RZA Discusses Losing Hundreds Of Wu-Tang Clan Beats & 2 Albums In Floods
Wu-Tang Clan is celebrating the 25th-anniversary of its legendary debut next month. Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers set the stage for dozens upon dozens of releases to follow, from the nine founding members and more. Just last Friday, Ghostface Killah dropped The Lost Tapes. Method Man’s Meth Lab II is arriving in November. U-God and Inspectah Deck dropped albums on the same day in the spring. However, hardcore Wu fans may know that defining albums from members were originally intended to sound quite different. Several floods forever affected solo members’ post-36 Chambers rollout, with hundreds of RZA tracks forever washed away.
During the mid-90s, RZA’s Staten Island, New York home studio suffered two floods. It was estimated that 500 beats were lost, also including creations by Wu producers 4th Disciple and Tru Master. It would be Inspectah Deck who arguably suffered the most as Method Man, Raekwon, GZA, and Ghost’ were able to recreate their albums released between 1994 and 1996. Ultimately, Deck’s Uncontrolled Substance solo debut that arrived in 1999 was far different than what was reportedly on the original reels and floppy disks. That release was reportedly ready to go shortly after the 1993 crew debut.
Last Friday night (October 5), RZA was interviewed before a live audience during Atlanta, Georgia’s A3C Festival. He spoke about his career, personal transformation, and the earliest days of his group to National Public Radio’s Rodney Carmichael. AFH was in attendance when RZA addressed these floods that may have shaped the way Rap music sounds today.
“The funny thing about my life is water has always been a blessing and a curse. I could go back to living in Brownsville, [Brooklyn to the] Marcus Garvey [Houses],” he describes. “My mother had finally gotten an apartment that can hold all the kids. I’m from [a family with] 11 kids, aight? And she finally got an apartment that could hold all of us, and she did everything she could to make it nice, and all of a sudden, the damn apartment floods because of the sewer backs up. You’d see sh*t floating. And that was probably at the age of about 10 years old. And that changed the dynamic of our household.”
RZA sees the catastrophe as a symbol. “For me, that same f*cking flood keeps popping up in my life. It popped up twice in the course of Wu-Tang [Clan]. As soon as we had finished [Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers], I already had Inspectah Deck’s [Uncontrolled Substance] album, Method Man’s [Tical] album prepared. Because back in those days we had floppy disks and I would make all the beats – Method Man’s session, Deck’s session, [Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…] session, and I was ready to go. Here comes the flood that wiped away about 160 floppy disks. Because I didn’t think there’d be a flood. I had [the disks] on the floor, under the keyboard. You don’t think. Wu-Tang [Clan was] out doing some shows in Cleveland, whatever. [We came] back–water’s up this high, washed that all away. [We went] back to the drawing board. Cool.”
More than a year later, RZA says he was storing disks more carefully. After the creation of 1995’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… and GZA’s Liquid Swords, nature struck again.”Now, my studio is built. Everything is [stored up high], off of the floor. I feel like life is good. I just created [two acclaimed albums] and another flood comes. Higher. [It] destroys the tape machine, the board we had, [and other equipment]. Okay, cool. We move again [and] get the ‘Wu house,’ in New Jersey. ‘They’ll be no floods again.’ Another flood. The funny thing is, recently, I was home. Now, I’m not worried about the flood. A tsunami [could not affect me].” RZA said that he has a skylight in one of his current production rooms. “I’m sittin’ there, and water starts comin’ from [above].” With a laugh, RZA compares his experience to Noah and the ark.
Also during the A3C interview, RZA remembered his early-1990s attempted murder case that transformed him musically and in his personal life.
#BonusBeat: RZA and one of his Gravediggaz co-founders, Prince Paul, were recently in the studio together. The longtime friends and collaborators were working with Flatbush Zombies: