Sam Mickens Interrogates GZA
You're touring a performance of the entire Liquid Swords album right now. What, for you, is the value and purpose of re-presenting Liquid Swords now?
Basically, people want to hear it. I think it was a great album, people think it was great, people want to hear it in its entirety, and I think it's good to get it out so, you know, fuckin' knock it out.
Historically, you have a reputation as one of the more clear-minded members of Wu-Tang Clan or as the one who stays the most righteous. Do you feel like that's a fair reputation, or do you think it's a misconception?
Well [laughs], that's a tough question. I don't really wanna—I mean, in Wu-Tang there are no big Gs or little Gs, so I don't really want to put myself... I have to leave that up to other people to say. I don't want to say that I'm the most righteous of the group or whatever. One thing I will say is that I'm not one to take 30 minutes to write a rhyme. I do take time to put into a rhyme, and I do take time to craft it out. It's almost like writing a script for me, the way I consider and reconsider every word, every line. I don't know how other artists do it, but I do about five drafts per rhyme, maybe six, maybe seven, so I do take my time. And, if I'm given that title—"We form like Voltron, GZA's the head"—then I have to live up to that expectation.
There's been a bunch of noise about the clip of you at your show in England talking shit about Soulja Boy.
Did you see the clip?
I did see it.
Then you know—I wasn't talking shit about Soulja Boy. I just want to clear that up. Soulja Boy is Soulja Boy. It is what it is. I just passed the mic to someone in the crowd, and they said, "Fuck Soulja Boy." I wasn't coming at him. Someone said something about "ya boy Curtis." I mean, you saw the clip—I fed into it, I'm not gonna deny that. I was having fun that night. I was drinking. I was tipsy, but I don't bide my words, and I don't regret what I say. I mean, 50 is fucking corny; he has no lyrics, to me. He's terrible; he's horrible, lyrically. So, I said what I said and that's it.
As a dude that people consider a model for classical lyricism, do you wish that young people, both as artists and fans, were in a different place?
Yeah, I think so. Because music is music; it's entertainment and it's fun, but also you have a voice. The difference between the golden era and now is that in the golden era you could point out 20 MCs who all had albums out at the same time, who were all different and were all hot. But in this era, you point out 20 MCs that are on the radio, or maybe 10 that you hear every day, and they're not much different, the subject matter isn't different. When you break it down to words and writing and sentences, it holds no weight, and then the reality is that it has no shelf life.
I mean, would you rather sell three million albums now and be gone next year, or sell five thou and be around for eight, nine years and touring with an album that is 14 years old and still have people singing it and praising it and worshipping it? I've been an MC for years, and I've been part of many groups, and I've battled, and I did all of that, and it was always about MCing for us, for myself, Dirty, and RZA growing up. I'm just saying as artists, as MCs, it's all about the lyrical challenge. Look at LL [Cool J] at 16—he was incredibly lyrical. If you take [Kool] G Rap—oh, man! If you take MC Lyte—even MC Lyte, a little young girl at 16—Soulja Boy don't compare to that at all. Lyrically.
How do you feel about the dude Lil Wayne?
I like Lil Wayne. Lil Wayne, to me, is an exception to all that other bullshit that's out there. I don't think—and I don't want him to take it the wrong way—that he is as lyrical as someone like Nas, no way near. And I don't think he's as metaphorical or paints visual pictures like that. But his point is made and he's different, and it's something that you can appreciate. Some of his stuff is maybe left field, like "I'm a venereal disease, like a menstrual bleed," but I don't think he's the most lyrical cat out there, I really don't. I'm not taking from him—he speaks in his own voice, and that's what I can respect about Lil Wayne. And a whole lot of other shit out there speaks in other voices and imitates, and it bites. And I think he's a Wu-Tang fan, also. I think he respects the Wu, and I respect him. He's good at what he does. He does him, man.
GZA performs Tues Aug 26, Neumo's, 8 pm, $20, all ages.