U-God Reflects on ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ for 20th Anniversary [Exclusive Interview]
U-God wasn’t around that much during the recording process of ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ because of his incarceration. The one full verse he does have is featured on ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin,’ and it’s a solid one, which makes his presence on the group’s legendary album feel more missed. Even though the rapper was in the big house, he still has some interesting tidbits to share about what was going on with the group at that time.
The success of the Wu-Tang Clan‘s first LP doesn’t necessarily make it a favorite for U-God, however. He admits ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ sits at the top of his list — mostly because of his increased contribution on it — yet he still openly acknowledges the work put in to make ’36 Chambers’ the platinum-selling debut that it was.
For the album’s 20th anniversary, U-God sat down with The Boombox to talk about the circumstances surrounding his absence, the one thing that continues to make Raekwon angry, uplifting fans and making it out of the ghetto.
The BoomBox: What were some of the personal issues that led to you only having two verses on the album?
U-God: I was a little knucklehead gangster, man. I was living that life, man. When n—-s talk about that s— now, that s— ain’t cool, man. It’s not a cool life to live looking out for the police all day and worrying about who’s going to shoot you or rob you. It’s too high strung, man.
My little two-and-a-half verses were cool. But I bet you ain’t saying that now. Nah, n—-. Put on that ‘Keynote Speaker’ and watch your head start bouncing like this. You gonna forget all about that bulls—.
What was your favorite verse from ’36 Chambers’?
It’s too much. We got too many albums. I’m on 200 songs, you know that… I don’t even have enough hands and feet to say which one is my favorite verse. I can go hands feet, hands feet, your hands and his feet … Bring 10 motherf—ers in here right now with hands and feet and be like, ‘Now tell me which one is my favorite verse.’ It’s hard.
Now, my brothers … I can’t really say which one is the best verse. I love [Inspectah] Deck’s first verses. Deck is a beast on that first record. I was kinda mad, because I was locked up. I was like, “Damn n—-, you done splashed that s—.” Then I came back on ‘Wu-Tang Forever,’ because I was like y’all got me for the first time I was in the can and I was banini wild. I come back on ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ and try to bite your god damn head off.
You start ’36 Chambers’ and you hear this high-pitched, aggressive rhyme scheme from Ghostface Killah. What made Wu-Tang start off with him?
That’s a big discrepancy right now. The first record that Rae put out is a Wu album really. We was going to put Rae on top of it. He gets mad when people say that s— though. So it is what it is.
People were asking for [Ghostface Killah]… They was asking for him and then we went on from that.
The ’36 Chambers’ also brought Asian culture to the hip-hop consciousness with a touch of 5 Percenter ideology. How do you feel about this impact?
The 5 Percenters movement died down because Bloods took over and made n—-s stupid again. We were trying to make dudes smart and make the kids grow up and be smart. Now they’re back to being stupid again. So it’s going to take somebody else to come up and make them smart again and get back on their A-game.
I don’t condone none of the violence. I don’t condone the s— I talk about. I don’t condone the genocide of my people. All I got to talk about is what we’re going through, and if you can identify with it, you can identify with it. If you don’t identify with it, you don’t identify with it. But slowly but surely, I give you a little bit of that and a little bit of the jewelry, too.
How do you feel about the album going platinum?
We put in a lot of work, man. People think that s— was easy. That s— was not easy, dog. Going platinum is not easy… it’s a lot of footwork, kissing babies. We signed tons of autographs on college campuses. We did a lot up and down the East Coast and West Coast. We probably rolled up and down the East and West Coast three, four, or five f—in’ times…. Got chased out of town, got locked up by the police, got chased by the police. Aww, man, it never stopped. It was continuous but we just kept pushing, and we made it. Motherf—ers ask you how does it feel to make it. ‘We made it? Oh s—, I forgot. We did make it.’ We made it out of the ghetto, n—-.