. After the kung-fu sample, the album really begins with a decaying zombie-movie synth-tone with ghostly druidic backing vocals gurgling underneath and a ticking clock and a few floating ambient sound-effects. And then this titanic snare kicks in, bringing with it a mournful violin sample and Method Man, who sounds totally confident and reinvigorated, back on top of his game once again. The Meth verse that follows might include that near-unforgivable "sexy back" line, but without that it's a shockingly fierce performance from a guy who seemed lost to that untenable middle ground between rap and Hollywood. This opening works so well because it's so sneaky and minor-key, RZA signaling that we're back in bent expressionistic goth-rap territory, that this album isn't going to be Wu-Tang's effort to catch up with rap; it's going to be the album that forces rap to catch back up with Wu-Tang.

6. "Weak Spot," 1:48-1:58. In the middle of Raekwon's verse, this disgusting fuzzed-out distorto-bass suddenly appears, sounding like something RZA pulled from a mid-90s Unsane record. It just thuds away for a couple of bars, and then it disappears. We never hear it again. 8 Diagrams is full of perverse and effective musical left-turns like this; I don't ever quite feel settled when I'm listening to it.

7. "Gun Will Go," 2:28-3:02. Another left-turn: as GZA's verse begins, the song's great little eerie circular guitar-figure gives way to an old rattling Marley Marl-esque breakbeat, buried under layers of tape hiss, like the ghost of 80s rap floating through.

8. "Rushing Elephants," 1:47-1:49. RZA: "Strangle cold bottles of Beck's, like a vexed German." A vexed German? Means nothing, sounds awesome. I should also mention that "Weak Spot" has maybe the most on-beat RZA verse ever. Weird how the guy who makes all the beats is also the most likely to ignore them when he's rapping.

9. "Take It Back," 2:45-2:48. Ghost: "We like rebel niggas powdered-up wildin' in the streets of Liberia." Why Liberia? Because it rhymes with "area" and "ain't tryna hear ya," and because it sounds like the hardest place on earth. Ghost is as good at coming up with incurably badass one-liners as he is at screaming frantic crime narratives.

10. "Stick Me for My Riches," 2:29-2:31. I feel bad not mentioning Meth's verse here, since it's probably his best in years. But the opening of Deck's verse is just so hard and iconic, and it's the one line from the album that probably gets stuck in my head more than any of the others: "In my city gritty blocks / Little love, plenty cops." Deck delivers most of his verse in those clipped shortened lines, and the level of alliteration and internal rhyme is just off the charts.

I wonder how Windmill doesn't get a single mention, given it is perhaps the best track on the LP. Also, I'm not sure about Breihan's take on Life Changes, as each performance is fairly interesting even if the song fails to really gel on the whole, perhaps due to RZA's strange verse--regardless, I'm a big fan of the song. GZA obviously is outstanding on the track, but so are Deck, U-God, & Raekwon, Meth's dope leadoff notwithstanding. Of course, there's Ghostface's absence to remember, but that is an old issue & what's done is done. Breihan also falls a little too much into music-writer mode when discussing Ghost on The Heart Gently Weeps, but perhaps this is just a case of how describing why someone is great obviously doesn't compare to the greatness itself. Everyone writes about Ghost these days, but when Ghost is hitting on all cylinders he really needs no commentary; he's complex, but speaks for himself. Then of course Breihan mistakes Masta Killa for GZA in his Gun Will Go entry (#7) but he's definitely not the first to do that, & I'm probably coming off a little too nitpicky, but discussion is discussion [Another small error: Stick Me for My Riches was primarily produced by Mathematics, with only co-production from the RZA].

Breihan obviously enjoys the album, as do I, if you do too drop your favorite moments in the comments section.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Anyone who has gone out to buy 8 Diagrams will have noticed that there are several versions of the record available for purchase. There are two covers available, one featuring the Clan somewhat badly photoshopped together (even though the cover does look better in person) while the other features a sortof 8 Diagrams comet-UFO heading for planet earth. It was my intention to get both, but at the Best Buy I went to they were sold out of the UFO. Best Buy is the retailer of choice in the States for this release, because they include Tar Pit as a bonus track, which means people shopping there get to hear George Clinton's madnesses officially. Other U.S. versions end with Life Changes & the Heart Sutra, whereas the U.K. & other international versions include both Tar Pit & 16th Chamber. RZA was quoted as saying that he left 16th Chamber off of the American release because he couldn't get the sound quality up to snuff, & thought Americans would turn their noses up, while Europeans could handle it. It frankly sounds like some shit but who knows. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the performances ended up on other albums as the years went by, Meth's on Tical (Release Yo Delf) & Dirty's two verses on various things put out by Electra, who perhaps still owns the publishing rights? Who knows, this is just speculation on my part.

8 Diagrams also gets the deluxe treatment as pictured above, which features an extra DVD along with a limited edition Wu-Wear shirt all housed in a metal box. It won't be available until next year though, in late January, on the 28th, & I believe it's Euro only.

