The following is a conversation with RZA.
The rapper, record producer, filmmaker, actor, writer,
philosopher, Kung Fu scholar, and the mastermind
of the legendary hip hop group Wu Tang Clan.
This is the Lex Friedman podcast.
To support it, please check out our sponsors
in the description.
And now, here’s my conversation with RZA.
In the Tao of Wu, you write,
when my mother left the physical world, I lost one
of my main links to the universe.
They say that you have an umbilical cord
and an etheric cord, which is the invisible cord
that attaches you to your soul, your mother’s soul
and all other souls.
When one passes away, you really lose something.
It’s physical and mental.
Part of you dies.
What have you learned about life from your mother?
I mean, I learned life itself from my mother.
You know, being one of 11 children
and seeing the sacrifice that she gave to us,
therefore given to life.
It’s really the greatest lesson of life.
The thing that shook me as I wrote those words
was coming up young with arrogance, confidence,
knowledge of myself.
They called me the scientist.
We was taught you’re the supreme being.
In order to be the supreme being,
you gotta be supreme amongst other beings.
I understand that more now than I did then
because then it was so literal.
You know, the word God derived basically
from the Greek language, as they say,
and it meant wisdom, strength and beauty.
Yeah, we could have that.
But the power to control life and death
is something that you would assume is a God trait.
So now here you are saying that you’re a God, right?
And you’re reading the Bible,
how Jesus brought back Lazarus.
And you know, now it’s your turn to do something.
And when my mother was laying there in the hospital bed
and air was no longer coming out of her lungs
and going into her lungs,
where’s my power to bring her back to life?
Yeah, so you can’t truly be God.
Yeah, or God is not the definition
that we need to use to describe it
because it’s a translation of wisdom, strength and beauty.
So you could be that.
But so I’m answering your question,
what did my mother teach me about life?
I learned that day on her physical passing,
that okay, you know what I mean, there’s a physical me.
Do you think about her, do you miss her?
Of course, I keep my mother in my prayer every day.
And the thing I pray the most beyond giving thanks
is I pray that her name is honored
and remembered by my family.
I don’t know if the world’s gonna remember that, right?
Even though if you watch my movie, Love Beats Rhymes,
I named the school in that movie after my mother
just to leave it somewhere else.
Yeah, in physical space.
But yeah, painful.
The pain of my mother’s passing is indescribable.
Only until it happens to a person they know
and then they won’t describe it either.
Only the people that lost their mother,
they could look at each other and they got this nod.
You know what I mean?
But one other thing happened to me was the joy of life
hit me differently.
And I think it was the realization of my own mortality
versus my immortality.
It’s a big, big thing.
And I don’t know if we’ll get to expound on that,
but there was a joy that overcame me
because I was kind of free of a certain illusion
about the immortality of my physical being
versus the mortality of my physical being.
And I was like, okay, wow, I understand.
So that was the first or the hardest realization
you’ve experienced that you’re mortal.
Yeah, that, yeah.
And I’ll say mortal and what you’re looking at here
physically, I won’t say my soul is mortal.
I’ll say it’s immortal because at the end of the day,
it’s just like I can sit here and I could just hum,
please, please, please, by James Brown.
But James Brown is not gonna come in here and do that.
So in some sense, James Brown is still here.
In another sense, he’s gone.
His soul is here.
Well, it lives through you by you singing it.
It lives through you by you listening to it, celebrating it.
And the hope is that the human species continues
to celebrate the great minds
and the great creations of the past.
I will add this to that equation.
When I say it’s immortal,
I don’t think it’s not just only
because somebody sings it, right?
It’s like, where’s the fire at right now?
It’s in the air.
You just gotta spark the spark.
So it’s always there.
Are you afraid of death?
Nah, I’m not afraid of death.
I’m not trying to see it.
I’m not watching that nowhere near me, right?
Because all I know is life, right?
My life is living.
I read a lot of ancient texts,
people probably know about me.
I love one of the great teachers named Bodhidharma.
And there was a thing written in one of the books of his
or one of the teachings of his.
And the question, somebody asked him similar question,
you’re scared of death or what are you gonna be
after you die?
And his answer was, I don’t know.
He had answers to everything.
But he was like, I don’t know.
They said, oh, he doesn’t know that.
So yeah, because I haven’t died yet.
Yeah, well, the uncertainty to some people is terrifying.
Not knowing what’s on the other side of the door.
I mean, especially when you’re young.
You know, as a kid, fear permeated my life.
You know what I mean?
You know, I was actually watching horror movies
and I believed in all type of supernatural things
that could or can happen.
I thought I saw things as well.
And you know, whether it was being projected
in my own mind or whether it was there visible to me,
I don’t know, right?
But life is beautiful and we have it.
And we should use it all the way to the last drop.
Realizing the mortality, the gift your mother gave to you
is realizing the immortal.
And in so doing, help you realize that life is beautiful.
On this topic, Quincy Jones, I read, said to ODB and you,
when it rains, get wet.
What do these words mean to you?
Well, I think what Quincy was saying at that time was,
you know, I think I was more conservative,
like as a person.
And like, you know, I had money.
Women wanted me.
Anything I kind of wanted, I probably could have had.
You know what I mean?
And he was just saying, when it rains, get wet.
Enjoy this, man.
It’s raining on you.
You know what I mean?
Don’t put up the umbrella.
Don’t go back in the house.
Experience the moment.
Yeah, and enjoy it.
And I didn’t take total heed to him at that time.
A couple of years later, I took some heed.
But at that time, I didn’t take heed.
And when I took heed,
I think that I may have misinterpreted
by looking at his example of getting wet
versus my example of getting wet.
And I can tell you right now,
I’m getting wet right now in my way.
In part, thanks to your mother.
But overall, you just learned how to appreciate the rain,
just like the experience of every moment.
Yeah, and I’ll share this with you
because this is going to be a very open conversation
and I haven’t had this conversation.
So definitely in part to my mother,
then in part to my wife.
I meet my wife, it’s my second wife,
but I met her after my mother passed.
And she was just a friend.
You know, some girl I met, I thought she was beautiful
and actually built a friendship with her.
But a few years later, when the relationship became like,
you know, this is going to be my woman,
it was actually when I was doing the middle of my divorce
and I was like, you know, do I run wild and hey, hey, hey,
you know, me and my wife already filed, we were separated.
And do I run wild?
And I didn’t run wild, a little bit, but not too wild.
And you know, I’m still a man, I’m a hip hop guy, so.
I read you know how to party.
But the funny thing is that my wife now, her name is Talani,
my uncle said, she reminds me of your mother.
He knew my mother before I knew my mother.
And he saw that and we ended up dating, got engaged
and then her mother passes.
And so now there’s a total understanding of everything.
And we actually help build each other back up.
So of course I have to thank my mother for the awareness.
Then I thank my wife for bringing that awareness
to actual actualization, like to actually feel,
I don’t think I’ll be talking to you right now
and talking as much as I do these days,
if it wasn’t for the security and peace and harmony
that I was able to gain at home, you know, so.
And like you said, you now share that look
of having both lost your, your mom.
What have you learned from Quincy about music,
about business, about life?
Quincy Jones is a great mind, great artist, you know,
a treasure in all reality.
He seen it from when it was, he couldn’t walk in this,
he couldn’t eat in the same places he played his music at
to owning places bigger than ours.
