U-God Says The $2 Million Wu-Tang Album Ain’t Nuthin’ To Get Excited Over (Video)
Wu-Tang Clan co-founder U-God is the latest guest on The Breakfast Club. This week, the Staten Island, New York MC published his memoir, Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang. According to Charlamagne Tha God, who read the text, Lamont Hawkins’ pre-music days may be the most compelling aspect of the revealing look into an often misunderstood Wu figure.
In the 37-minute interview, the close associate (and now family relative) of Method Man breaks down his days hustling. For Meth’, Heads receive imagery of a real-life character not unlike “Melvin ‘Cheese’ Wagstaff” on The Wire, but seemingly far more charismatic. Early ’90s legal woes from Golden Arms’ days on the blocks of Shaolin would shape his role within the Clan. At 10:00, U-God admits that by the time Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) recorded in 1992 and 1993, he was rusty with his rhyme craft. The MC attributes that to a lack of focus, leading to him being offbeat. Many Heads know that by later Wu releases, U proved to be godly with the mic in key spots.
This Rap re-tooling period is also reportedly why Heads got to know Cappadonna (28:00). During the recording of Raekwon’s seminal 1995 Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, RZA and Rae’ had holes in the tracks. Cap’, newly home from a bid, was working a security job. U-God, fully aware of Cappachino’s rhyme talents, suggested he take those two spots. That, along with Ghostface Killah’s Ironman assisting role, would ultimately position Cap’ to become a gold-certified soloist by the end of the ’90s. Today, in concert and on albums like last year’s The Saga Continues, Cappadonna often plays a more prominent role in Wu than U-God (who sat the album out, before appearing on a December remix).
In Raw, as well as in the interview, U-God also reveals personal tragedy at 17:00. The rapper’s son was nearly killed in the Stapleton projects, under the care of a babysitter. The incident took place when the victim was a child after he was used as a human body shield during a shootout. U-God describes the effect of that incident (he son would survive after losing organs and being pronounced dead, twice). Today, the rapper admits he has P.T.S.D., and that aftermath of that incident changed his dynamic with his Wu brothers. He also alludes to revenge in a chilling point of the interview moments later.
What may be most interesting and timely is U-God’s take on Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time In Shaolin album. This is the album that was won at auction by pharmaceutical speculator Martin Shkreli for $2 million in 2015. This week, following a securities fraud sentencing, the 34-year-old (who has had public problems with RZA and Ghost’), was forced to turn the single copy release over to federal agents.
U-God admits that he has not been paid for that seven-figure sale, partial motive for his 2016 seven-figure lawsuit against the Wu-Tang Clan and RZA. The MC says the suit is not ongoing, but he is in the midst of a “forensic audit” to see where money is going. “I’m trying to find out what’s going on,” before alluding that he and his legal team aim to get their debtors “in the cobra-clutch.” He addresses the group’s publicized sliding pay-scale for members.
More notably, the Babygrande Records artist says that the album (now believed to be in federal possession) is not worth the hype. At 30:00, U-God admits, “I don’t even know this dude [Martin Shkreli]. He like a worm to me; I don’t know the dude. When I seen his face, I’m like, huh? ‘How did you get my gangsta?’ [Laughs] ‘How did my gangsta get in your hands like that?'” Golden Arms details the recording of Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, and waters down some of its mythology. “[Album producer] Cilvaringz was real close to the group at one time. He’s RZA’s little minion or whatever you want to call him. He just said, ‘Got a verse from here, here, and here,’ and he put it together. If you do it like that, it came out kind of chunky. I’m on a song with Cher; I didn’t even know. Me and Redman is on a song with Cher.”
Upon the 2015 Forbes magazine revelation that the 31-track, 128-minute album existed, it was touted to be “recorded in secret over the past few years.” Although the sole copy of the album originated in Morocco, U-God dismisses any luster surrounding its recording. In 2014, the song featuring Cher crooning “Wu-Tang baby,” was confirmed by Rolling Stone‘s Jason Newman.
U-God says he heard the album ahead of its sale. “I heard it one time. After that, it was a wrap. I ain’t see it, I ain’t hear it no more.” By this MC’s account, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin seemingly is nothing more than one of the Clan’s many compilations over the years. Put another way has the personnel, but not the true Wu science.
Elsewhere in the interview, U-God claims he invented the “game of torture.” This became famous on Enter The Wu, thanks to the skit intro to the album version of “Method Man.” U-God says that he and Meth’ used to play it on the corners in their pre-music days.