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The continuously excellent Wu-Tang Mountain blog has just put up mp3s of Tar Pit & 16th Chamber for those of us who don't have them on our copies.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Words from INS

The Inspectah Deck has a new, lengthy interview now available from HipHopGame. It is an interesting interview because he basically sides with Raekwon & Ghostface in not really appreciating 8 Diagrams. He goes on to talk about the upcoming Shaolin vs Wu-Tang project, mentioning producers such as Havoc, Q-tip, & Alchemist. About his performance on 8 Diagrams, he admitted he was hit-or-miss due to the fact that he didn't fully enjoy the production RZA was throwing out there. There is quite a difference though between Deck's politeness, consideration & calculation & Ghost's flippancy. The Heart Gently Weeps is a look in the wrong direction, says INS, who fears that the original Wu-Tang fans aren't going to ride with this one. Of course it is my take that they will, realizing that this album requires the same original leap of faith that all of the good Clan albums did--36 Chambers, Forever, The W--all of this while I definitely agree that The Heart Gently Weeps is somewhat out of place on the album & probably belongs on a soundtrack somewhere. Also, INS goes so far as to point out that the Ghostface album came out the way 8 Diagrams should have, & that Ghost will be rewarded with sales. At this point Ghost sold about 35K in week one while it looks like the Wu will easily double that if not break the 100k barrier. & who knows how far the album might've gone if it weren't for this massive, stupid public beef? The Inspectah is true to his namesake, calculating, decisive, insightful. I guess there's still more fallout to come from the 8 Diagrams.

8 Diagrams is finally out. How do you feel about that?

We should have released five albums by now, but you know, it’s all good to still be loved and appreciated and anticipated like that. That’s the best feeling about this whole thing for me right now.

Five years is a long time to go without releasing an album. Was there too much of a layover between Iron Flag and 8 Diagrams?

For me and in my opinion, I would say yeah. But you know, I’m not the one who runs things. I just played my part as an MC on this one.

Did playing your part as an MC include giving RZA your creative input and making suggestions?

I played my part as an MC. This was a vision that RZA had, like 36 Chambers was a vision that he had. We had the faith in him to basically do what he does to the extent of how he does it. Pretty much, that’s what he did. My input wasn’t asked of me. Creatively, that’s really, like, out the window on this album. This was like you had Beethoven and niggas who played guitars and shit. There’s only room for one conductor, man.

It doesn’t seem as though every Clan member has that same faith in RZA that you have. Why do you think that is?

It’s not that everybody doesn’t have the faith. We know RZA away from music, so I know what he’s capable of on and off the field. It’s never a question of faith or anything like that. It’s just more a question of decision-making now that we’re grown. It’s about making the right decision and smart decisions because bad choices can kill you nowadays.

We’ve been a group that’s been under fire for a long time as well. We’re loved and hated. We’re loved for the same reasons we’re hated. So I look at this album, after a layoff of five years, as showing your faith. It’s like the dude you grew up with and moved away from you. You haven’t seen him in five years and when you first see him, it’s going to tell how he’s been living for the past five years. If his face is dirty, you’re going to be looking at him like, ‘What have you been doing all this time?’ I’m not saying we’re like that, but in this real glossy, glossy, glossy industry, it’s like we’re a piece of coal right now. And it’s good and bad. We’re the diamond in its rawest form but the people are misled and blinded by that shine. It just makes it hard, man.

Doing what we do, we have to overpower and redirect dudes’ mindstates, man, whether it’s the fans or the next generation or even just the music industry, which we helped shape to what it is now. It’s taking that motto and that mindset and bringing it back to where that is. There’s so much talent on the street and there’s so much good shit that you will never hear because of these big robots, these robotic dudes who are sucking up everything and making it hard for the independents. It hurts me a lot because there’s a lot riding on this. It’s bigger than us. It’s a hip-hop population that’s buying this album. We know. There’s a generation or population that’s rooting for us. It’s almost like being in a stadium at the Super Bowl and you have your home fans and the stadium is loud and everything. On the first play, you don’t want to throw an interception or turn the ball over because that’s how you lose. That’s how I’m looking at it and I could be wrong, but for this album, man, I think RZA in his creative genius, he took it to a level where he saw himself at. This is a vision that he had, unlike with 36 Chambers, where I saw that vision.

This album, I didn’t really see that vision because I’m still stuck on the core fans who got us to this point. I’m not really interested to cater to the new fans we met in Hollywood and all this, that and the third. If you wanna take it back and you wanna redirect the mindset, you have to do what you originally did because these fans are lost. This music and this generation is lost. If that’s the aim, then you gotta really come hard, man, because this generation’s teenagers are smarter than my generation’s teenagers. 16 year-olds today know what I knew at 22. We told them to stick together and that “clan” means “family”. We gave them guidelines all day with Supreme Clientele and The Purple Tape, Cuban Linx and everything that we’ve done, man.

So to really be at this level and the core is hyped about this album and it’s about a Beatles song. It’s not really about us. It’s about the Beatles. I don’t know, man. Maybe I ain’t seeing it, but it is what it is. I played my part as an MC. I really didn’t have any creative input. I didn’t have any direction to the album. I came in here as Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang Clan. But if you want to hear creative input and ideas from Deck, you have to catch the Resident Patient album or catch the Part 2 that I’m doing now that’s dropping after this. That’s how I have to get my shit off. I’m one of the most underrated dudes of all-time, if you ask me. Not because I didn’t sell a million records. I didn’t have proper promotion for a lot of my shit, so you know, it is what it is. But that’s my opinion on that album. It’s not my lyrical best because I had to deal with what was put in front of me. I wasn’t really inspired by a lot of the tracks. And I can say that because this is nothing that I haven’t said to RZA already.

You don’t think you killed “Unpredictable”?

Yeah, but that wasn’t how the beat originally sounded and a few other elements…I’m not here to bicker or punch holes in my product. I’m just telling you what’s real with me and I’m not biting my tongue and I’m not trying to front on y’all. I support Wu-Tang 100%. This album was not my greatest and I don’t think it’s our greatest because of the direction that we went. But on the other hand, that’s RZA. He had that vision and he had that vision with 36 Chambers and we’re here now because of that. So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this will be the album that the world was waiting for to come from the Clan and this will restore our history and restore our legacy and put it on top. Maybe that’s that album. I don’t think so.

