Wu-Tang Clan Was Originally RZA, GZA & ODB But Protect Ya Neck Changed Everything (Video)
In one of the most epic installments yet of the Drink Champs podcast, Wu-Tang Clan joined N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN for a conversation that lasted 3 hours and change. While the Clan was not at full strength, Method Man, Raekwon, U-God, Cappadonna, Masta Killa and DJ Mathematics represented well for the crew. Over the course of the extended back and forth, no topic was off limits.
In typical Drink Champs fashion, the discussion hopped from subject to subject, but there were several themes that yielded extended stories. The crew spent a good deal of time on the origins of the Clan, sharing several little known details about their storied history. While many see Cappadonna as a late addition to Wu-Tang Clan, with his first appearances coming on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Method Man reveals that Cappadonna actually preceded Meth’s affiliation with the crew, and, along with Raekwon, was responsible for Meth pursuing a Rap career. “Him and Rae are the reason why I even rhyme,” said Meth. “I was trying to get down with his crew called GBK, Get Busy Krew.” Before Meth could join the group, Cappadonna got locked up for something he allegedly didn’t do. When he refused to testify against those who committed the crime, he was sent to prison and was serving time when Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was recorded and released.
Minutes later, Method Man continues his story of Wu-Tang Clan’s origins, citing the recording of “Protect Ya Neck” as the true touchstone for when the group was formed. When N.O.R.E. asked if the song was always supposed to feature 9 MCs, Meth responded “No. It was 8. We did the ‘Protect Ya Neck’ song and it was more or less like ‘[Each person] Bring $100 to the studio to pay for the session.’ But, we all was rhymin’ with each other anyway. It wasn’t written in stone what Wu-Tang was going to be or who it was going to be at that time because ‘Protect Ya Neck,’ whether people know this or not, ‘Protect Ya Neck’ was supposed to be a posse cut using their peoples from around the way.” Meth goes on to clarify the members of the core group that was inviting people to join their posse cut. “Wu-Tang Clan was supposed to be RZA, GZA and Ol’ Dirty, featuring Ghost. ‘Cause Ghost was an executive producer. You can check the credits. And, RZA had the epiphany–’cause he played chess and he’s a smart muf*cka too–and it was more or less ‘There’s strength in numbers. Why don’t we just come in with all these ni**as.’ And, from there, I don’t know how many songs they already had done…’Clan In Da Front‘ was probably already done from their album that they were doing. And, we all meshed all these songs that we was doing at RZA’s house, collectively.”
Raekwon, who joined the podcast while it was already in progress, independently confirmed Meth’s account, saying “When they formulated that crew…When they started going to who they felt, that was an order that came from them: GZA, RZA and Ol’ Dirty. They’re the ones that started to throw out that contact…They was the ones that started to call ni**as, like ‘Yo. Go get that one. Go get this one.’ This is what I’m talking about, when we first started. It was them three that sat up and said ‘Yeah.'”
Upon his arrival Raekwon also spent a great deal of time explaining just how important Ol’ Dirty Bastard was to Wu-Tang Clan in those early days. “Let me tell you some fly sh*t about ODB,” commenced Rae, passionately. “In my eyes, he’s the general. I know we all praise RZA. I love RZA with every bone in my body, but Dirty was the man, and let me explain that. Let me explain it to the maximum to y’all. He was the energy. He was the one that believed in the crew thing. See, RZA’s a shy guy. He’s shy. He knows he has potential, but he learns from his cousins, which is the GZA and Ol’ Dirty. So, for me being around, being one of the first ni**as that they really looked at, on some MC sh*t, I watched them, and Dirty, he always had that charismatic energy. He was nice back then, to us. I’m talking about funky rhymes. I’m talking about real gutter sh*t.” Rae also went on to tell a series of wild stories about ODB, including one involving an improvisational usage of Saran wrap as a condom.
Later, after the weed and alcohol had been flowing extensively, the conversation turned to the infamous one of a kind Wu-Tang Clan album that was auctioned off for a reported $2 million to the beleaguered pharmaceutical executive, Martin Shkreli. At the time, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin, was positioned as a unique work of art that was to be treated and sold as such. The circumstances around the album, including a reported stipulation that it not be released to the public for 88 years, caused a great deal of controversy within the group and among fans. Two years removed from the debacle, the Clan spoke freely about their feelings around the project to N.O.R.E. and EFN.
“None of us never knew what was going on fully with how it was working,” led Raekwon. “It was just an album that wasn’t an album. It was a formed album. It wasn’t like it was built to be an album.” In detailing further how the songs were recorded, Rae spoke about Cilva Ringz, RZA’s protegé producer who put the project together. “RZA’s students, we work with them. We like how they sound, and we did a lot of things with them on our own. So, when all that happened with the whole selling it thing, it was like the idea was great, but the politics was a little shaky.” Rae also said that he did not get paid for his participation in the process, but emphatically stated that the notion of treating Hip-Hip as rare art was “Great for the culture. Period.”
From his perspective, Meth felt a bit differently about the project than Raekwon did. Though he did get paid for recording vocals for three tracks for Cilva Ringz, nothing about how it would be sold was explained to Meth by anyone inside the group. Instead, he learned about it in the middle of an interview, and it took him completely by surprise, leaving a bad taste in his mouth. “In the midst of all that sh*t, it turned my whole tastebuds off to it, even when it was explained to me what the album was and how it would be heard, and things like that. It was just the whole circus turned me the f*ck off, because, I’m very humble, but I think our crew is so much bigger than that, and our fans are so much more loyal than that, that they deserve better than that. “Masta Killa echoes Method Man’s sentiments, saying “I wasn’t told personally that it was going to be an album. I was called by the same individual [Cilva Ringz] and [he was] saying that he was making a mixtape.”
As with all Drink Champs, the episode is packed with stories. In other parts of the conversation, Raekwon details the time U-God almost shot him, the crew discusses how they felt about Method Man getting a solo song on their debut album, and much more.