So what a beautiful life, you know?
He’s the type of guy, if you spend one hour with him,
you got a lifetime of information.
And I was blessed to spend multiple hours with him
and days with him.
And, you know, there’s a certain period of time
where we came across each other and he was always
there to share the knowledge.
Like that’s another thing about him that I think is special.
And hopefully I picked that up,
is that he’s always willing to share,
share with his experience, his knowledge.
I mean, I think he’ll even share his home
to the right person if he feels that that’s what they need
to get back on their feet.
He’s a very beautiful man.
So just the kindness, the goodness of the man
is like the thing that really rubbed off on you.
Yeah, I mean, minimum, right?
I mean, Quincy Jones also in his fifties,
as a producer, produced one of the greatest albums
of all time and one of the greatest selling albums
of all time.
Not just great critically, economically great.
And I mean, I think he did it at the age I am right now.
So I might have a great year coming up.
I don’t know.
Time and well, yeah.
So now you got a taste of what greatness is.
You get to see what greatness is.
So you know what you need to do for yourself.
Exactly, how to strive for yourself, yeah.
You have a few people you’ve worked with
who are fascinating like yourself.
Quentin Tarantino, you worked with him.
When somebody asked you to describe him with one word,
you said encyclopedia.
What have you learned from the guy
about filmmaking and about life again?
A very generous man with his knowledge.
And for me, he shared it, I think,
in a way that was unique in a sense of,
you know, at a point in time,
you know, we just was super duper tight.
Like, you know, like I’m going to this crib
and watching movies and just having long conversations
about art and about life.
You know what I mean?
So I learned a lot.
I consider him, you know,
especially when it comes to anything cinematic in my life,
I consider him the godfather of that for me.
I think, you know, I humbly asked him to mentor me,
which is a very humbling thing to do
coming from my neighborhood, coming from who I am,
coming from, I was already a multi platinum artist,
you know, I mean, it was a year,
it was past the year 2000 already.
So like 2001, 2002 that I asked him to mentor me.
So I was the wizard already, you know what I mean?
But I humbled myself because I saw in him
a craft of brain power that to me resonated with me,
but I was just a Patamon at it, I was a novice at it
because I was trying to make movies in my music,
you know, trying to make videos.
And here was a man who was a master of it
and an encyclopedia of it as well.
Like film history.
Film history from whether it’s the actor,
the director, the cinematographer,
maybe even the costume designer.
He may know 50, 60,
he may know the 50 greatest costume designers
in his memory.
Yeah, I mean, it’s a guy’s brain.
Both of you have pretty good memory.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall of that conversation.
And kung fu movies, most of you guys want.
We actually started,
I think we started our relationship
trying to outdo each other.
Knowledge wise or what?
Yeah, movie knowledge wise.
Actually kung fu movie knowledge wise.
And I think that, if it wasn’t another category,
I wouldn’t have had a chance,
but at least in that category,
I was pretty holding my weight.
You know what?
I’ll be honest and say that I may have said a few,
he didn’t see, but Quentin is older than me.
So he could go back.
Yeah, he could go back to 72
when I didn’t see one yet.
You know what I mean?
Well, he said Master of the Flying Gate Team
that I got a chance to,
that you commentated over today
and I got a chance to see the screening of.
He said that’s one of his favorites.
For you, the 36 Chamber of Shaolin,
the Master Killer is your favorite.
Best ever, would you say?
That’s the greatest Kung Fu movie ever?
It’s hard to say the greatest ever, right?
Because somebody may make another one
and it depends on your own phase of life.
But I will put that first.
If I want to introduce somebody to Kung Fu movies,
that’s a beautiful entry.
You talk about knowledge, you talk about wisdom.
What kind of wisdom do you draw from Kung Fu movies?
The, you know what?
The martial art itself and the movies.
It’s endless wisdom to be drawn and I draw it, you know?
I draw it in a way, you know,
that I could decipher it in my own life.
So for instance, in the movie, Master Killer,
he basically, when he does Kung Fu,
he does it really a style called the Hung Ga technique.
And the director of the movie
is actually a Hung Ga expert who has a lineage
that traces all the way back to Shaolin Temple.
And this director always wanted to keep his movies pure
and to bring Hung Ga to the world.
It’s like he wanted to show the world this lineage.
In fact, you just said Master of the Flying Guillotine
is Quentin’s favorite movie.
And we mentioned that 36 Chambers is my favorite movie,
but the action director of Master of Flying Guillotine
is the director of 36 Chambers of Shaolin.
And some of the things that’s happening
in Master of the Flying Guillotine
is really the infant stage
of what this action director is going to learn
and then use later on in his movies.
So that’s the beauty of it.
It’s almost like, you know,
Quentin is seeing him in his generation.
So Quentin might have been the same age I was
watching that movie.
And then when he becomes a director,
I’m at Quentin’s age and now I’m seeing his work.
So some symbionic relationship there.
And I’ll end this question by saying,
Hung Ga deals with the five animal technique,
the tiger, the crane, the leopard, the snake, and a dragon.
Those are the five, that’s the five pattern.
Some people go seven, some go 12,
but it’s a stick to the five pattern fist.
How do a man emulate a tiger?
And you see a tiger’s fists.
He curls before he spawns on you.
How does a man emulate a snake?
It doesn’t have to be only in the Kung Fu move.
It’s in the ideology of the snake.
It’s in the agility of the crane.
At any moment, sometimes punching a person
is not going to work,
as they would say in leopard fist or tiger paw.
So sometimes you might have to poke them in the eye
with the crane’s beak.
So having your mind able to adapt the instinct
of the animal when you are being attacked
or when you are being the aggressor,
that’s something that you don’t need a form for.
That’s the mentality.
So Kung Fu, like I said, it informs me endlessly
because at first I was trying to learn how to hold my,
like, I can’t really hit you with that
and really hurt you unless I’ve been banging my hand
a thousand times on some bricks
and made it so callous or muscles are so strong.
But the idea that if me and you was to get into a fight
and I’m going to tiger up on you and take that instinct
and prance when I’m a prance,
or fly away like the stork, you know what I mean?
Like, yo, that’s the mentality.
It’s much more than the technical moves.
It’s much deeper.
Yeah, it’s interesting.
I mean, when I see the Kung Fu movies,
because I love martial arts, all martial arts,
and competitive ones too,
like the actual competitions and so on.
It just seems like Kung Fu movies go much deeper
than just like the techniques.
Yeah, they start, I mean, if you see it, right,
even I watched the great MMA fight recently,
just interesting because he was on top of the guy,
and the way he got from under him,
it had to be his spirit got from under him.
It’s some like mixture of crane and whatever.
Snake, ill, with the slippery ill technique.
No, I love that when people become artists in the cage
or that’s much bigger than just like winning,
much bigger than particular techniques.
It’s just art, especially at the highest level competition
where millions of people are watching.
Which is pressure within itself.
Yeah, that’s art under pressure
is even more beautiful art.
You know, you look at some of these fights
and you wonder like why somebody wins and lose.
And sometimes the less talent guy could win
because he could deal with the pressure.
But the other guy, he could have beat them
if they were somewhere else, but not in this arena.
So you’re a scholar of history, including hip hop history.
I’ve listened to so many of your interviews.
You’ve spoken brilliantly about some of the big figures
in hip hop history, Tupac, Biggie, Nas, many others.
Maybe let’s look at Tupac and Biggie.
What made them special in the history of music?
Mm, that’s a good question.
So I don’t know if I’m the authority to answer it,
but I’ll just speak my piece on it.
And maybe I could just add on.
Cause I’m sure it’s a lot of people
that spent a lot of time with them that could speak on it.
But just as a fellow artist,
I think not only was B.I.G a dope lyricist,
I think he had a voice that was really immaculate.
In a sense that some rappers get on top of music
and you gotta get used to them
when you gotta vibe with them.
But he make a record sounds like a record immediately.
If you go back and listen to his music,
you could take his voice and put it on anything.
And for some reason, it sounds like a record.
You know what I mean?
You mean just like the raw voice of the man?
So you could just listen to it raw
and it sounds like a record.
Yeah, but if you put a beat,
take his voice and put it on any beat,
he just has a voice, it’s immaculate, you know?
So his lyrical skills and all that was great.
And you gotta think once again, he’s doing all this,
he’s not even 25 years old.
And then you go to Pac, once again, immaculate voice.
But what Pac had, I think,
was a way of touching us on all of our emotions.
And especially on, like Pac had the power
to infuse your emotional thought.
Like Brenda has a baby, their mama.
But then he had the power to arouse the rebel in you.
And those two things, actually,
he was probably more dangerous than Big, Notorious B.I.G.
Like Notorious B.I.G., we could party with him.
To this day, we are still,
but Pac was probably going to a point,
he was more going into the Malcolm X of things
and society fears that.
Yeah, so he was really good at communicating love
and at starting revolutions.
And that’s dangerous.
And they communicated love,
but he wasn’t starting revolutions.
Well, it’s interesting to think about
what the world would be like if they were still with us.
But it’s the way of the world.
Hendrix, a lot of those guys just go too soon.
Yeah, it’s a peculiar thing.
Now, you asked me earlier, am I scared of death?
And I answered, you know, I’m not scared of death.
I’m not trying to see it, though.
You know what I mean?
It’s like, that was the block of death.
It’s like, I’m not really going right there right now.
I’m making a left or right turn.
You know what I mean?
Unless it was mandatory for some greaterness, greater good.
It’s like, okay, I got to drive through that.
You know what I mean?
Yeah, but it can still happen.
That’s the meditation on death part,
where you could die at the end of today.
Yeah, you could die.
Well, dying and death, I think,
is two different things, personally.
The process you mean of death or just?
Yeah, I mean, you could die.
Like I said, you could die every day.
You could die and not be yourself.
You know what I mean?
Which is crazy.
But to get to a point of no return,
you know, that’s a whole nother chamber.
I mean, there’s some sense in which
RZA, the producer, becomes somebody else completely
when you’re making a film,
becomes somebody else completely
when you’re, I don’t know, playing chess,
becomes completely something different
when you do kung fu or watch kung fu
or when you’re a family man.
All of those are little deaths
when you transition from one place to another.
So it’s not like you’re one being.
You’re many things.
I would describe, now I would describe that
as all life, dawg.
Yeah, it’s fun.
Outside of you and anybody on Wu Tang,
who is the greatest rapper from a lyrics,
like a Wart Smith perspective in hip hop history
or some of the greatest, maybe some candidates?
Let’s name a few.
I mean, you’re gonna have to start with Rakim.
You’re gonna have to pick Coogee Rap in there.
You know what I mean?
So going back.
Yeah, you’re gonna have to pick up
with those brothers first.
You might have to, if you want to get,
technically you might have to start with Grandmaster Cass.
You know what I mean?
Who you might not even heard of.
You know what I mean?
But you may have sung his lyrics
every time you sang Sugar Hill, Rapper’s Delight.
Yeah, they copied his and they made it theirs.
That’s my point being made, but I’ll name a couple more.
I gotta pick Nas in that category.
You know, we got a chess board in front of us
and one of the greatest chess players,
the youngest Grandmaster, you know, before I think Carlson,
was Bobby Fisher.
All right, so let’s use Bobby Fisher as American.
One of the greatest American chess players.
Of course, Susan Polgar may have tied his record
as the youngest Grandmaster
and she’s the youngest female Grandmaster, I think to date.
But he was a master at what, 14?
Yeah, something like that.
So now to me, I met Nas when he was 15.
He was already a master lyricist.
It takes about 10 years to become a master lyricist.
So by the time the world heard Wu Tang,
most of us had 10 years of rapping in us already.
So that’s why you met us at mastery level.
The Jizzer was already a master when Nas was a master,
but Jizzer was 21, Nas was 15.
Nas is like the Mozart of rap.
Or the Bobby Fisher.
Just Bobby Fisher, just born something in him.
Or maybe those early years,
just because he’s not just good at the lyrics.
He’s also, he goes deep with it.
Just like you.
So he’s like, there’s depth.
It’s not just like mastery of the word smithing.
It’s just the message you actually get sent across.
Into a small phrase, right?
That’s the whole thing of energy.
How do we condense all that energy into this
so that it could fuel that?
And he’s definitely one of those artists,
MCs that does that.
And he was doing it at 15.
Like I said, I think I’m five years
or four or five years older than Nas.
So I was always feeling my confidence
of what I was doing.
But I was like, this kid is only 15.
I gotta step up my game.
When he turned 19, then we got Illmatic.
From you, what are the best and most memorable lyrics
you’ve ever written?
Well, that’s a hard question for me.
The stuff stand out?
Like stuff you’re really proud of
that was like important in your career?
Yeah, I mean, I think I did a song called Sunshower.
I don’t know if we put it on the Wu Tang Forever double CD,
but only on the international version.
But if anybody could go get those lyrics
and write those lyrics down,
you could just put that in your pocket.
And I’m sure that it’ll answer at least about 25%
of your life’s problems.
Well, that’s a good one.
Sunshine, where you talk about religion and God,
I think it’s on A Diagram.
I’m not a record guy.
I’m a song guy.
Might have been A Diagram.
Do you have a lyric from it?
Yeah, the answer to all questions.
You’re talking about God.
The spark of all suggestions, of righteousness,
the pathway to the road of perfection,
who gives you all and never asks more of you,
the faithful companion that fights every war with you.
Before the mortal view of the prehistorical historical,
he’s the all in all you searching for the oracle.
That’s a good line, man.
This is so good.
A mission impossible is purely philosophical,
but you can call on your deathbed
when you’re laying in the hospital.
You will call on your deathbed.
I had a big, I have a scientist friend.
Well, my wife’s best friend, Rebecca,
she married a scientist.
They both scientists.
They both were scientists, and she married Dr. Neil.
I ain’t going to say their last names.
But Neil and Rebecca, my wife’s best friend, so they come over.
And me and Neil, we go through the longest debates
of science and religion.
We just go.
We could go break day with it.
And before he had a child, he was more adamant.
And I don’t believe in God.
You know what I mean?
After a child, he still kept his thing.
But I just hit him with the question.
If you was about to die, because now you
got a child to think about, right?
It’s different when you’re thinking about yourself.
If you was about to die, you don’t
think you’re going to make that call.
He’s like, I’ll make that call.
And it kind of inspired my lyric, because it was like,
yeah, you’re going to.
And I just want to say, as far as you mentioned lyrics,
that is one of my favorite lyrics.
But that’s part two to Sunshower was the prequel to Sunshine.