Could 8 Diagrams be one of those albums that take awhile to sink in before fans see the greatness in it?

Maybe. It’s definitely going to take them some time to do whatever they’re going to do; if they’re going to get used to it or if they’re going to get familiar with it or if they’re going to hate on it, it’s all in a matter of time. For me, personally, and like I said, I’m only speaking for me, I’ve been born and raised on this Wu-Tang shit before Wu-Tang. In the womb, I was born with this shit. When it comes down to this, I know how to do that. I can’t give y’all my best if I’m not feeling a certain level. If you hear certain tracks and you wonder why Deck is not on this or why Deck isn’t on that, it’s not about that. Me, myself, I can’t perform and just act like I’m feeling this shit just to rhyme on it and just to get the job done and just to get the check. I could never do that. You might get the money but your name is on it and it’s unsatisfactory. Now my name would have to live with that mark on it.

You mentioned how your verse on “Unpredictable” was done over a different beat than the one that made 8 Diagrams. Is it hard as an MC to bring your best over a beat that you know isn’t good enough to go on the album?

It’s tough when you don’t know that’s going to happen. It’s tough when you write to something and you say the rhyme to something and then you come back and it’s something totally different. Yeah, that’s tough even though it’s happened in the past. Some of it has been successful, some of it hasn’t. But I’m not here to nitpick about this whole album. I’m just telling you my personal feelings. I didn’t like it. I like Ghost’s album better than the Wu-Tang album and I can say that because I’m fucking Wu-Tang. I’m keeping it real with the fans. When you see me on the street, I’m not concerned with being no rapper like that. I want to be bigger and more legendary than my solo career has allowed me to be and I know I can be. It takes the right positioning. If the Wu-Tang album has some sort of success, that would be a springboard for me to resurrect my solo career, man, which has been in the dungeons for a few years. I can’t capitalize off of that.

My babies can’t look forward to uncertainty, man, so I need to be sure. And I’m unsure. If you ask me, this is one of the first times that I’ve ever been questioning my own shit. But I’m only being aware of the times and looking at the times and the situation at where we’re at in hip-hop now .Are the people going to accept Wu-Tang trying to be as big or bigger than the Beatles or is Hollywood going to accept Wu-Tang or are we going to be looked at as rock stars? Those are not my dreams or goals so that is unimportant to me. I don’t worry about being looked at as a rock star. Listen, I did a song with Blondie and in two days, got a phone call and performed on The American Music Awards with her for “Who’s Gonna Cry” with me, U-God and Mobb Deep. I don’t have no problem doing that and I go wherever my music takes me.

But the album sounds slow, man. The album is slow. Everything is dragged out. There’s two head-nodding, Wu-Tang, side-splittin’, karate-choppin’ shit. For the die-hard fans that loved us from day one, I feel bad for them. That’s who I’m really speaking for. I’m not talking about the new fans we’re trying to make right now. Maybe fucking Tom Brady will show up to the concert because we did the Wu-Tang/Beatles shit. (laughs) I’m not concerned with that shit.

The backpack generation has been forgotten about. I’m concerned with getting them and the skateboarders, like the Lupe Fiasco’s of the world. Let’s give the young generation something to really , really hold onto, some knowledge, which it’s always gonna be. But the radio don’t play our shit. Is going this route going to guarantee that the radio will play our shit 60 times a day like the rest of that bullshit? Who knows, man? I don’t think so. I’m thinking after five years out the game, Wu-Tang needs to come back on a fucking tank like the A-Team. That’s how I’m thinking we have to come in the game and seize it from the rest of these clowns. We’re coming in kind of passive to me. We’re coming in like, ‘Hey, how are you doing? It’s okay with your bullshit. We’re just going to go over here and do our thing.’ You know what I mean? We have a responsibility to the hip-hop nation who are relying on us to change things once again like we did when we first came in. And it’s bigger than us, man. The responsibility lies on our shoulders and we’re the only ones who have been accepted to do it.

Will the hardcore Wu-Tang fans be unsatisfied with 8 Diagrams?

That’s my thoughts. That’s the thing I think about. Damn, the hardcore fans who got W tattoos on their neck or the GZA logo or the Deck logo or the Meth logo and whether they’re in France, Belgium, Puerto Rico or Chicago, or the ones with Wu-Tang Clan logos on their car or they kept their shirt from 1992 in crisp condition. Those dudes, and females too, what about them? They’re the ones that ain’t buying that bullshit. Now if we give them something worth buying, maybe some artists will go platinum again, like the Talib Kweli’s of the world and the Boot Camp’s of the world who should be going platinum because they’re doing hip-hop, not this fashion show, car show shit that everybody is turning to. But in all respect, man, hip-hop is growing at a rate that nobody’s going to stop. Its influence is here everyday in the commercials. You can sell Honey Nut Cheerios rhyming. Cadillac commercials have beats that could be on niggas’ albums. It’s real.

Will Smith was concerned in I, Robot that the robots were taking over. It’s going to get to the point where hardcore rappers are extinct because they don’t need hardcore rappers. They’re trying to ban all of that. They’re trying to ban the truth. They’re trying to ban all the reality and all the harshness. They’re trying to get everybody to fantasize about this life that isn’t there like Bentley’s and mansions and Rolex’s. But that ain’t there. Only one in a million gets that.

How do you feel when artists who make that kind of music cite Wu-Tang as one of their influences?

