Wu-Tang Clan’s Masta Killa Blesses Us With All Types of Jewels
Read an unreleased verse from the god!
On top of being an ill lyricist trained at the GZA’s monastery, Masta Killa deserves credit for his monk-like patience. He was the last of the original nine to be inducted into the Wu-Tang, and the last Clansman to drop a solo album. Since then he has also seen long stretches between his projects. However, it doesn’t seem to faze MK. He calmly takes it all in stride and instead of complaining bitterly to any media outlet that will listen, like some members, he just continues to create solid, hardcore hip hop. It may have taken seven years for his new album Loyalty Is Royalty to finally see the light of day, but we have faith the music is worth the wait.
We recently got a chance to pick Masta Killa’s brain about any and everything we could think of. Excited about the release of his new opus, he freely dropped all kinds of big reveals. Want to know how Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was put together? Or how about what MK thinks of Childish Gambino? Or better yet, how would you like to read a verse that didn’t make Loyalty Is Royalty? Of course you would—so let’s get to it.
If I’m not mistaken, you announced Loyalty Is Royalty back in 2010. It’s been a long time coming but it seems like it’s gonna be a masterpiece. What took so long?
Sometimes you can’t rush perfection, brother. I’m my own worst critic, man. So, sometimes when I have something in the oven, it’s hard for me to let it go. I’m always re-sampling and taking another taste to make sure the dish is actually what it is supposed to be. We here now, Loyalty Is Royalty…it’s been a long time coming.
A lot of crews from the ’90s have fallen off, but Wu continues on strong. All of you do your own thing and also form Voltron on occasion too. How have y’all maintained through all the ups and downs?
As far as everybody forming that “W,” that takes dedication from each member. Mainly, it has to start from everyone wanting to do it. It can’t start from any other energy. As far as lyrical combat, as far as keeping that sword sharp, when you love the sport of MCing and the culture of it, where it comes from, and you think about all the greats that have ever touched that microphone, you always want to try to uphold that bar that inspired you at one time to do it. So, any time that I am going to say anything, or write a thought down, or record anything, I’m always doing it with the mind frame that anyone that ever inspired me could be listening, I want to make them proud that I’m a student of all of that. So, I don’t want to fall short of anything that once inspired me.
That connects to the single “OGs Told Me.” Lots of the younger generation are on some real “fuck those that came before us” shit. Speak on the meaning of the song.
For me, it’s always about supplying what’s missing. It’s about filling the void. I could bounce right into the wave of what’s moving right now. But to be unique and to go in and touch the lost art of what it really is, even to give a lesson on things that’s forgotten… How could you not pay homage to those that came before you? That’s like not paying homage to your parents. When it comes to the art form of certain things, it’s impossible for me to say that I’m the greatest MC if I never heard anyone that came before me. I could never say that because there is so many great ones that I have taken a page from their book. That record is just a dedication to let people know that I haven’t forgotten and I’m always appreciative of the lessons [from those] that came before me.
I think it’s interesting you have Boy Backs from RAM Squad on there. He’s had some crazy experiences with the Feds, betrayal, and being snitched out. His story is full of life lessons.
Right. Well, I don’t know too much about the brother’s personal struggles. I met him in the early ’90s and he’s always been doing his thing as far as this hip hop. [He’s a] Philly legend. There’s a lot of artists in the game and sometimes you want to work with someone but the fam is so deep you might not get the chance. He might work with Meth, and he might work with Rae, then he might work with RZA, and then it’s like, “Damn, you already worked with three of my family members. I don’t even want to stress you.” But finally now, we are still here and for us to have the opportunity to connect and put something together for the culture is a plus.
And the other guest on there, Moe Roc, is very closely associated with the Wu.
Most definitely. Moe Roc is definitely a dedicated solider for the Wu movement… for the hip hop movement. How the whole collaboration came together has to be credited to my brother Power. He actually put the whole song together. Shout outs to my man Dame Grease, [who] supplied the production on that.
Wu are known for your multiple aliases. From the kung-fu flick names, to the Gambinos, to the 5% titles. On this new album you got songs called “Noodles Pt. 1” and “Noodles Pt. 2.” Talk about bringing that alias back?
Those aliases are different chambers, different worlds. We all know the legendary classic Cuban Linx album where we all became the Gambinos. There is different mind frames you’re in when you are bringing this art to life. So, as far as “Noodles Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2,” it’s just a different chamber… but a classic one. I think Cuban Linx sparked a whole different wave of music. Sometimes you revisit those creative moments that gave people that view from a different angle. They never forgot that era, so to tap back into that, it’s undeniable.
I always wondered why Donald Glover would run with the name Gambino since it’s so associated with the Wu. Then I heard he got his name from the Wu Name Generator. You heard about this?
I never knew that but I was watching Hip Hop Hollywood Squares and that was actually a question on there: Where did Childish Gambino get his name from? So, that’s how I learned that. I had no clue. When you hear certain references, even if you don’t directly, you kind of feel like, were they listening? It’s an honor to spark someone like that. He’s a great artist. Shout out to Childish. Respect.
I went and tested the Wu Name Generator to see how random it is. If you put in Donald Glover you definitely get Childish Gambino. And if you put your given name, Elgin Turner, you get Masta Killa. However, if you put your 5% name, Jamel Irief, you get Crazy Mercenary.
Wow. [Laughs] That’s crazy. When I was first moving with GZA amongst this whole movement of Wu, I remember being in the booth getting ready to say my verse from “Chess Boxing”…and even before then, just being amongst the brothers and seeing them show their different rhyme styles and techniques, and I used to say to myself, what am I going to say? What can I possibly add? I had to be an assassin, man! If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have even made the track. At that time, the swords and the styles were so sharp. I miss my brother Dirty so much, man, his style and his whole aura. It was a great time. Like I said, to make an all-star team, you better be an assassin, boy.
Is there still unreleased Dirty material?
I’m pretty sure RZA has stuff on Ol’ Dirty that we’ve never heard. I remember I was in the studio with Busta Rhymes and he played me a monster joint with him and ODB. And that’s not even in my camp.
Let’s talk about Shkreli and Once Upon A Time In Shaolin for a second. Now, this MFer is selling this million dollar album on eBay. Do y’all have a unified stance about the situation?
Well, brother, I’ll be honest with you, this is the only project that I have ever been part of that I haven’t heard the project. I’ve never even heard what I’ve done on the project. And I know I have at least four verses. This project wasn’t presented to me as being a Once Upon A Time In Shaolin Wu-Tang Clan album. I got a call from a brother named Cilvarings and he told me he was making a mixtape and he needed a couple verses from me. Sure—no problem. So, I gave him a couple verses for his mixtape. Next thing I know, this turned out to be the Once Upon A Time In Shaolin Wu-Tang Clan secret album and it’s being sold as an art piece. I never had a problem going that route, but I didn’t know I was going to be involved in making a Wu-Tang Clan album, nor was I informed how it was going to be marketed or anything. Like I said, I still haven’t heard it. I have to be more careful giving out my verses to people because then they can come back and say, this is a Wu-Tang Clan album.
Seems like people really like to co-opt the Wu name.
That’s the strangest thing. It’s weird, if people can be amongst you, maybe hang out with you at the studio, or maybe even do a song with one of your brothers, then sometimes from that experience they think they’re part of the Clan. It’s crazy, man.
Many of Wu members have kids that rap now. There’s Ghost’s seed Sun God, ODB’s son Young Dirty Bastard, GZA’s son Young Justice, and U-God’s son iNTell, that I know of. Must be crazy to know these kids since they were babies and now they’re following in their fathers’ footsteps.
I love that. It’s like seeing yourself all over again. That’s the next generation that’s doing it. I want to do a song with all my nephews and my son, of course.
Yeah, I was going to ask if you’ve got kids.
Yeah, definitely my son is the Young Jamel Irief. Meth has got a son that raps too. I want to have a song with all of them on it, like a new “Protect Ya Neck” but with all our seeds. Even if I wasn’t on it, I would just love to see them do that.
There’s a new Wu single and it has Redman on it. He’s also on Loyalty Is Royalty. In fact, he’s so associated with Wu, I feel like he is almost an honorary member.
I love Redman; that’s my brother. Out of the industry, when it comes to people who have worked with us that closely, that I would definitely consider family: Redman, Busta Rhymes, Nas, and also Snoop.
If you had to tell someone to check one verse on the album that represents where you are at right now, which would it be?
Interestingly, that verse didn’t even make the album. I was doing a song called “Flex With Me,” that’s actually my next single that I’m going to release, and I had two verses. The first verse I wrote was a great verse but I had to kinda change the verse because I had to make it mesh more with the song. So, if I had any verse that I wanted the world to hear, it’s actually the verse I took off the album. And the verse went:
“I be Allah in the person of Jamel Irief / I wanna spark a brain and shake up the world like Ali /I’m geniusly the greatest of all time / from one rhyme and one mic / I’m blessed to make the people unite / for one common cause / build homes in every ghetto with Persian carpet floors / touch every shore / heal every sore / perform world tours / bringing food, feeding the poor / in El Salvador / D.R. and Puerto Rico / let’s stop the raping of our women in the Congo / let’s stop the killing of our brothers in Chicago”
Sometimes, brother, a lot of things that I’ve written haven’t even made it to record yet. [Laughs] That’s just how creativity is. That’s how art is, I guess.
Masta Killa’s Top 5 Martial Arts Flicks
1. 5 Deadly Venoms
2. 8 Diagram Pole Fighter
3. Crippled Avengers
4. Chinese Super Ninjas
5. Executioners From Shaolin