So if you ever get a chance to check out Sunshower,
start us off with, trouble follows a wicked mind.
2020 vision of the prism of life,
but still blind because you lack the inner.
So every sinner could end up in the everlasting winter
But thorns and splinters prick your eye out.
You cry out.
Your words fly out.
You remain unheard.
Suffering internal and external,
along with the wicked fraternal of genitals and kernels,
letting off thermal nuclear heat that burns you firmly
and permanently upon the journey through the journal
of the book of life.
For those who took a life without justice
will become just ice.
It’s been taught your worst enemy couldn’t harm you
as much as your own wicked thoughts.
But people ought to be not unless in war.
So they find themselves persecuted
inside their own universal court.
So it’s a long one.
It’s like a three pager.
Wow, that is about life.
That’s like character integrity, how to be in this world.
And that ultimately connects to God.
Who’s God to you?
I’m glad you just asked that question because I actually,
I’m going to have to make a distinguishable separation here.
And it’s funny because I heard recently,
I heard a rabbi was debating with this historian, Dr. Ben.
I can’t pronounce Dr. Ben name, but it was debating.
And in the debate, they started going back
through the etymology.
They went way back beyond antiquity
because they was debating.
And so there was some things that was going deep.
And they really went far, far back to kind
of the first word of God.
And when they pronounced it on this particular debate,
it was Allah.
And they said from that, they got Elohim.
I’ve already agreed in my heart and my life
that the father of this universe, proper name is Allah.
And of course, in Allah, I get all.
And I don’t think that God is the same as that.
I think Allah gives birth to God.
In fact, if you take the word Allah, A L L A H,
and you take it through numerology or numbers,
the number letter A being 1, L being 12,
and you add it all up to the last denominator,
you’re going to get the number 7.
And the number 7 is going to bring you right back
to that letter G. So Allah borns God,
but God don’t born Allah.
How does that guy, how does Allah,
connect to the oracle that you’re
going to be calling for when you’re laying in the hospital?
Well, what I was saying in that particular verse was that we’re
looking for the oracle.
We’re looking for somebody else or something
to help us that nobody can really help you
at the end of the day.
So now that we, I don’t want to say we’re speaking on religion,
but we’re speaking on a way of life and a way of thinking.
And I’ve read many books, of course.
And I could say there’s no book that my,
the book that is the most strongest book I’ve ever read
is actually the Holy Quran.
It’s stronger to me than the Bible, which I’ve read.
It’s stronger than quantum physics, which I’ve read.
It’s stronger than the Bhagavad Gita.
It’s just, and I read once a British scholar
said it’s the most stupidest book ever written.
And it doesn’t make sense.
And so I said, oh, I see why he says that.
I understand exactly why he said that as well.
Why is that?
Because the structure of the words are just, it’s peculiar.
You know what I mean?
But it’s almost like how some people’s songs,
you don’t really know exactly what
they say until years later.
Yeah, you have, actually with Joe Rogan,
I think you talked about how a joke of Dave Chappelle’s
hit you like a long time after this.
So this is kind of like the Quran.
I tend to believe that we human beings cannot possibly
understand anything as big as these ideas.
So just, I don’t know.
Did you think that, like are you humble in the face
of just the immensity of it?
To be honest, yes.
I’m humble in the face of the, if you could say the word
again, I pronounce words funny.
The omnipotence, the omnescence, the magnitude,
I’m humble in the face of Allah.
The problem that I may have had was
that I wasn’t humble in the face of God
because it’s just a definable thing.
And that’s why I think a lot of us, and I’m not saying that,
you know, I know when we say God we’re trying to say Allah.
Like people are saying that, but you’re actually
not saying the same thing because you’re actually
putting something beside him.
And that’s the reason why you can have as many gods.
You can find a whole bunch of them, you know what I mean?
But you’re not going to find many.
There’s no body beside Allah.
Allah is one.
So I know it’s a whole thing, but that’s my heart is there.
I’m humbled by it.
I’m at peace with it.
And it doesn’t take nothing or demerit anything from myself.
That’s the beauty of it.
It doesn’t take nothing from me from being who I feel.
So if I say, if somebody woke up, yo, peace, God.
I could take that because they’re telling me that, yo,
I’m a man of wisdom.
I’m a man of strength.
I’m a man of beauty.
Or some attribute of that, you know what I mean?
So Wu Tang, they the gods of rap.
There’s wisdom there.
There’s strength there.
They will take that.
So Wu Tang is one of the greatest
musical, artistic, philosophical groups ever.
Let’s look hundreds of years from now
when humans or robots or aliens or whatever that’s left here,
they look back.
What do you hope they remember about Wu Tang?
What do you hope the legacy is?
Well, even if it’s thousands of years,
I hope we don’t get rid of the humans.
But you know, look, whatever happens is going to happen.
But I think that my philosophy on it
is that we’re going to continue to advance and continue
to advance things around us.
But I don’t see us becoming extinct.
Well, I mean, the reason I bring up Wu Tang in that context,
and this is a special moment in human history.
It’s like 100 years, and we’ve created all of this music.
Just if you think of all the richness of music that’s
been created over 100 years, it’s
not obvious to me that that’s not going to stop.
There’s a flourishing here.
So it’s funny because I could see
where the book of human history is written.
There’s a chapter on this period of time.
And one of the things we did well is
all the technological innovation with the rockets
and with the internet.
But then there’s also the musical innovation
and film innovation.
Just so much art that’s being created.
And Wu Tang’s a huge part of that.
So I just wonder if there’s a few sentences written
about Wu Tang, it just makes me wonder how they remember.
I would hope that people, no matter how many years,
are inspired by us.
But I will say, if I could just use Wu Tang as itself.
So we first started off the witty, unpredictable talent
and natural game.
Natural game meaning natural wordplay.
And then we went to the wisdom of the universe,
the truth of Allah for a nation of God.
Wisdom, universal, truth, Allah, nation, God.
So let’s just go back to a nation of God.
Let’s just take the last two letters.
A nation of wisdom, strength, and beauty.
And I’m going a little political here, but not going political.
As we’ll say, we’re the greatest country in the world.
What makes us the greatest?
That should be a question we ask.
Is it our wisdom?
Is it our strength?
Is it our beauty?
Now, let’s just say, off the easiest answer,
you know it’s our strength.
We got the nukes.
Nobody can really, between America and Russia,
they say, that’s the argument.
Who could beat them?
But where’s the wisdom?
Then they can argue, well, we got the technology.
But then where’s the beauty when there’s
so much suffering in the people?
So it’s not complete.
The hope is that the wisdom is in the founding documents,
in the imperfect but wise founding documents
that celebrated freedom, that celebrated all the ideas,
sort of having a lot of nukes, having a lot of airplanes
That’s not important.
And the hope is whatever we’re doing here with this, quote,
greatest country on Earth, that we preserve the ideas
and help them flourish, just like you said.
Well, that’s what I mean.
So if you go back to the Wu Tang,
that’s what we’re striving for.
We’re striving for that.
But you started unpredictable and just like, yeah.
But got deep pretty quick.
I got to talk to you about Bruce Lee.
Who’s Bruce Lee to you?
Who is he to the world?
What ideas of his were interesting to you?
You talk about Hendrix and music.
Bruce Lee is that in martial arts.
He just seems to have changed the game.
