In part two of AllHipHop.com’s exclusive interview with Hip Hop legend Masta Killa, the Wu-Tang Clan representative reflects back on making the group’s classic 1993 debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). [Read part one here]
The Wu’s initial LP is considered to be one of the standout musical accomplishments of the genre and widely held as the collective’s magnum opus. Two decades after its release, 36 Chambers still draws substantial attention from music fans and journalists from around the world.
Masta Killa provided the closing verse to the album’s "Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’,” and he explains to AllHipHop how crafting those lyrics was a landmark moment for his rap career. The man also known as Jamel Arief shares his thoughts on Hip Hop music at the moment and the controversial remix to Drake’s “Wu-Tang Forever.”
I wanted to ask you something. I heard you started off as a breakdancer...
[laughs] No, I didn’t start as a breakdancer. Growing up as a teenager, I used to do the pop lock and the moonwalk [laughs]. I wasn’t dancing for Father MC starting out in this Hip Hop industry or nothing like that. I’ve always been a fan of Hip Hop, from the dancing part of it to the music part. But I didn’t actually get my start in this industry being a dancer [laughs].
I was going to ask if we were going to see you popping on stage.
I don’t know. I might do a little T-Pain [laughs]. When Wu established itself, our music spoke for itself. We never had to do too much dancing. It’s the music and the vibe that makes you do what you want to do. That’s what Hip Hop is. It’s an expression of how you see it.
Speaking of expressing yourself, your verse on “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'” was the first verse you ever wrote out?
That was the first verse I actually sat down and wrote out. I wasn’t really sure about it, because it was the first time I actually did it. I just had thoughts on paper. I went to GZA, gave him the paper, and asked, “What do you think about this?”
He read it and said, “You wrote this?” I said, “Yeah, I wrote that.” He was like, “Wow. You just need to learn how to say this s**t. It might be some ill s**t, if you can say it. We might have something here.” [laughs] The rest was history.
At the time 36 Chambers was being recorded, did you or any of the other members realize you were creating something so groundbreaking?
I can’t speak of the next man’s vision. For me, I can’t say how groundbreaking I thought it was, but I knew the first time I heard "Protect Ya Neck" - and it wasn't even finished yet - just being a fan of Hip Hop, I was like “God damn!” I just wanted it on tape to be able to take it back to the neighborhood.
When you first heard any impressionable Hip Hop record, it was like “Oh s**t!” It made you say, “What the f**k?!” The first time I heard [Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s] "La Di Da Di", the first time I heard [Run-D.M.C.’s] "Sucker M.C.'s" - I had to sit down and analyze it.
So I knew the first time anybody heard [Enter The Wu-Tang] they would appreciate it. Especially if they were a Hip Hop fan. When we started going city-to-city, state-to-state, I had no idea it was going to become what it is. But I knew the music was definitely good.
Are there any artists or songs out now that have given you that “oh s**t” feeling?
Artists that are out now have their own style of doing things, but I love what they’re doing. Their world is a different style of hustling, but it’s dope. I like Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne’s chemistry and how they do their thing.
Jay Z is a vet of course. There’s certain people - Kanye. It’s a lot of people out there that have found their space and are comfortable as far as what they’re contributing to this art. I appreciate it as well.
At the time when I got to know Hip Hop, things were so rare that it actually had you stuck, even when we put our first album together. Making an album at that time was still kind of mystical to people. Now you can run into the average [rapper], and he has about ten albums in his backpack.
It’s just a different time, and Hip Hop has grown so globally. It’s everything. The President is Hip Hop. When Hip Hop has reached politics, it’s a different thing.
You mentioned Drake. Do you think we’ll ever get to hear the remix of “Wu-Tang Forever” featuring members of the Wu?
I can’t even tell you. I think I’m one of the members who recorded on that remix, but I haven’t heard it since I recorded it. Sometimes the best thing to do is do it and keep it moving. I would love to hear it, but who knows.
[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Masta Killa Talks Upcoming Solo Project + Wu-Tang Clan’s “A Better Tomorrow” & “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” Albums]
Check out Masta Killa's performance at the 2015 B&E Invitational in Les Arcs, France below.