Masta Killa: Back to the Essence

An anachronism is something that’s out of place in a space in time. You’ll hear film critics use it when things don’t add up – like a piece of money in “Titanic.” Rarely is the term good. But in Hip-Hop, the term is almost never used – and if it were, it could mean something […]

An anachronism is something that’s out of place in a space in time. You’ll hear film critics use it when things don’t add up – like a piece of money in “Titanic.” Rarely is the term good. But in Hip-Hop, the term is almost never used – and if it were, it could mean something great. Everybody’s talking ‘bout the good ole’ days, the golden era, paradise lost. Masta Killa may very well be the anachronism of Hip-Hop.

Nobody speaks about the parks anymore. The block party is lost. But in Masta Killa’s world, these forgotten jewels are the very force behind his debut album, No Said Date. This album’s been brewing since Killa touched the mic with his Wu-Tang brothers eleven years ago. The record approaches Hip-Hop with a timeless appeal, and that signature razor’s edge of lyricism, knowledge, and supreme consciousness.

Masta Killa reflects on the inner-turmoil of his group, the early days, and how all of it relates into the album. Masta Killa is an anachronism because he has no specific time frame. His world is a lot like his release schedule, No Said Date. I think it’s really something special that you independent route. Of the Wu brothers, you’re kind of the first to do it like this, what has the indie label afforded you as far as freedom and creativity?

Masta Killa: That’s exactly what’s it all about, right there. Being able to come from the heart. Hip-Hop to me, it’s just an expression – being able to just be free with that. Without compromising the art. It started from the block and it’s something that’s grown to a billion dollar business. So now, sometimes you have to do what you have to do because there’s business involved, but to be able to capture everything from the essence, even if you make a mistake…I guess that’s why some people do the Unplugged thing. “F**k it, if you make a mistake, keep going.” That’s what’s so beautiful about the independent thing. Over the years, you’ve had lots of material to pull from. With No Said Date, how much is older, and how much is new?

Masta Killa: I constantly work. I’m constantly in the studio, doing something. I’ve got songs on No Said Date that I’ve had for over five years. When something is vintage, it is what it is. No matter how old, or how long you might’ve had it…that’s why we still love the old Hip-Hop. What is old really? It’s just vintage. Learn something from it, you can still put it on, it’ll still rock the party. The beats are still banging. If it can’t rock a block party, it ain’t the s**t. You gotta be able to put it on in the park…two turntables and a DJ scratchin’/words seem to have an attraction/when they rhyming. It got to be Hip-Hop, man. “Old Man” is a crazy ODB moment. I’m guessing it’s older, but was that recorded after he go out?

Masta Killa: That’s after! Damn, that’ll shut down the ones who saying he changed.

Masta Killa: Yeah. Hey, this is a business. That don’t got nothin’ to do with my brother bein’ my brother. That’s personal. If you working at Merrill Lynch, and I’m working at Jacoby & Myers, so what! I told my brother I needed him, I was there. The Wu-Tang presence on this record is very thick.

Masta Killa: Wu-Tang is such a multi-talented group, I was just able to just be myself, really. I got Meth, I got Dirty doing something. Ghost is doing that, Rae, GZA. To just take it back to the essence with the block party. Everybody had every avenue covered. But this album is also filled with collaborations. Do you find yourself to be a better artist with others around you?

Masta Killa: Well, to me, first I like to listen to other people even before I listen to myself. I loved Hip-Hop [since] even before I was rhyming. I love to hear all the old school cats that was laying it down back then…Kool Moe Dee, Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Melle Mel, Kane, all the old greats. They ain’t that old. It was just at a stage when Hip-Hop wasn’t everywhere in the world. It went through stages. I always loved this. For me to do a collaborations with someone else, I love that. I got the capabilities to do my own songs, I love to hear other MC’s also. That’s what it was all about anyway, being braggodocious. “I’m nice! I’m slicker than you! Whateva.” So that’s a personal thing, [being] and MC, I understand that. But when it comes to making a bangin’ f**kin’ song, don’t let that stop you. Talking about Hip-Hop, one track that really jumped out at me on the record is “High School.” First of all, I love the story. Who was Masta Killa before Wu, and as a result of them, how did you change?