I don’t know if the word bold is the right word to say,
but I wouldn’t as bold as to say that he was a minor prophet.
And I got that concept from the Holy Quran
where it says that we send prophets
to every nation, every village.
We don’t let nobody not hear the word in some form
because it won’t be fair.
And so if a law is merciful, even a man who’s deaf
has to somehow get a sign.
I don’t know if Moses saw a burning bush.
There was nobody else to talk to,
so he had to talk to the bush.
I don’t know.
It could have been the bush this way too, right?
But point being made, it says that they are minor prophets.
And I see Bruce Lee as one of them
because what he brought to the world through martial art
was a whole shift in the dynamic of thinking.
And that happens when certain entities are born.
But he didn’t do it only in a physical sense.
He was also for the philosophizing
in the same process.
And he was also striving to be the best of himself.
So you got three things going on.
I studied Bruce Lee multiple times.
And first, of course, when I saw my first Kung Fu movie,
it wasn’t really Bruce Lee.
It was a few Green Hornet clips cut together.
And then I saw Black Samurai.
Then my following Kung Fu movies was like Fearless Fighters,
the Ghostly Face, the Fist of Double K.
But basically, in Fearless Fighters,
the lady put the little kid on her back
and flew across the ocean, across the lake, right?
So Bruce wasn’t doing that.
And then I went on to Five Deadly Venoms, and Spearman,
and 36 Chambers.
And these movies are beautiful, and yet they’re all heightened.
Bruce, they’re heightened beyond doable.
You’re not going to.
Yeah, it’s surreal.
They play with the world that’s not of this world.
Bruce played with this world.
So when I first saw Bruce, I actually
didn’t think he was as good as these guys.
He can’t fly.
He’s not flying in the movies, right?
But then when I saw, because the first one I saw
was The Big Boss, which they retitled Fist of Fury.
But then when I saw Chinese Connection, which
is the real Fist of Fury, right?
I saw something different there.
And I got enamored.
And then, of course, Enter the Dragon, right?
Just really complete.
That’s why my first album was Enter the Wu Tang,
36 Chambers of Shaolin.
So it’s Enter the Dragon and 36 put together,
because those are the two epitomes.
So what happened is that’s young me.
Then teenage me studies him again.
And I realized, wow, look at his physicality.
Look how he’s really moving for real.
And then I studied him again.
Wow, look at what he’s saying.
Then I studied him again.
Wow, look at what he stands for.
Which do you like in the realm of martial arts, the real
or the surreal, or the dance between the two?
Yeah, I like the dance between the two,
because a movie, to me, is to entertain you.
So I’m cool with Obi Wan Kenobi disappearing out of the cloak
when Vader strikes him down.
And then I’m like, yo, what happened?
And he’s like, run, Luke, run.
I’m cool with that, right?
Because that’s the imagination.
And the imagination gets stimulated to the point
to where as things that we saw imagined by an artist,
we strive to create in our real world.
Thus, Star Trek, to me, is just a precursor to our cell phones.
So for me, I like to mix the two.
Yeah, it’s funny how science fiction pushing
into the impossible actually makes it realize eventually.
We humans, once we see an idea on screen,
no matter how wild it is, we’re trying to make it.
Yeah, we’re trying to make it.
Some weird young kid, he gets inspired and watch that.
Be like, I’m going to build that.
So I don’t know who’s going to come with the Back
to the Future time machine.
But do you have any classmates that you think
this is going to be a time machine?
I thought you were going to Back to the Future, like the,
what is it, the hoverboard?
Or like the, uh?
Yeah, at least.
Somebody, they got, you see the one on the water?
No, you know the surf hover?
It actually, if you are a Back to the Future fan,
you feel like you made it to, you made it there.
Well, now we just got to work on the time trial.
And it was cool to hear you talk about the Master of the Flying
Gaijin today, that that inspired the lyric for the Wu Tang
client, Nothing to F with.
How does that go again?
What, the curse word or the lyric?
No, I remember the curse.
I am Russian, but the lyric.
I said, I be tossing and forcing.
My style is awesome.
I’m causing more family feuds than Richard Dawson.
And the survey said, you’re dead.
The fatal flying guillotine chops off your head.
And it was interesting to see the guillotine in the movie
today, how, I don’t know.
That’s surreal, right?
But it’s not.
It’s like, it’s engineering.
It’s both surreal and it just, and it adds this chaos
into this real world that, and then challenges everybody
to think what you’re going to do with that.
How are you going to beat it?
How are you going to beat it?
Both when you have like the good and the evil
and the mix of the bad guys and good guys
and you’re not sure who the bad guys are.
It’s the old question of good versus evil, right?
Like you said, then the question of who was good, who was evil.
But they all had a similar problem when the guillotine came.
But in terms of the real, you mentioned The Godfather,
good and evil.
That’s your favorite movie.
What makes it great, do you think?
The characters, the study of family, of justice, of power.
What connects with you?
Oh, oh, I mean, every one of those themes
connects in the real and it connects in a cinematic way
The difference, I think, with me and The Godfather
was I’ve seen it during a period of time
when my father was absent.
And therefore, family structure and family values
was actually adopted in my family because of that.
Me and my brother Devon, we actually
took so much heed to that movie and our family life.
And we kind of mimic that family in its structure of somebody
has to be the leader of the family,
even if it was the younger.
Michael was younger than Sonny and Fragile.
You know what I mean?
But he was worthy.
And my brother Devon is older than me.
My brother King is older than me.
And it’s funny, sometimes Devon calls King Fragile.
And I know King wants to.
King was actually, he actually was,
he said he could beat our ass, to use my language.
But you’re Michael.
And not by choice, just by definition of that’s what I am.
You know what I mean?
And it’s just a blessing for me to have my older sister,
my older brothers, and my younger brothers look to me as,
just as a good light in the family.
And like I said, that movie helped us.
My sisters, too, we, the cool thing about my family,
I don’t know if I share this a lot,
it’s a big, we all watched these movies together.
And so the A Diagram, Pole Fighter, Master Killer,
Five Deadly Venoms, my family knows these movies.
It’s not just I know them.
And then you extend it further, my friends know them, too.
So there’s a language that we all can have that actually film
has informed our communication.
So The Godfather, which also is still a fictitional story
of something, but since it was based in reality,
based on something real, and it was human,
it wasn’t so heightened, I think the purity of it resonates.
And the purity of it is something
that resonates with me.
You got to plan ahead.
He didn’t want to deal with the drugs,
but that time of business was upon him.
It’s like, it’s almost like, this is a tough one,
like sometimes when the Muslim brothers come from the Middle
East to America and they open up delis, they would sell ham.
And we would go in there and complain to them,
and make them like, they used to get mad at us
when we came in.
But that’s as a kid.
But as a man, I’m like, yo, he’s here to sell.
Now, he still don’t have to sell to him.
Vito Corleone didn’t want to sell the drugs.
He didn’t have to do it.
He didn’t do it.
And it cost him some bullets to eventually,
somebody in the family ended up doing it.
What about this idea that it’s family before everything else?
So there’s different laws you live according to in this world,
and family is first.
That’s mathematically correct.
I like that.
I mean, there’s a certain sense of you look at powerful people.
You look at Putin.
There’s a certain sense in which the people who
are in the inner circle, that’s who you take care of.
And anyone else that crosses you,
that there’s a different set of ethics under which you
operate for those people.
