RZA Explains Why Passing The Wu-Tang Production Torch To Mathematics Adds Up (Video)
Last Friday (October 13), Wu-Tang Clan released The Saga Continues. Executive produced by RZA, the album marks a new label and independent contract for the legendary Shaolin collective. Moreover, RZA entrusted Wu-Elements producer DJ Mathematics with the sounds. Following a year of discussion surrounding the Clan’s sound (Ghostface Killah was slated to be at the helm; J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League was said to be among new contributors), Math’ runs the show and takes on every track. The longtime DJ for Redman & Method Man and creator of the iconic Wu logo holds things down. RZA and the artist once known as Allah Mathematics appeared on The Breakfast Club and discussed the transition, and responsibility that goes with it.
At the top of the discussion, the hosts ask RZA his role on the 36 Chambers, LLC / eOne Entertainment release. “Allah Math’s talent has been great for years, but I think he really got it perfected. He was kinda putting it together, just making music. When I heard it, I was like, ‘Wow, I forgot about that authentic Wu sound,’ ’cause you know me, I’m in the [other] space with it right now, making films and all that. For me, it was a pleasure to hear that that sound could be generated, especially by somebody else in our crew; that’s why it’s The Saga Continues. I’m the executive producer; I ain’t gotta press those buttons. I let Allah Math’ press the buttons. I just come in at the end and give a lil’ shapey-shape on it.”
Mathematics says he used some of the same production tools that RZA used in his Staten Island basement and New York City studios during that iconic 1992-2000 period. “I took it back [to the Ensoniq ASR 10 as] the weapon of choice.” Math’ was involved on some of those albums in that era too, including Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele (“Mighty Healthy”), Method Man’s Tical 2000: Judgement Day (“Snuffed Out”), and GZA’s Beneath The Surface (“Amplified Sample”), among others.
“I’m grown up. I’m a man now. [Chuckles] So I’m not as attached as I was in the past. Also, sometimes when you’re doing something, you feel like nobody else can do it. You’re always like, ‘Hold on, let me do it. Let me show you.’ But then, when you see somebody can do it, you gotta let that go,” RZA admits. “I think for any MC who’s out there doin’ what you doin’; I think it’s time for y’all to call Allah Math’ to get one of his tracks, ’cause yo, he got five more, other fire joints that he played that ain’t on the album.” In a career that includes television work scoring the theme to The Wanda Sykes Show, DJ Mathematics’ credits and solo albums have existed almost exclusively in the Wu-Tang family tree.
Method Man agrees, telling Ambrosia For Heads this month, “[DJ Mathematics can] be seen as a producer that people can come to and maybe get some of those beats that they hope that maybe RZA will start making again.”
As a longtime Clan affiliate, Mathematics says that he wanted greatness, not favors. “Dudes is all over the place, but at the same time, it wasn’t that hard. For me, it was [about] coming through with the music. So when I came through with the music and brothers heard it, they was attracted,” he tells Angela Yee (a former Wu executive). “You don’t wanna come with something that they’ll be like, ‘Yeah, that’s aiight,’ ’cause that’s what you’re gonna get [in their verse]. You gonna get, ‘Yeah, you’re my man, you’re my brother, I got you.’ But when you come with [great beats you get great verses]. Then, when somebody hears somebody else’s verse, it’ll be like, ‘Wait. Hold on. I gotta top that one.'” He confirms that The Saga Continues is comprised of all new verses, on a project that began following Wu’s 2014 Warner Bros. Records release, A Better Tomorrow. He says he refined those early tracks as a perfectionist. Much of the project began with Meth’, who he was on the road with, and admitted a leader role on the LP.
Critically and commercially, that album was tepid in contrast to ’90s and some indie compilations. RZA admits that he wishes he had refined his ASR-10 skills in producing that album, especially after witnessing Mathematics on the latest project.
Math’ also says that Redman’s multiple appearances (on the first two singles to boot) stem from their working relationship on the road, and friendship. “That’s like Wu-Tang’s cousin,” he adds, saying that Redman—an accomplished producer, was astounded with the Southside Jamaica, Queens native’s beats as of late. “Red’ had seen the progression as well.” Previously, Math’ laced 1999’s platinum Blackout! with “Fire Ina Hole” and “Dat’s Dat Sh*t,” as well as the intro to 2009’s Blackout! 2.
At 5:00, RZA admits that he’s never taken credit for his proteges, including Mathematics. The Abbott insists that all songs attached to his name are truly produced by him. Moreover, after Math’ offered RZA shared credit after a few tweaks on The Saga Continues, the leader declined. He adds that he’s been in recent touch with True Master, another Wu-Elements understudy. Master, who RZA says was a Brooklyn native tied to Gang Starr and Jeru The Damaja, recently was released from prison and reportedly “not ready.” With 4th Disciple, Math’ and Master signified some key stand-ins for RZA on Wu solo albums, especially after Clansmen debuts.
During the lengthy discussion, RZA also addresses Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, the album of just one master copy that was sold at auction. Like The Saga Continues, that LP is said to be produced and orchestrated by Wu affiliate, Cilvaringz.
The Saga Continues features RZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, and Cappadonna. Non-Clan guests include the late Sean Price and Chris Rivers.
#BonusBeat: Recently, AFH spoke with DJ Mathematics in Los Angeles, California for LAST 7. He explained creating this album in the image of RZA’s work on Wu’s debut, as well as classic from Dr. Dre:
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