Masta Killa: See, I never changed. Those experiences, like a High School experience was Masta Killa of Wu-Tang. I always loved Hip-Hop. I might’ve wrote a little rhyme myself, and not had the heart to say it in front of a crowd. But you go to school, there’s cats at school in the lunch room that’s naaaasty! Just to be able to hold the crowd, you know I went to school in Brooklyn, New York, so to be able to hold a crowd in the lunch room or the back of the A-Train, just in a cypher alone, you gotta have a certain amount of talent to do that. Your wordplay has to be intriguing, because there’s really no beat. I was always around that, from a child. Wu-Tang forming…that [was] just children growing up to form something that took the world by storm. Hip-Hop was always there. This record is coming at a perfect time. It’s proving the Wu-Tang union.

Masta Killa: We’re not trying to paint a picture like we’re the perfect family that doesn’t go through problems. Everybody goes through problems. Immediate family go through problems. It doesn’t change the fact that at the end of the day, I still love you and if you need me, I’ll still be there. This is life, real life too. When we came into the Rap industry, that’s what we brought to the table. We brought unity, along with good music. People most of all, loved us coming together. I have songs on my album for dolo, and I have songs for unity. Because the most banginest Wu albums, even individual [albums], was always Wu-Tang Clan albums. Bedroom producers love Wu for what you guys do to a beat. You’ve got the new heads on there, but it’s great to see RZA fill out a lineup like that again.

Masta Killa: RZA always has bangin’ beats. But it’s your preference of what you wanna choose from when you get to the chamber. He can play you a hundred beats. But you have to know what you’re looking for. It’s really your ear. I try to rhyme on something that’s just undeniable, something that I would think every MC would want to rhyme on. If gotta think too hard about it, I don’t think it’s gonna be a hit. It’s not gonna be that s**t. In the parks, when DJ’s would cut certain records, it didn’t take long for you to want to freestyle or breakdance. As soon as he started cuttin’ that s**t, it was the s**t! It didn’t have to grow on you. When The Ruler’s Back was on tape, before it was on f**kin’ album, s**t was bangin’. It was already what it was. I come from all that. I listened to studied and all of that. Going back into the timeline as we go back, was “Winter Warz.” I can remember how that stuff just rocked me. That was a live Masta Killa moment.

Masta Killa: That moment right there, I’m still a seed of it. I still think I’m still growing as an MC. At that point, I was amongst MC’s that was much more talented and advanced on a MC level. I think Cappa might’ve been the star of the show on that “Winter Warz” s**t. I was always a creative writer. There’s much more to it, as far as being an MC. It’s breath control, it’s flowing, it’s bouncing, attractiveness. “Mystery of Chessboxin’” is one of the first rhymes I ever really wrote. GZA helped me construct that, to a degree of how to flow it. Right then, I was still in a growing state. I think I’m still growing. Wu-Tang Clan was gonna happen whether I wanted to be an MC or not. I just took time to apply myself and make something that was able to hold the weight of everything else around me to make it on [Enter the Wu-Tang]. Because it’s been such a long time coming, and such a big moment for you, how tough of a critic against your own work were you?

Masta Killa: I think I’m my worst critic. I never think its there. I’m always looking to get it better, get it tighter. I like to really know my lyrics before I say ‘em in the booth. I don’t really like to read them off the paper. It’s like an actor knowing his lines opposed to reading them on paper. If you did a Broadway play, you would have to know your s**t, because then you can get more into the theatric of it, and aura. You can feel it. I like to be in that kind of world. On a final note, I think your story is a great one. Kids today are so impatient, and many lack the talent to be so impatient. You’ve waited ten years. What words of advice would you give the next MC’s reading this?

Masta Killa: I would say, study the game of chess. It definitely teaches patience. To wait, will be beneficial. Like a ballplayer, don’t chase the game, let the game chase you. Even though you love the art of the Hip-Hop, it’s very important to study the business. However amount of time it takes you to study your craft inside and out. Take as much time as possible. Money will come and go. But to be able to give something to the world, it takes time. It’s like cookin’ food. You can throw something together real fast to put in somebody’s mouth, but to make real home-cooked food, you gotta let things come together.

No Said Date is in stores now.