Well, Jesus said the same thing.
When he said, love thy neighbor and thy brother,
he was talking about that community.
When that other lady, the Samaritan, say, hey, Jesus,
my brother not feeling so well, and he said,
give not that which is holy unto the dogs.
If you’re going to tell a woman, give not
that which is holy unto the dogs.
And she’s a woman.
He just called her a dog.
If I translate that into hip hop, she’s a female.
He called her a dog.
I know how that goes.
But she said to him, but even a dog
is allowed to eat the crumbs that
falls from the master’s table.
And he went and helped.
He helped her.
Now, let’s go back to what you just said about Putin
or Vito Corleone or myself and my family.
Of course, the family is first.
But once the family is good, it has
to then spread to the community, then
to the state, country, world.
The problem we have sometimes is that,
and this is the reason why a lot of powerful families
was overthrown, like why do they behead
their own king with the guillotine, right?
Because once the family was strong,
they didn’t let the wealth, the opportunity expand out.
You look at Wu Tang, yes, our family was made strong first.
But then all the Wu members were able to form
their own corporations.
And they had their own subfamilies.
It has to grow out.
And they took over the world.
You’ve talked about being vegan.
I don’t think I heard you explain this,
because it connects somehow about how you think about life.
So you talk about when your family’s good,
you grow that circle of empathy.
You grow the community.
Is that how you think about being vegan,
that just the capacity of living beings on Earth to suffer,
that you just don’t want to add suffering to them?
Yeah, I mean, you said it clear.
It’s like nothing, in all reality,
I came to a realization that nothing really
has to die for me to live.
The plants themselves, right?
So let’s just say you want a steak, which is probably
the most, I don’t know, the most expensive piece of meat.
But let’s just say the steak is top of the line, nice steak.
And you’re eating the steak for the protein to help
build your muscle.
And I don’t know if you got it from a cow or a bull,
but whether it’s a cow or a bull,
they grow to about 1,500 pounds.
And if it’s a bull, it’s all muscly muscle.
And it’s only eating grass.
Yeah, it’s possible to, both as an athlete
and just as a human being, to perform well
without eating meat.
That’s something, especially in the way
we’re treating animals, to deliver that meat to the plate.
I think about that a lot.
So I do, I’m a robotics person, AI person.
And I think a lot about, I don’t know if you think
about this kind of stuff, but building AI systems
as they become more and more humanlike,
you start to ask the question of, are we okay?
If we give the capacity for AI systems to suffer,
first to feel, but then to suffer,
to hate and to love, to feel emotion,
how do we deal with that?
It starts asking the same question as you ask of animals.
Are we okay adding that suffering to the world?
And I don’t think we should add the suffering
because it’s not necessary.
Like, look, if it’s necessary, right,
because we’re survival or the first law of nature,
self preservation, if you are in a desert
and there’s nothing else to eat,
but that lizard, yeah, okay, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Lizard’s gotta go.
Yeah, you gotta go, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Because at the end of the day, man is,
when they say man has dominion over these things,
his dominion is almost like a caretaker.
The way we do our dominion, we dominate it,
eat it, cook it.
Like who’s the first guy that looked at the lobster?
He was like, I’m gonna eat this thing.
Like, first of all, it’s hard to eat it.
You gotta go through a process to get that.
A crab, I remember we used to eat crabs when we was kids
and I didn’t know why I was always getting itchy throats
and all that, you know, you don’t know, just eat.
But at the end of the day, a crab didn’t provide
no more than a finger worth of meat maybe.
And it was hell getting that thing, getting it out.
It’s like, it’s not worth it in all reality.
You could have gave me a banana
and did better for my body and my appetite
and my being fulfilled as full.
Like, look at the blessings of life, right?
If you take a seed or you get an apple and you eat it,
in that apple is multiple seeds in it.
If you plant that seed, it’ll give you a whole tree
with a whole bunch of apples with all multiple seeds.
But if you kill a fish, it can’t reproduce, it’s done.
If you kill a, it’s done, it’s nothing coming back.
But when you deal with the plants,
even after you eat the apple and then you defecate,
your defecation is what feeds the ground
to cause the apple to grow more.
Yeah, it’s a circle of life.
And especially there’s a guy named David Foster Wallace,
he wrote a short story called Consider the Lobster.
If you actually think philosophically about what,
from a perspective of a lobster,
that’s like symbolic of something
because you’re basically put in the water, like cold water,
and then it heats up slowly until it’s no more.
It’s torture, yeah, it must have been like,
do you think they started eating lobsters
in the Inquisition?
Yeah, they just enjoy,
they would probably enjoy torturing animals
and they realize they’re also delicious
after the torture is finished,
that’s probably how they discovered it.
Let me ask you a question,
I know you’re asking me the questions,
but I just wanna talk a little bit about the AI,
and you said something about trying to
put the emotion in it, right?
So are you thinking there’s an algorithm for emotion?
Yes, but I think emotion isn’t something
that there’s an algorithm for for a particular system,
we create emotions together.
So emotion is something like this conversation,
it’s like magic we create together.
So I’ve worked with quite a few robots,
I’ve a very simple version of that,
I’ve had Roomba vacuum cleaners,
I’ve had them make different sounds
and one of them is like screaming in pain, like lightly,
and just having them do that when you kick them
or when they run into stuff,
immediately I start to feel something for them.
So the emotion, okay, so the emotion you’re saying
is imposed back on the human,
but I’m asking, do you think there’s an algorithm
for the emotion to be imposed from machine to machine?
Yeah, that’s a really good way to ask it.
It’s difficult because I think ultimately
I only know how to exist in the human world.
So it’s like, it’s the question of
if a tree falls in the forest, nobody’s there to see it,
does it still fall?
I still think that ultimately machines will have to
show emotion to other humans
and that’s when it becomes real.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot too.
And I just, okay.
No, I’m not gonna hit you with this
because I’ve been thinking about this
and this is your field here.
Well, do you think the emotion is wave?
Like light is wave or do you think it’s particle?
So emotion is just a small,
it’s like a shadow of something bigger.
And I think that bigger thing is consciousness.
So emotion is just.
I don’t know if it’s a wave or a particle.
I haven’t thought about that.
I have thought about it, whether it’s,
there’s something like whether consciousness
or emotion is a law of physics.
Like if it’s that fundamental to the universe.
I had a lyric that said this, it comes out.
They did this documentary about the planet
and I wrote a song, it’s called The World of Confusion.
And I’ll try to paraphrase the lyric,
but in the world of the confusion,
where there’s so much illusions,
we suck the blood from the planet.
Now it needs a transfusion
and the redistribution of wealth,
of health and wealth of self
and a deeper understanding about mental health.
The doctor prescribed the physical solution.
The psychiatrist wants to build a bigger institution,
but neither have the solution or the equation
to make an instrument to measure
the weight of the hate vibration.
What is the weight of hate?
Is it heavier than the weight of love?
Is it heavier than the weight of lead inside of a slug?
With just 10 milligrams, it’s all it takes to kill a man.
But anyways, do not go on from there.
Damn, that’s good.
But the question, you see the question there, right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, can it be measured?
Can that be measured?
I think so, I think so.
Just look at the instrument, yeah.
Yeah, we’re in the dark ages of that,
but I think it could be measured.
I think there’s something physical,
like something that connects us all this much.
