The Wu-Tang Clan's performance at Bonnaroo 2013 stood out—8/10th's of the original members performed a high-energy set, including severals elections from their standout debut record, Enter the 36 Chambers. We interviewed Clan member Cappadonna in Feburary, and now we have our second interview with an emcee in Staten Island's most influential Hip-hop collective: U-God, whose new album, The Keynote Speaker, was released on July 23.
So your new record is called The Keynote Speaker. Pretty academic. Why?
I feel like i've been in the background, and it's my turn to step to the podium. I'm dropping some new heat, holding the torch for the Wu-Tang like I always do. And that's that.
Why do you feel like you've been in the background?
I haven't had as much solo success as some of my brethren. But, I've always loved music to tell you the truth. I'm displaying my music to the world, and to do that I need to step into the forefront. That's really why I'm the keynote speaker.
Was there anything in particular on your mind when you wrote the album?
I'm trying to get my story. I'm trying tog et a little bit of myself, a reflection of what I'm feeling, and possibly what someone else might be feeling. I'm a wordsmith. It might make sense, it might not—it might touch you, it might not. I'm just happy that I have the talent to express myself. When I dropped the new single, "Heads Up," it got ten thousand downloads in three days. People still want to hear the raw shit, and I have that raw shit.
It seems like interest in Wu-Tang Clan related material has been on the rise in the recent past. I know the record sales are up. Why do you think that is?
We don't really care about that, you all care about that. As an artist you're just looking for the one perfect song. That's your mission, your journey, the one song that defines you. That's the search of an artist.
Do you think you've found the song or verse that defines you?
I am forever on that quest, as an artist. To paint that one joint like… to have one song that's hollow-bodied. I think all the greats wanted that. You probably you don't understand the feeling coming out of the booth when you're spitting what you want to spit and it comes out perfectly. It's like a release for me. It's ecstasy for me when it comes out how you saw it in your head and you transmit it through speakers. It feels good.
Is there any particular song where you walked out of the studio and felt satisfied in?
A lot of verses. I'm in the moment. Being in the Clan… There's so many of us that you've got to compress yourself down and be precise every time you strike. When I'm by myself i can be more broad. When i'm in the Clan i'm short, sharp, choppy, but I'm still raw. In that instant,t hey need it and boom I'm there. That's hard to explain there.
RZA is producing Keynote Speaker and it seems a bit more old school, but what do you think of contemporary hip-hop?
The media call us old school, well, I'll show you youngsters something. You don't want to fuck with the grand dragon. I'm not old school I am the grand dragon not his mic. i'm the master. I want it to be like the old karate flicks, the old old dude that hits you one time and break your ribs. You know, I love Kendrick [Lamar}, when I see him he salutes and I salute him,and the other young guys, but they're babies. they're like our babies.
A lot of artists cite Wu-Tang as something that made them want to make music. What made you want to make music?
I was raised around music. when I was on punishment the radio was my girl. I was always listening to music, wether it be Peaches and Herb, or old Johnny Cash, or Metallica. That's why as an artist I've grown to understand music way better than when I was younger. Nobody wants to fuck with me on freestyles—I'll mow the lawn with you. That's what I say about my crew, we've mastered all styles of hip hop. There isn't one person in Wu-Tang that hasn't invented a style, or created a trend or caused an event in Hip-Hop. I want our legacy to go down as the illest hip-hop crew to ever touch the planet earth, and I think we're doing that, to tell you the truth.