U-God: Boxed In

It’sprobably safe to say that the Wu-Tang Clan, sans actual instruments (a la The Roots), is the only group in Hip-Hop’s history to really come across as an actual band. Yeah, a band. Remember those? I know, you thought those were just for Rock & Rollers. Each member plays his respective role and serves as a piece of a collective unit. During the Wu’s rise to prominence in the mid ‘90s, it was obvious who the band’s lead artists were. The beautiful thing about the Wu, and clearly an indication of just how powerful their movement and music was, is that even the artists who fans ultimately pigeonholed into supporting roles eventually got their chance to make their mark individually.

In October of 1999, U-God dropped his heavily anticipated solo debut, Golden Arms Redemption, and the album went on to perform respectably. But with two more Wu albums, and a slew of solo releases from the other members cutting into his face time, it’d be practically five years until he resurfaced, this time independently with U-Godzilla Presents: The Hillside Scramblers. The project was U-God’s attempt to spread the word about some of the young gunners from his hometown Park Hill Projects, and while it was well received among fans still dwelling in the 36 chambers, it did little to bolster his appeal among mainstream Hip-Hop consumers and critics. The same could be said for his 2005 LP Mr. Excitement. All in all, U-God knows and admits that he hasn’t yet reached his full potential, and while he’s hardly one to disclose many details about his upcoming plans, he definitely knows where his mistakes were made. As Wu-Tang Week progresses, we spoke to Golden Arms about the past, the indie grind, and why his quest for redemption continues.

AllHipHop.com: In Hip-Hop it’s always about what’s new and what’s fresh. You just got off tour and it was crazy… What do you think it is that allows you 13 years after your introduction, and not being a new group, to still come in and really sell out shows and have fans all over the place?

U-God: Well, that’s from putting in a lot of work through the years. Our catalog is humongous. We got one of the biggest catalogs in the mothaf**kin’ industry besides Sugar Hill [Records]. You see a lot of dudes poppin’ off right now, new dudes and all, that but the amount of work we done put in is incredible, man, and those albums still sell and people still come out and still wanna see the old s**t. It’s like A Tribe Called Quest. A Tribe Called Quest ain’t been out in like six or seven years and right now their filling up 3500-seaters. Just because you don’t hear them on the radio don’t mean that they ain’t poppin’! People don’t realize the game, man; the game is deeper than that. If you put in your stones and your bricks for years, you’re gonna have a fan base. It’s like Metallica. Dudes are like the Rolling Stones. So, all we gotta do is drop a new album or drop some new songs and we can go right back out there and go on tour again.

AllHipHop.com: We have a lot of camps out now claiming their a movement. The Wu truly was and is a movement. Why do these other crew’s movements feel so fabricated in comparison?

U-God: Well, they feel like they wanna be us because we ain’t around. We ain’t doin’ nothing. We ain’t doin’ nothing that’s really stickin’ to dudes’ ribs like that right now. So, they feel like they can come out! Before, if you wanted to be like somebody, you was a biter. You was a wack n***a. But right now, that seems to be the style. Monkey see, monkey do. Dudes right now can’t even compare to being the Wu. First of all, if you wanna be the mothaf**kin’ Wu, your first album gotta go four to five million [units sold]. Second, you gotta drop three, four, five more consecutive platinum albums and get a Grammy on one of those mothaf**kin’ joints, like Meth did! So, in order for you to be Wu-Tang, that’s the kinda s**t you gotta put up, those type of numbers, those type of things you gotta do.

AllHipHop.com: You were locked up for most of 36 Chambers and came out and you were able to hop on the two songs…

U-God: Yeah, “Protect Ya Neck” and the “Mystery of Chess Boxing.”

AllHipHop.com: Looking back on the situation you had came out of, do you ever bug out off the fact that you ended up being a character in a video game and that you’d be in a comic book and all this other crazy stuff?

U-God: Right now, the amount of work we put in I would never think it would get to this level. None of us ever thought it would get to this level. We did what we did when we were 21. We were still like in our twenties when we got our platinum album and a lot of cats ain’t achieved that even in their old age. So, we was kinda before our time so when we did get out in the world, s**t was crazy. But hell no, I would never think it was gonna get to a level to the spot I’m on right now, because I only got two joints off and I had to go do my lil’ time out, but when I came home, I had to get back in shape.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned a new Wu Album. After doing a couple Wu albums, what do you think the experience would be like going in and recording and what kind of new topics and sounds can you explore being that this will be like album number five for the Wu?