We tend to think we humans are distinct entities
and we move about this world,
but I think there’s some deeper connection.
And, but we’re so, listen, science is in the,
we just had a few breakthroughs in the past 100 years
from Einstein on the theoretical physics side.
We don’t know anything about human psychology.
We barely know much about human biology.
We’re trying to figure it all out.
Yeah, I had another theory,
because, you know, you think about quantum, right?
As long as you say that there’s an uncertainty
and you have me believe there’s an uncertainty,
then there’s an uncertainty.
But if there’s not an uncertainty, what happens?
So I’m only saying that, it’s not,
because you look at quantum computers,
they’re gonna give you the O, the one,
the one, the O, they’re gonna take two things
and make it eight things.
And by the time you multiply four of those things together,
it’s like this chess board, right?
The moves goes into the millions.
But the thing that’s introduced is the uncertainty, right?
You’re gonna make a move.
You know this already, right?
Because this has been played a thousand times,
but sooner or later, something uncertain is gonna come in
or make your next move.
I like the weight of these.
They add the certainty.
I think just like what we were saying, unpredictable,
there’s something about us humans
that really doesn’t like everything to be fully predictable.
I mean, chess too is perfectly solvable.
There’s nothing unpredictable about chess.
Right, well, I could agree to that
because Bobby Fischer said in one of his books,
which I actually love what he said.
He said, every game of chess is a draw.
The only way somebody win is when one of us makes a mistake.
I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Yeah, it doesn’t.
What is chess?
Like, how do you think about chess?
What’s at the core of your interest in chess?
Do you see Kung Fu, music, film, all of it, life,
all just living through chess?
Yeah, I see, it’s the most stimulating passage of time
for me that’s also, it’s like, it’s a pastime
that stimulates my mind, my music,
my thoughts about life at the same time.
So while some pastimes is like,
say baseball is a pastime.
And baseball could stimulate you
depending on how you look at it, right?
But most likely, you’re not gonna get
this much brain activation, this much calculation,
and this much thinking about yourself
in a game of baseball.
I mean, the player maybe, but not the viewer.
Chess is something that I can engage in too.
And even though it’s a pastime,
it’s given me all the stimulation of real time in my life.
It’s funny because it’s also, it’s a funny game
because it’s connected through centuries of play.
Just some of the most interesting people
in the history of the world have played this game
and have struggled with whatever,
have projected their struggles onto the chessboard
and thought, and the nations have fought
over the chessboard.
The Soviet Union versus the United States,
Bobby Fischer represented the United States.
Spassky represented the Soviet Union.
I gotta, before I lose track of it,
when we were talking about The Godfather,
you were in American Gangster, great film.
You said it’s one of your favorites too.
What, you were in it with Denzel Washington.
What makes that movie meaningful to you?
What was it like making that movie?
Because it’s a great, great American film.
That was a great American film.
It was so many things in that film.
Being a part of that film was probably a blessing
and a treasure, because even if I wasn’t a part of it,
it just caught such great filmmaking
and to me, a really cool, great story.
The thing that I love about it the most
really is the process of it.
Which part of the process?
I wouldn’t have known the process if I wasn’t part of it.
So as a film joy, it was a great film,
but even the process of making it
was like high level education for me on multiple levels.
I’m working with Ridley Scott, which is,
and this is a bold statement if I say this here,
cause I got a lot of friends that’s going to probably,
but he’s probably the best living director.
Because watching him allowed me to understand
a principle that I’ve coined to him
and I don’t know if people use it yet, called multi vision.
He seems to have the capacity to see eight things
at one time.
I heard on Robin Hood, he had 18 cameras.
I wasn’t there for that.
And you think he keeps them all in his mind, just seeing.
I seen him do it when he went to the monitors
with the video playback guy.
I seen him bring everything back to a point,
but nothing was the same on the frame.
He was already there.
And he knew if he had what he was or not.
And he placed the cameras there.
And he saw it in his own way.
And I peeped it.
I peeped it.
And I said, yeah.
And I just humbly asked him.
He was gracious enough to speak to me and talk to me.
And confirm what I thought I saw.
He confirmed it.
And I was able to utilize it, as I’m a filmmaker now.
And I see, I can at least see three or four things.
I can’t see eight yet.
I’ll be there though.
But I could definitely, even right now,
just I could go like this in the room, OK?
I got it now.
I got how to make this right here,
which is just us all sitting.
How do I make this dramatic?
Come on on him.
There’s a story there.
And I might just go off his hanging watch
or his hanging wristband.
Because there’s something else there too.
Is he dead?
We don’t know.
So he has this.
And even though this is the scene.
Yeah, you keeping that in mind, all of this in mind.
What about like, can you give an inkling
of other parts of the process, like the editing?
Like where does the magic happen?
Pedro, I don’t pronounce Pedro last name right.
He’s a cool guy.
I had a chance to play rugby with him.
He was on, was he on my team?
We were in both teams.
But Pedro, the editor who edited many great films,
once again, he has, I will call, deciphering power.
A good editor is a decipher, almost like breaking
the enigma, because he’s dealing with thousands,
or we’ll call it a film, with millions of feet of film,
at least a million feet of film.
That’s a lot of film for a feature.
He’s dealing with that.
But he’s dealing with multiple cameras.
So it ain’t like it’s like two cameras.
He got an A, B, and he could just go back.
He may have six cameras, and he has to go back
and deal with that process.
And you know what?
He knows how to tell the story again.
And he proved it on American Gangster
as me being a witness, because it’s so much information.
Even when the brothers all start getting their little business
and then he put one in the Bronx,
he just captured every neighborhood within one minute,
and you knew what would happen.
You knew it all.
You saw the whole rise of fame.
You watched the Palmer and Scarface,
who does it in two minutes, but it’s only one character.
So you see him go to the bank.
He drops the money off.
You see him buy the lion.
You see him gets his wife, or the tiger.
You see him gets his wife, you see all that.
And then it ends on the big side of him in a big house
with all the TV screens.
And you seen him go through it, right?
But in American Gangster, you’re going
to tell that story of rising, but you also got
to include these five brothers.
And that’s all in the edit.
But also all in the director knowing that as well.
And you got to keep thinking about them, because that
was a story right there.
While I was hearing it, I don’t know
if they was taking pictures of him,
or they might have a little party over there.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Chess, I think.
Yeah, I like it.
They’re playing chess in the distance.
This is great.
You said that you were always an old soul
and see the world as if you’re 200 years old.
I like this line.
Because your creative vision allows
you to see the final piece you’ve created,
or you’re creating very quickly, quicker than others.
I heard that as if you’ve almost lived many lives.
You have this experience that allows you to see the vision.
So let me ask you on creativity, where
does this creativity behind RZA come from,
both musically and film wise?
I don’t know if I have the answer to that one, right?
Seriously, where does it come from?
Only thing I could say about that
is that for some reason, it seems endless.
And that’s peculiar when I think about it myself,
because I was taught a lot of things from the JZA.
He introduced me to mathematics.
He introduced me to hip hop itself, to break dancing.
I got other cousins that introduced me to graffiti,
cousins that introduced me to DJing.
I realized that I had a lot of introductions,
but the JZA definitely, my older cousin,
gave me a lot of early inspirations.
And not saying that he’s not creative,
as creative as he was then or now,
the wide span of creativity, I don’t see him doing that,
And I don’t see the cousins that taught me how to DJ.