I give the real dudes love. I give the ‘90s generation, no matter where you was from, East, West, South, Midwest, West, it don’t matter because everybody was cracking at one time. I’m not hating on the rap generation. I’m talking about these clown overnight-sensation shit that dominates the radio and dominates the video and they’re selling ringtones all day. It’s like, ‘Yo, man, this shit is ridiculously done.’ It’s blaxploitation in a different way.

Soulja Boy is an example of someone who posted a song online, quickly got a record deal and an album in stores and is now a Grammy-nominated artist. Are you surprised at how quickly artists can obtain success today?

Come on, man. That’s what I’m talking about. And it ain’t knocking son’s hustle, because he might be a legitimate dude who came from where we came from and worked his way up. It’s not to knock his hustle, but it’s looking at the industry and the fans and we have to look at each other, like ‘How does this shit happen, yo?’ How does a nigga come out of nowhere and get it to pop off where a nigga can be putting in work for years and has been getting respect and has been getting love and is not wack, how does he not achieve those numbers within the years that he’s put in when compared to the overnight wonder?

It’s like, that’s the problem right there. The problem is the fans. It’s the motherfuckers walking in the stores and spending that $10, $20. It’s not the rapper no more. You can make whatever kind of music you want to make, man. It’s whatever out there, but it’s the consumer. Hip-hop is outselling country right now. It’s like, ‘Damn, man, hip-hop is powerful!’ That’s why everybody from the government to the churches are trying to get their hands on hip-hop. Everybody’s trying to get their hands on hip-hop.

I’m always going to have a job doing what I do, but they’re not interested in the Wu-Tang’s of the world because we’re the ones that have the true message and we’re the ones that are trying to wake the people up. We’ll party and dance with you but the moral of the story with us is to wake up your mind, man, and they don’t need revolutionary groups anymore. They don’t want you to be somebody that stands for something anymore. It’s like, ‘Fuck that, you’re wearing this because we paid for this wardrobe and we paid for this stylist and that’s it. You do whatever the fuck we tell you to. We’re spending this money on you.’ They’re recouping and they’re giving you advances to keep you blinded.

We’re in the middle of all that right now and we’re dropping an album in the midst of all of that. This is just the first floor of a 100-story building. We’re dropping in the midst of all this chaos and we’re still trying to maintain our integrity to the ones that got us there. This shit is real to me. I got kids. I have to feed my family off of this shit because I’m not getting a 9-5.

With the changing industry, how does Inspectah Deck and Wu-Tang move forward?

What I did with the Resident Patient that I have on Traffic Entertainment, I went straight to the internet and Part 2 will be available on the internet. That might be sent straight from my house. I might be licking the envelopes. That might be my job for a year. You can order that shit from me. That’s how that goes. I’ll put it up on MySpace and all those friend sites and do it like that. If you sell 50,000, you’re still making half a mill. I’ll go straight to the fans and eliminate the middle man, straight American Gangster style! (laughs) You know what I mean?

How’s Resident Patient Part 2 coming?

Resident Patient 2 is coming nice, man. I got outside production. I got different people coming in, not to mention that I’m doing production myself. It’s all ground-level entertainment. It’s Urban Icon Records. I’m doing what I’m doing. I have a few groups in the making right now, but they’re not ready. They’re in training, so in the future you’ll hear that. After Resident Patient 2, you’ll hear The Rebellion, which is still going to be my final album. It’s still going to be RZA-produced. It’s still going to have the Wu-Tang elements. What I’m dealing with is from my level of it. RZA will tell you all day, some brothers are more famous than others, but when it comes to the Clan as a whole, we’re all looked at as a whole. So I’m not just saying it for me and looking out for me, to the die-hard fans, I care about y’all and it makes me wonder, ‘Damn, are we taking care of them and are we taking care of the ones who we know are going to spend their $10 for the CD and once they buy it are they just going to put it on the shelf next to the other 12 that they got? Will they even listen to it?’ They might leave it in the wrapper and shit. I’m thinking about y’all. I’m thinking about this generation that’s coming up, who’s buying these young dudes. It’s like, ‘Yo, man, you’re not going to have nothing.’

Some of the songs that were made 10 years ago, it hits you now like how corny it is. If you pull out any Wu-Tang shit, it’s going to hit you in a different way. It doesn’t sound like nothing else. Just the awkwardness of it is going to hit your. I’m concerned with that. I could be paranoid. I smoke a lot. I might be paranoid. I might be thinking, ‘It’s all a dream.’ I put my faith in son to do that. It was never a question of faith. It was more or less, ‘What are you going to do, man? I hear you talking, but what are you going to do?’ It’s always like that. ‘I’m with you 100%, but what’s popping though?’

Will The Rebellion really be your last album?

Yeah. The Rebellion is going to be my last album, man. The Resident Patient was more of a mix album. The Movement was on Koch. That was an underrated album that didn’t get promoted, but it still sold. I feel okay, man. I can still keep my lights on and do what I need to do, so it’s all going to be good with me. I just hope that this one is the album that niggas want. After five years in the game and after hearing a whole bunch of redundant shit over and over, is this the album that they want to hear? Me being the Inspectah, I’m just skeptical, man.

You mentioned you had some groups in the works. A few years ago, there was talk of you, GZA and Masta Killa forming a group. How come that never happened?

We were going to do an album together, but we can’t do it without the rest of the crew like that. It’s not like we could just branch off and do that. I would rather do it with three people I don’t know, because when it comes to us, our power comes when we all align. And we know that, so we were like, ‘Fuck it, man, I ain’t gonna do that.’ We all came to the decision like, ‘You know what? You do your album and I’ll jump on that.’ We all jumped on each other’s albums instead and we did what we needed to do. I think if we would have put that three out, I think it would have sold. I think people would have wanted another joint with Meth on it or they would have been calling for a Meth, Ghost and Rae album. We brought that all to the table at one time. At different times, people were with it. Mentally, it just died off and we all did our thing anyway.

Is your group House Gang still together?

Yeah, House Gang is still a group. They branched off and they have another group under them called Loose Linx. I’m still into that and I’m still doing production with Urban Icon Records. Everything is grinding out and it’s moving slow, but it’s moving. That’s the whole thing. You can look forward to that shit in the new year. I guarantee you’re going to hear The Rebellion and Resident Patient Part 2 and I might throw in a bonus mixtape with 30 freestyles. You can definitely look forward to that shit on the internet only. I don’t know if you’ll even be able to buy my next shit in stores. That’s how I’m going to do it.

You’ve proven you have skill in producing. Will you be dropping more beats in the future?

Yeah. I just got me a whole little rig now, so I’m set up to do a lot more production than I’ve ever done. Just being on the run and trying to do the album together and being an MC, it’s hard to do both at one time. I was never highly skilled at it. I used to watch RZA, 4th Disciple and Tru Master and I got better at it. I’m definitely doing another album with my own production on it. You’ll be hearing from me soon. I never really had a whole lot of tracks to give away to a whole lot of people. I kept it in the family.

Getting back to 8 Diagrams, “My Heart Gently Weeps” was publicized like crazy. Was “My Heart Gently Weeps” the wrong single to promote?

To me, as a b-boy, hip-hop, early ‘90s, born and raised, I think it’s the wrong move. It’s feeding the people what they want and remembering who you are. But other than that, I understand it from a business standpoint. If I’m the one spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and major money is on this, then I can see where you’re trying to make a direct impact, like you can put this song out and it’s going to strike enough new people where we can possibly have outstanding first-week sales. I understand what that translates to.

But those outstanding first-week sales are not the real fans, man. You know? Those are the new fans we got based on doing a song with the Beatles. After that song, what do you do then? You have to take care of the core. I always say that, man. That’s why kings get thrown off the fucking thrones, man, because of the people revolting, man. I guess that’s why I’m the Rebel, man. I always feel a certain way.

“Life Changes” is an emotional tribute song to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Was that a hard song for you to record?

For me, it was because I was looking at it like, ‘Man, this shit can be me.’ Dirty is me. Dirty passing is me passing in a way. Part of this whole crew died. The persona, the mystique behind Wu-Tang, a lot of shit died with Dirty. I’m Inspectah. I see that. I see that mentally, way off in the distance, off the fucking planet somewhere. I can’t explain it to you, man. That’s how it is. It’s like, the whole downfall that we’ve been having since then has been happening because there was no unity between us, no communication and there was a lot going on. Everybody just got separated and went out and did their own thing. The devil took one of us.

I thought that that would bring us together and make everything tighter, which it has. It’s brought us together, but it’s like, I look at it like, ‘Why wait to have a party on a fucking birthday?’ We have to always be like that because it can happen to any one of us again and I don’t want it to be me and I don’t want it to be no one else. So I’m just like, ‘Yo, we need to get our shit together and if we’re going to record an album, let’s do it for real because the people are depending on this shit more than we think.’ And I will continue to say that, man.

The people need what we have to say. They need to hear it because they’re tired of the other shit. There are only so many cars you can buy, and mansions and guns. There’s only so much. There’s only so much. There’s only so many people you can kill in one rhyme. Some people are killing four people a verse. It’s getting redundant, man. (laughs) It’s real. That’s why I laugh, because I know that the people want the shit that Wu-Tang comes with, like the “Rainy Dayz”, the “Incarcerated Scarface”’s, the “Better Tomorrow”’s, the “Ice Cream”s and the “Ice Water”. They want Cappadonna’s “The Pillage” and “Rec Room”. They want the “Triumph”’s. I can go on for days. They want “Shame On A Nigga”. They want that. They don’t want to hear the motherfucker who just got his deal yesterday and in his first video, he has the Bentley and the jewelry. I don’t want to see that no more.

How do you think 8 Diagrams would be different if Dirty had a say in it?

It would just have some life to it because I know Dirty would feel the same way I’m feeling. This shit is boring! This shit is putting me to sleep. Dirt Dog never bit his tongue. That’s one thing about me. I won’t bite my tongue, but a lot of times, I might not say nothing. This isn’t moving me like that. I just don’t like it. That’s all that means. It doesn’t mean it can’t be successful. So the fans understand directly what I’m saying, I have faith in RZA to do what he do, so I come in and play my part as an MC. But as far as my personal opinion, which relates to me and only me, I don’t feel that this is our greatest shit or the shit that niggas want to hear at this stage in the game from us. I feel like we have to give them a newer, better album such as the new Ghost album. I’m not saying that’s the truth either. I’m just saying that his album sounds like what a Wu-Tang album should sound like, but it’s him by himself. So he’s going to do well because he kept with the formula. That’s what I’m saying. I don’t hear no Beatles shit on there. He’s signed to one of the biggest machines out there. If they have faith in that sound, I’m pretty sure that the fans would have faith in that sound as well.

In your verse on “Life Changes”, you say you should have helped ODB when he was in trouble but that you were selfish. That’s an extremely heavy burden to bear.

That’s why you hear me talking the way I’m talking right now because this rap shit really doesn’t mean nothing to me like that, man. Life means more. And I’m like, ‘Damn, man, maybe if we could have really reached out more’ because I knew what he was doing and he knew what I was doing. I smoke. I smoke a lot of weed. Sometimes you need that person to come to you and as much as you may hate it, like, ‘Get away from me, stop telling me that,’ sometimes you need that person to get on your nerves like, ‘Put that shit down. You don’t need that.’

