An interview with any member of the Wu-Tang Clan always turns into something like a life lesson. Over the past two decades, the Staten Island–spawned stalwarts have designed a peerless rap movement on a foundation of kung fu flicks, ghetto trials, and Five Percenter ideologies. But above all, the crew's prevailing virtue has been their ability to remain a tight unit while showcasing their individual talents. For an update on the Clan, who've sold out a December 22 show at the Wilbur Theatre and booked another for January 3, I spoke with U-God, who was in the lab recording his upcoming solo disc, The Keynote Speaker. Anyone who considers U-God the least vocal member is about to think twice.
What's the most annoying question interviewers ask you guys?
They don't know that we're always family no matter what, and they ask if we're having a reunion, and how we got together. The interviewer controls it; if you ask the right questions, you'll get a good interview. If you ask annoying questions and probe for internal wars and certain little things that really don't matter, then you're going to have problems.
What does it take to pull an effort like this tour — or a group album — together? Who is ultimately the point person, and who is the most impossible to get hold of?
Things change at any point. Right now, you have RZA, who's doing a movie in China, you have Meth, who's in Europe, Ghost just dropped his album, Deck and Masta Killa are out there keeping themselves in the world, and I'm at home working on my next explosive. When it's time for us to come together, we don't have to sit there wondering how we're going to do this and that. There's no magical button or mystery; we were the first unit to move as one, and we still know how.
How has the Wu-Tang sound changed over time?
My style is totally different than everybody else's — we all have our own unique fingerprint. Ain't no snowflake alike, ain't no two men on the planet alike. We all have our own sound and tone of voice; mine is a deep and raspy, smooth-talking, hardcore body-breaking style. I can't tell you about Meth and Genius, because they do what they do. But I can tell you one thing — when it comes to this rhyme stuff, they masters at what they do. I might be the master of one death stroke, but he might have the death blow. Our styles complement each other; they come together like a good mixed drink, or a good Thanksgiving dinner with some yams.
With so many deep catalogues, how do you decide what gets played at shows?
It's not predicted — we feel it as we go. Sometimes I want to do five songs; sometimes I might want to do six; sometimes I might want to do one. It just comes out naturally. Different climates also affect the shit. If you're in a cold area, they want to hear hardcore stuff. Let me tell you something — different weather triggers different types of earlobes. When I'm in a good sunny place, they want to hear that stuff that makes your silk shirt blow. But if you're in New York in the rain, they want the hardcore. I don't know if it's science — I just know that it is.