They say you never forget your first … encounter with a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. And I’m not going to dispute that.
I was in Manhattan, wandering around Times Square with the South Dakota State women’s basketball team, doing research for a road-trip piece. Some of us wound up in the ESPN Zone (may it rest in piece) and on the same set of stairs as Method Man. I pointed him out, someone chased him down. Pictures were taken. History was made.
And now I’ve got two encounters with the Wu.(Actually, three if you include an Ol’ Dirty Bastard song being played during my wedding dance.)
Last week, I did a phone interview with Cappadonna, the so-called 10th member (be it officially or unofficially, a point of much consternation) of the ground-breaking, kung-fu obsessed, Staten Island rap group. He’s coming to Sioux Falls on Sunday for a show at a local barbeque joint. (We do OK in the random national and quality local hip-hop shows, by the way.)
Here are some of the highlights from what turned out to be a pretty interesting conversation:
Q. There are a lot of Midwest stops on this tour even though the region isn’t known for its rap roots. Why is that?
A. That’s why. We thought we’d go where no man’s gone before. This is the final frontier of rap. We’re getting up close and personal with it and trying to conquer land that hasn’t been touched so everyone gets an equal and fair share of good hip-hop. We mix it up. It’s not about the venue, it’s about the people. If it’s only 100, I’m going to give them the the same show. That’s what makes me real.
Q. One of the interesting elements about Wu Tang was its size. What was it likely trying to make music with so many cooks in the kitchen?
A. It becomes a clash at times, different thoughts and different values and how people see things. But when we mix it up, it’s like mixed vegetables.
Q. What did you try to bring to the table as an individual?
A.I think it was my slang, I always came up with different words and different ways to flip it. I think it was also my personality when I came in, because I came in out of nowhere, but I came in with a flamboyant side. I was smooth and witty. At that time, there was nothing like that really going on. Bit game came after that with the smooth don mode. It just fit in somehow into the hard core changes of Wu.
Q. Rap is a relatively new genre and therefore caters to the youth. But you’ve crossed 40 now. How do you think that relationship between age and music is going to change over time?
A. Music is forever evolving. It changes and there’s new dudes coming up and they come up quicker than ever. They pop up like pop-ups on TV, but it’s like, yo, let them breath, let them live. It’s just another page or another chapter in our book. Big ups to the pioneer and all of the rappers that stood the test of time. That’s a rapper’s delight to be able to stand the test of time and to make it to the Super Bowl of rap and just to be like, ‘Yo, I’m a built this one to you at 60 years old and you’re going to understand you’ve still got a long way to go.
Q. The music industry seems to be marked by two ideas right now: Blockbusters and self-publishing. Wu Tang seemed to be more of a grassroots movement. What are your thoughts on that?
A. We pulled it off because we started from scratch and we came at a time where the juice wasn’t really all that captivated by the music as far as a conglomeration. They didn’t know it was going to grow into a multimillion-dollar extravaganza. But when they found out, they was definitely right on top of that. Things went our way, and people have been trying to find out a way for more than 10 years to get in there and take more control over it.
Q. Is it safe to say that you’re proud of your time with Wu Tang and the group’s role in hip-hop history?
A. I’m definitely very, very proud and grateful for making that possible in my life and giving me something when I had nothing to fall back on and to make a living and get buy. Even with that, I reflect back on my earlier works and I try to remember what the lesson was that I had to learn because some of my music was rough and rugged and some of it was educational and uplifting. But that rough and rugged part, I was like, damn, I feel bad. I was going through some changes and all of that and just (having) mad, crazy thoughts. Now, I have to take responsibility for that, too.
Q. Sounds like you’ve gone through some life changes?
A. Yeah, several. That’s what The Pilgrimage (his latest album) is about. Pilgrimage means journey. In my journey, I experience all of these things, and put them out there, not necessarily for my listeners to go out and do these things, but to get them kind of a map on some of the things that you might have to deal with in life coming through, and how it might be able to be avoided.