I feel like we need to be there for each other despite the fact that we’re grown men and we have different lives. But the lives that we have now, we built our lives on each other. The life I have now with my two kids and my cars, I built that on the backs of my brothers as well as myself. That’s my life. We need to be more in-tune like that and I think that’s what shows on the album, man. That’s just my opinion. I’m not trying to discourage nobody from going to get it. Go get it and support a nigga and help a nigga keep his lights on. I don’t have no hits on the chart. I keep it funky. I keep it funky with y’all all the time.

Wu-Tang is my biggest success story and if they fail, I fail. And I can’t tolerate failure at this stage of my life. I’ll ride with you, man, but I’m so skeptical that I have three eyes open on everything. I’m not getting caught up by little write-ups in Rolling Stone or DJs that say this is the greatest. Nah. I’ll see what it translates to when we compare the numbers to the other artists who the fans say they’re tired of. If you’re turned of all that commercial, Bentley-talking bullshit and you have an alternative now and you don’t support that, then you’re full of shit. You don’t want nothing new. You’re satisfied and you’re content with that stupidity. So don’t come at me sideways when you see me in the street and ask me why I don’t do that because I don’t shuck and jive. I don’t do the Hollywood Shuffle. If you’re looking for a motherfucker to have his shirt off in the video with his chest wet, you’re looking at the wrong dude, man.

There are only a handful, if that many, of artists today with that kind of perspective on music.

You know what it is for me, man? It made my career. It kept my career at a certain level. Me being the Rebel that I am, I could have sold millions. I could have done the shit that you see everybody else doing, but I just never allowed myself to be outside of myself. I grew up listening to the Curtis Mayfield’s, the Marvin Gaye’s and the Willie Hutchinson’s. Listening to that music kept me in a certain mindframe. I watched a lot of blaxploitation movies like Hell up in Harlem. You can name it. The style that I developed came from the ‘709s. You had to be cool. That’s what I do for dudes. I’ll take you on a walk to the corner store. Let’s go for a walk to the corner store and from the house to the store, somebody done got shot, the fire truck and ambulance came, there’s a car crash, somebody got robbed, a baby was born and somebody graduated, all within the hour. That’s what I bring to the table and anybody that knows about Uncontrolled Substance, The Movement, Resident Patient and even Part 2, that’s what you’re going to get from me. You mighty get a couple of dance tracks and club joints and some female joints because you have to mix it up, but for the most part, I give you tales from the ‘hood for real.

A lot of fans say you consistently outshine other Clan members on songs. How does it feel hearing that?

That sucks. That sucks, man. That sucks to hear everyday that you’re the illest and that you’re the fucking illest and it doesn’t translate to record sales or the numbers. It don’t translate to that. So what is it? I don’t make songs? I figured it out. I don’t have the right kind of promotion or the right push. I don’t have the right people. So when I do this next solo album, man, I’m doing it straight to the fucking internet. You buy it right from me and you can feel good knowing that Deck mailed it to you. Yeah, Deck has your credit card information and I mailed it to you personally. It feels good knowing that. I’m going to autograph each and every one of those shits. I’m going to do stuff that heads don’t do nowadays. I’m going to show you that I’m on your level and that I’m not no superstar. It feels good doing that. Fuck a label and a marketing team. You don’t need that shit. There’s 10 billion people on the internet daily. If you can get 1% of that, you can feed your family for years.

Are you more accessible to fans today through MySpace and other online outlets?

Yeah. Now I understand the business part of it. I’ve been working on my businesses and doing what I do on the low. I don’t have any hits on the low and you haven’t seen any Deck albums out there. I have a lot of things going on. But for the most part, it’s hard to live with hearing that you have so much potential and that you’re the illest and it never translates. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to put my shit into a book. A poetry book with all my rhymes of shit that you haven’t heard. I have rhyme books that my mom done found in her old crib. I have mad poetry and I’m going to put it in a book so people can really see what I’m talking about.

I’m going to call it something controversial too. Motherfuckers are running with this “Greatest Lyricist of All-Time” and I want to challenge that. Being the Greatest Lyricist of All-Time doesn’t mean the one who sold the most records. It’s the one whose lyrics are just that outstanding. I think I would qualify for something like that. The best lyricist of all time, you can definitely put me and GZA in that category and a lot of people I know in that category.

Does not getting recognition from the industry and major labels ever discourage you?

It’s discouraging at times but I do what I do. You know what it is? They want me to take my shirt off and wet my chest and pour honey on myself and do other stupid shit for the camera. If I turned into an image of another artist, maybe they would move a different way. Maybe I should get a bunch of girls around me and act like I’m a pimp. I’m going to be me. In a video, the other guys are my actual homies. It’s big business and it’s bigger than that. I’m just talking about Inspectah Deck on the ground level. On a bigger level and with big business, for me to have a successful album, and I know that I can go platinum at any time, I would have to go relocate. I could get with any team moving and any label situation and go function, man. I know I can. Would I do it? I probably wouldn’t because that’s betrayal to everything that I stand for.

Inspectah Deck on G-Unit, the fans wouldn’t respect that. It would probably be a good move on my part because G-Unit has a good percentage of the units being moved in hip-hop right now, but if Wu-Tang got with G-Unit, the fans would be like, ‘Fuck that!’ A good situation for me would be to have an ill RZA-produced album with all the Clan members as well as outside members as well as production from outside producers. That would fucking be a hit for Inspectah Deck with some push to it. It would sell like it was supposed to sell, not what we’re hoping it could sell.