U-God: I ain’t gonna say nothing about none of that s**t because I don’t give away my mothaf**kin’ hat tricks and my lil’ tricks in the trade. But more or less, I can say that there’s a lot of things to talk about. What’s going on? A lot of books out there that dudes ain’t up on, lot of knowledge, Illuminati s**t is still in effect, Enron, scams that people doin’…A lot to talk about, a lot of s**t goin on: murder, death, kill, booze, drugs, tattoos, a lot of violence out there. So, I cant really say what the chemistry, what the formula gonna be because everybody done took from my formula already, like down to the bone. So, we can’t really come back with that old type of formula unless you come with some crazy…come hard and that’s basically how I like to come. I wanna come hard, hard, hardcore with some good hooks with some good beats. Take your time in there and put it together like how we used to do it! That’s all a process and lot of people don’t know what it takes for a nine-man group to make that process happen. ’Cause you got nine ill MCs who feel they should be number one! So, we got to humble ourselves again and get up in there and bake a nice cake.

AllHipHop.com: At this point, how motivated would you say you are to doing a Wu album?

U-God: I’m with it, as soon as n***as give me the red light like it’s real like that. I’m in there like I’m doin’ what I gotta do. Right now, I’m out here working on my s**t, so I ain’t waitin’ for nobody. I’m still doing me at the same time. I’m just trying get some better production goin’ on, get some nice beats some real chunky s**t. I’m out here searching for some diamonds.

AllHipHop.com: What type of sound is it that, when you say you looking for diamonds?

U-God: I can’t explain it to you, bro, it’s just gotta be heavy and big and that’s all I can tell you.

AllHipHop.com: Do you ever think it makes more sense for the Wu-Tang Clan to do an independent album as a group than actually go through a label?

U-God: This independent s**t is way more complicated than what you think. You gotta get in those programs and they gotta be serious business. Personally, I’m getting back into a major. I ain’t playin’, I’m goin back to a major. I’m getting back up on the diving board ’cause that’s where you makin’ money. Ain’t nothing wrong with being on a major. Oh, everybody’s always talkin’ about a major, B, that’s a myth. A major takes care of you, you sell records, you get taken cared of. Your s**t flopped, you don’t get taken care of, it’s business, man. It’s like I was playin’ for the majors and I got wounded or something and now I’m in the minors and s**t, playing independent games.

Now, I gotta make my way back into the f**kin’ majors by hittin’ my own best independently. So, now when you get back to the majors you gotta come back with Reggie Jackson numbers, you gotta start hittin’ home runs. That’s what they respect. Make some s**t that make n***a’s hair stand up and there’s no way around that. Look at E-40, E-40 was an independent for awhile too, he couldn’t take it no more. He said I gotta get back to the basics. Gotta get back to the majors and look at a n***a.

Allhiphop: With the way Hip-Hop is right now, coming back as a collective, do you go ahead and come in swinging swords or do you take it in a different direction?

U-God: Right now, I ain’t telling nobody how I’m comin’, man. I just do what I do. Just be surprised, I got s**t up my sleeve. I’’m always doin’ some new s**t. I’m out here right now f**kin’ with dudes. I’m here in L.A., I’m not just doin’ Hip-Hop, I write R&B I do all types of s**t and it’s just who I’m around that could bring the situation now. I can go anywhere and make songs with all type of dudes. Like yesterday, I was with Motor Head and Foo-Fighters just chillin’, drinkin’ and s**t. I’m coming hard and I come out how I wanna come out right now. I’m content with my s**t. I don’t give a f**k if it only sell 3,000 or 4,000 mothaf**kin’ copies. I know 5,000 n***as copped the s**t, cool. I’m basically startin’ all over again, really. We start a solo career; everybody always identifies me with Wu-Tang. Yeah, I’m great with my crew because I already accomplished that, but as far as my solo career, I have not popped off solo. The only thing that’s good about it is I got a toenail in the door. [Laughs]

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