Wu-Tang Clan's RZA Takes Us Back to 1997

Wu-Tang Clan rock the bells. Photo: Getty Images

In defiance of all standard hip-hop show protocol, the second date of 2007's Rock the Bells tour went off without a hitch Saturday on Randall's Island. Just some of the day’s amuses-bouches: a spirited Public Enemy appearance, complete with sword-thrusting SW1 soldier-dancers; a tuba-centric Roots performance; a bong-centric Cypress Hill one. And the main course: all eight living members of Wu-Tang Clan (even if GZA missed the first few songs), and a combustible set, only the second, from a recently reunited Rage Against the Machine.

We spoke to Wu-Tang leader RZA before he hit the stage.

What’s up with the new Wu-Tang album, 8 Diagrams?
8 diagrams, yep. It’s coming soon. Right now it’s ready for an October release. October 23.

What are your expectations for the album? Are you hoping it'll be like the nineties all over again?
I ain’t got no expectations because, yo, in those days, we was doing it for a different reason. We were definitely trying to express hip-hop in a different way, but at the same time, we had to eat. Shit had to get real. I’ll use a 50 Cent quote — it was like, get rich or die trying. It was like that in our lives. But this time, this is for the people. We recorded this album without one dollar deposited into our bank accounts before we started.

Will Wu-Tang tour for this record?
Well, we rocking right now, so we just gonna continue rocking. We ain’t even throwing fishes no hooks in the water right now. We on the boat, and fishes jumping into the boat! [Laughs.] We on the boat, dog.

The last time you guys played with Rage there was some trouble…
What trouble?!

In ’97, when you guys toured with Rage…
Oh, we ended the shows, yeah. Cause n----- wasn’t showing for the tour! [Laughs.] It was us, missing the flights, being late. N----- was just enjoying life. N----- had some cheese in the pocket, n----- was living it up. N----- was Eddie Kane, we had four Eddie Kanes in the group at that time.

So what’s it like now? Everyone’s all grown up?
Yeah, we're all here. We probably look close to the same way [that we did in 1997]. We actually are in 1997. When we put out “Triumph,” what did Dirty say? Lets take it back to ’79. We took it back, know what I mean? Now we caught up.
Amos Barshad