Looking at some songs, like “9 Milli Brothers”, sometimes your voice doesn’t sound like it normally does. Is that from recording with a cold or is it a more serious problem?

It’s happened a few times; recording a verse with a cold. On this album, I recorded “Stick Me For My Riches” with a cold. I had a cold and I wanted to come back. I just said, “You know what? Leave the verse and I’ll come back.” I went overseas and went over there and we fucked around and the deadline came and I never got to change my verse. So the verse with the cold is on the fucking album and I’m insulted by it. Other people are telling me that it doesn’t sound that bad, but to me, it distinctively doesn’t sound like me and it makes my rhyme sound kind of wack. I take pride in my shit and I can say when I’m not feeling it. To me, I know it’s a tight verse. The next thing you know, that’s how it is on the album though. People can hear it and be like, ‘Who’s that?’ ‘Oh, that’s Inspectah Deck.’ ‘Oh, that’s the song he was talking about!’

Raekwon is working on a new album, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang. Will you be a part of that project?

I am part of that, man. Word. That’s going to save my ass. I’m definitely a part of that. I would love to do an album like a chaser. This is an album that the artists wanted to do as opposed to, ‘Okay, this is an album that the producer wanted to do.’ I think that would be good for hip-hop and I don’t think that would be any disrespect towards RZA. It would be like the artists put out their own album because that’s what they wanted to do. Now let the fans choose. The only difference is that it might cost them $20. But controversy sells and I think the fans would love that.

If you consider Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang a chaser to 8 Diagrams, would the album drop fairly soon?

It could come as early as next year, man. It could come as early as January or February. To me, it depends on who’s really riding with it. It depends on who’s really riding with it. I’m about it. I’m about whatever is going to take my career further. I’m not here on no personal feelings shit. I’m with whatever is going to take my career further. I’m going to keep doing what I do successfully and I’m with that. Why not put out an album like Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang? That was one of the most famous movies that we got a lot of our skits from and a lot of our personas from. Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, that’s where Wu-Tang was born. The artist versus the producer makes it good for rap.

Do you think everybody in the Clan will be on board?

I think so. I think so. I think when they listen to this album and they see where RZA was coming from and then they listen to Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang and we get the Havoc’s and the Q-Tip’s and all the ill producers out there, I think the fans would love to hear that. I think the fans would love to hear Meth, Rae and Ghost killing it off an Alchemist track. Hell yeah! (laughs) You know what I mean!

Over the years, have a lot of big-name producers expressed an interest in wanting to work with Wu-Tang?

Of course, man. Of course. There’s a long line of people who want to get involved in that.

Before you have to leave, can you take us through your writing process and how your verses come together?

I guess life, man. There’s no real structured formula to it. I might think of a phrase in my head. For example, I was thinking of a rhyme and I just caught the phrase, “Martin got shot in the face on the balcony in front of Jesse, they were probably smokin’ weed.” To me, that sounds like a line that Ghost would open up with, so I wrote it down. From there on, the next time I see the paper and I come back, or even right now when I’m talking, I might hang up the phone with you and come with the other part. That’s a dart. Most of the time for me, it starts with a line. The whole line sets off what you’re going to talk about.

Where do you do your best writing?

Shit, I do my shit everywhere, man. I used to keep the notebook on me. I used to roll around with the notebook on me, but now I got one of the voice recorders on the phone, so every now and then I stop and I say some stupid shit. I’ll write some shit in my house at 4 in the morning, smoking a blunt, watching YouTube and fucking around. The next thing you know, I’m coming with some shit when the house is quiet and the kids are asleep.

What do you want to say to all the Wu-Tang fans out there?

Don’t let this interview persuade you with the album. But I can’t sit here and say the album is outstanding and that it is going to blow your mind. I’m not with the fraudulent shit. Expect me to be real, whether you like it or not. That’s all I can say to y’all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

GZA channeling Dirty

Enjoy the above clip of the GZA speaking drunkenly & derisively of 50 & Soulja Boy, at several points falling into a zone highly reminiscent of Ol' Dirty Bastard himself. In the meantime, realize that today marks an occurance happening for only the 5th time in human history--the debut of an album from Wu-Tang Clan.

Also, a fairly decent review of 8 Diagrams from Pitchfork. On Wu's myspace there is some commentary on the meaning behind the 8 Diagrams, which includes charts, youtube vids, gif files & a discussion of Early Heaven & Later Heaven.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On the Eve of...

...either the Wu-apocalypse or the arrival of 8 Diagrams. While the big day is about to be here (actually is here for most international fans) there is some more of he-said-this, he-said-that from Raekwon, who continues to insist that he will spearhead a new RZAless Wu album called Shaolin vs Wu-Tang. But even with all of Chef's naysaying, he does retain the good sense of endorsing the album & he recommends that fans go cop it tomorrow. Then, Meth also drops in for a spell, & his tone & statements seem to not quite coincide with what was reported in the "VH1" piece from the other day, pointing once again to the probable fakeness of that report. Still, Meth is both candid & in the end, much more loyal toward the RZA than either Ghost & Rae have been in the leadup to 8 Diagrams.

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

Raekwon the Chef recommends that you go buy the Wu-Tang Clan's 8 Diagrams LP when it comes out Tuesday, but he can't honestly say it's the Clan's best work.

"I'm supporting it," he said backstage at the recent J.A.M. Awards, which took place at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. "Go get it. I'm on it. I laid down the dressing on that. But like I said, it could've been stronger! I know the capabilities that we all have when we all sit in the room together. And then, at the end of the day, it was leaning towards RZA's world. I told RZA, 'This is a Wu-Tang Clan album. This ain't RZA's album.' If we say, 'We need this to proceed,' respect what we need to proceed.