I didn’t see them move from DJing to making the beats.
My cousin who actually got me into instruments,
I didn’t see him leave funk and rock.
I’m an orchestra composer now.
So I just said to myself, I just accept myself as an artist,
as a creative artist.
That’s what I am.
I have to accept that.
Now, where it comes from, I don’t know.
If I was to try to say where it comes from,
like, hey, give me some type of answer,
I would say from life itself.
But what does it feel like?
Because you mentioned during this pandemic,
for example, for some reason, more
came to you in terms of writing.
And so do you feel like you’re just receiving signals
from elsewhere, or do you feel like it’s hard work,
or you’re just waiting?
It’s not even waiting, nor is it hard work.
It’s almost like I said in one of my other lyrics,
this is for the MC part of it.
I said, MCing to me is easy as breathing.
So it’s like breathing.
Yeah, it’s just like, in fact, there’s
actually was a scientific thing I read about that.
Now that you’ve said that.
You heard this?
I know you’ve had to hear this.
They say that the atoms in our atmosphere, which
seem to be infinite in number, are not infinite
in the space they occupy.
Because they’re in our atmosphere.
And so there’s a chance that at least 1 million atoms
that you breathe in your life was breathed by Galileo.
You heard this before, right?
It’s very accurate.
How does your body digest it?
Oh, let’s start at the fact that most of the atoms that we’re
made of is from stars, right?
So we’re all really connected fundamentally somehow.
And then the atoms that make up our body come and leave.
And the same with the cells that are in our body,
they die and are reborn.
And we don’t pay attention to any of that.
That all just goes through us.
I don’t know.
That makes me feel like I’m not an individual.
I’m just a finger of something much bigger,
some much bigger organism.
Well, because you’re drinking the coffee there, right?
You’re going to digest that.
You’re going to digest those atoms,
whether you’re going to put them through the bowel
or through the urination, it’s coming out.
Or maybe you’ll sweat it out.
You might sneeze it out.
But they’re going to make their way out.
How do you digest the atoms if you just breathe in Galileo?
And that’s what I think an artist does.
I think something in the artist, it’s
like some people eat things and they’re going to gain weight.
Some people ain’t going to gain weight.
They’re going to gain muscle.
I’ll just give you an analogy here.
I’m thinking that the artist breathes in and translates it
into the art.
First, they got to hear it.
I think most of us don’t hear that.
We receive it, but it just doesn’t come out.
Yeah, we not have the frequency.
I said this to a lot of artists.
And even we all can consider ourselves artists
in a certain way.
But let’s just say there’s only one million artists
in the world.
Because it’s probably 10.
If you divide that into the population,
what part of the table would it be?
The tiny part.
It might be that, right?
And yet, it’s that that inspires that.
And you know what’s so crazy about that, though?
There’s also a chance.
I’m just going numbers and I’m just hypothesizing with you.
But there’s also a chance that all of this
is actually informing that.
The artist is just watching this, all of this,
all the chaos of this.
Yeah, so it’s hard to know where the beauty comes from.
Is it the artist or the chaos from the?
So I just say I don’t have the answer.
But if I was to be forced to say an answer,
and you’re not twisting my arm, but I’ll say.
I can if you want me to.
No, thank you.
I’ll say life.
In Tao of Wu, you write something about confusion,
which I really like.
Confusion is a gift from God.
Those times when you feel most desperate for a solution,
The information will become clear.
The confusion is there to guide you.
Seek detachment and become the producer of your life.
So I got to ask you advice.
If a young person today in high school, college
is looking for some advice, what advice
could you give them to be a producer of a life
that can be proud of?
Read the Tao of Wu.
Let’s start with the Wu Tang manual first.
No, you could do that second.
I think you could read the Tao of Wu first
and then do the manual.
Because the manual is not to put the two books against each
other, but the manual is talking about things
that is so deeply connected to the music.
And the people in the Tao of Wu goes beyond that.
So I would actually start there, which is not normally
what I would prescribe.
I always tell people, start in knowledge, then go to wisdom.
But since the Tao of Wu.
Skip ahead to the wisdom.
I like it.
Yeah, I think for a young man in high school,
go to the Tao of Wu and then go back.
It’s just like sometimes you have my son’s generation,
they have to watch the second round of Star Wars.
And then they go back.
You know what I mean?
This generation is watching The Force Awakens.
And then they go back.
But what, because if you just look at your life as an example,
that’s one heck of a life.
There’s very few lives like it.
You’ve created some of the most incredible things
artistically in this world.
Like if somebody, you talk about that like 1 million, right?
At the corner of the table.
If somebody wants, strives, dreams to become one of those,
how do they do it?
Well, the beautiful thing is that there
are footprints left by those who’ve done it.
And the best way is to study that.
To study those who’ve already done what you want to do.
We live on a civilization.
As we said, this is the greatest country in the world.
But our seal is a pyramid with an I on it.
You know what I mean?
Because they did it before.
And they may have failed for some reason
or something happens.
But it was just a strong enough example to take us further.
Elon Musk is sitting here trying to do better than what
the rocket builders did before.
He’s not the first one to build the rocket.
He’s not the first guy to think of with the electric car.
He’s doing it better.
He’s advancing it to the point that whoever
picks up after him, maybe they’ll
get to that flying car.
So that’s the beauty.
There’s a good verse.
I love finding verses to say things to confirm.
Because this way, people could take it verbally, physically,
and then maybe even spiritually.
But Christmas has said a verse.
He said, the fastest way to heaven
is by spending time or studying the wise people.
Meaning the wise people who are living
and those who live before you.
Study the masters.
Let me ask you a big, perhaps ridiculous question,
but give it a shot.
What is the meaning of this whole thing?
What’s the meaning of life?
I’m not going to rush into the answer.
I’m going to give you somebody else’s answer first,
and I’ll give you my answer.
I remember asking this when I was 15, 16 years old.
One of the brothers was studying in mathematics.
And the letter I itself means I Islam.
I meaning the individual being in total accord with Islam.
And let me finish this.
Then they took the word Islam, and they
defined it as Islam is an Arabic word for peace.
Then they said, peace is the absence of confusion.
So then they took them.
This is something that really hit me when I never forgot it.
And I’m going to decipher it.
But then they took the word Islam,
and they broke it down by the letter into an acronym,
like cash, with everything around me.
And they broke it down to I stimulate light and matter.
And I was like, what?
Because what hit me is that if you’re not here,
then light and matter don’t exist to you.
So you’re stimulating it, or it ain’t here for you.
So anyway, taking all that.
But then I said, so what’s the meaning of life?
And the brothers just said, love Islam forever.
And I said, I ain’t saying the religious point of it.
I’m just saying all those other elements
I just spoke about in front of it.
I stimulate light and matter.
I love that.
And let me give you my definition of life.
I think life is simply for each and every one of us
to add on to.
Like you said, the masters.
Build on top.
Life gave you life.
Give life back.
I don’t think there’s a better way to end it than talking
about the meaning of life.
RZA, I’m a huge fan.
It’s such a huge honor that you spend your valuable time
Thank you so much.
Thank you for inviting me.
Thanks for listening to this conversation with RZA.
To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors
in the description.
And now, let me leave you with some words from Plato.
Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.
Thank you for listening, and hope to see you next time.