"You dealing with a whole crew collectively, and [our] collective thoughts," Rae added. "You gotta keep that a part of the protocol. That wasn't a part of the protocol — we still try to give this man as much props as he deserves, 'cause he did so much. It's like listening to [Michael] Jordan, saying, 'Follow my hand.' But at the same time, Jordan ain't been around for a while. So now it's gotta be about the team. Ain't no I's in team. When Jordan's head gets too big, you gotta tell Jordan that's what it ain't about. It's team."

The Clan's dirty laundry has been aired out in recent weeks, with Rae and Ghostface Killah alleging creative and financial neglect by the RZA. The pair say they've basically been speaking for the rest of the group.

"It's a lot going on, and like I said, this is not no publicity stunt," Rae maintained. "This is more or less about men understanding men and men respecting men. At the end of the day, I got a family to feed, kid. ... I got children that's going to school that I'm paying for shit for them to make it, and I refuse to sit here and act like another n---a is gonna tell me how I need to do what I gotta do. If it ain't how it used to be, then something's the matter. So, at the end of the day, it's just a nigga's water broke. Like a bitch being pregnant, she can't take it no more, her shit go blow!"

The Chef told us he explained his discontent to the RZA a while ago.

"I let nigga know about his wicked ways before I [came] out and [addressed] this [in public]," he said. "So nigga never say, 'Oh, Chef did it out the blue on some ...' Nigga, you know how I feel. ... It's tough love, but you gonna respect me. ... I can [opine] on how I feel, and if I feel it ain't right ... like I told RZA, 'Yo, I don't get nothing outta trying to shoot at you. I hope you don't get nothing out of shooting at me.' But respect that we supposed to be like this. The ill shit is, it's 10 years later, 15 years later. You mean to tell me you don't look at me like a general? You got a problem."

Method Man, who was under the impression that the album was being pushed back until next year, is also not pleased with how the project turned out and even more disappointed that the dissention has been made public.

"When niggas went in to do the album, it was little discrepancies here and there," he admitted. "Everybody talking and shit. Everybody talking at RZA and not to him. Him being who he is and where he came from, of course he's goanna poke his chest out. And it's gonna be a standoff. [8 Diagrams] is the results of it right here. I don't think anybody is listening to anybody. What I did as a constant, I spit on what I was required to spit on. I'm not trying to throw no monkey wrench in anything. I strived to make the album sound like an album."

Meanwhile, the author of 1995's classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... album says he's spearheading an LP called Shaolin vs. the Wu-Tang and that it will feature basically the entire Clan, except for the RZA.

"That's how I feel right now," Rae barked. "It's coming and it's gonna be a lesson learned. That's a lesson to bust the Abbott's ass and let him know what we do. At the end of the day, if nobody don't do nothing, Chef's gonna show and prove. You [can only] hold in but so much, my dude."

While Meth feels that the LP could have been better, the RZA remains his brother.

"I love the shit out of RZA; that's my muthafucking nigga, right there," Tical said. "Thick and thin and back again. However nigas feel about the god, that's how they feel. But they can't speak for everybody. So if my name pops up in anything and you ain't hear it from the horse's mouth, don't believe what you heard.

"Hell yeah, on my behalf," Meth continued about whether the fences can be mended. "I speak for myself: Shit can be salvaged. Yep. Hell yeah, and the gods know how, too. I ain't at liberty to say with you, but niggas know how they can fix it with me."

In the meantime, remember to go get a copy of the 8 Diagrams album sometime tomorrow.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Potentially Fake Method Man Article

The following is currently making the rounds of the internet to great fanfare. It is billed as being from VH1 but as of now no verification of authenticity has surfaced. But the piece sure sounds like Meth & it would be great if this turned out to be authentic.

From VH1

Less than a week away from the U.S. release of Wu-tang Clan's newest release, and tensions between group members and producer RZA seem to be abnormally high. Ghostface and Raekwon have both accused the founder and leader of the group of deviating from the traditional sound of the collective, while refusing to be swayed by their input into the musical direction of 8 Diagrams. Ghost has been particularly vocal about his displeasure with "The Abbot", especially when it comes to money matters. But not all in the group share these sentiments. We caught up with group superstar Method Man in NYC, and the lovable jokester of the group sees things differently.

"Them niggas got they opinion, but shit's peace between me and RZA, no question. Ghost & Rae don't never like nothing anyway...never," Method Man states with a dismissive tone. "Them dudes be looking at they mom's turkey on Thanksgiving like 'The fuck is this bullshit??' (laughs) 'Man this macaroni is some ol buuulllshit! Megan Good's titties is some bullshit! Rihanna's forehead, that's some bullshit!"

Meth says he's happy with the Clan's latest LP, and as impressed as ever at RZA's production.

"That's music right there man, I don't know what them dudes is listening to. They must have heard it from some clock radio speakers or something, and Rae, that nigga was probably just mad 'cuz he ain't had his lunch yet at the time. I like what RZA doing right now, the way he's able to go outside the box as well as go to the typical Wu bangers ya'll critical ass motherfuckers is used too. I already got some joints from him on my next album, more heat. In fact we was just in the studio a few days ago, and Nas came through. He hopped on a beat and we did the hook and everything that night. He talking about he wanna put it on his Jiggaboo album (a joke reference to Nas' upcoming album, The N Word), but I think I'ma hold on to that one. We might hook up again for another song. I was actually supposed to be on It Was Written back in the day, but it just never happened."