Hip-Hop Fridays: An Exclusive Interview With Wutangworld.com
Last week I gave an exclusive interview to Wutangworld.com, by the measure of most, the largest cutting-edge website of Wu-Tang Clan fans to be found anywhere on the Internet. I have never granted anyone an interview like this regarding my experience as General Manager for the Clan but because of the way I was approached and because of the quality and seriousness of the website I decided to go ahead with it (you know the site is for real relative to the Clan when the founder of the website is called, "KZA"). It was alot of fun and really only touches the tip of the iceberg of my experience with one of the three greatest groups in the history of Hip-Hop. Perhaps there will be a part two...
KZA: How did you get connected to the Wu-Tang Clan?
Cedric Muhammad: I first met the Clan when I was concert promoter in college. In 1993 my concert promotion company promoted a show with the Clan as headliners in November of 1993. So, through that, I met the Clan and especially got to know Mook, who is RZA, Divine, Dirty, and GZA’s cousin who handled the contract negotiations. In 1995 I had a business management company dealing with Hip-Hop artists and was working on getting the Clan as clients. One thing led to another and Divine (RZA's Brother) brought me in for management and RZA brought Mook back, at the same time. So, we co-managed the Clan. I was General Manager, Mook was President. We did everything together.
KZA: Are you still connected with some of the members ?
Cedric Muhammad: I think I will always be connected with the Clan, if you understand how tight of a family the unit is. I dealt with them, on a business level as General Manager for nearly 3 years and you go through the full range of life experiences as Brothers. I see Raekwon from time to time as our families live in neighboring towns, now. I talk to RZA if something political comes up and I think I can make a connection between him and a member of Congress that I may be advising etc...I'll see U-God at one of Russell Simmons' Hip-Hop Summits. I'll see Ghost out in Cali. One way or another you run into each other and the connection is there. The last time I was with entire Clan, with the exception of Dirty was in Washington D.C.in 2000. Hard to see everyone at once, as I am sure you know.
KZA: Which wu-album is the best for you and why?
Cedric Muhammad: KZA, that is a tough question because I like different albums for different reasons. Actually, Ghostface Killah's first album has a special place for me because I was involved the most in that and think Ghost is so introspective and much more mature than the average rapper. He poured his heart out on that one.. I honestly don't understand why Clan fans were disappointed with it. I think it has some of RZA's best production. Of course "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" and "Only Built For Cuban Linx" are classic and I love GZA's first album. But I like songs from all of the solo and collective albums and put them on like a Wu-greatest hits tape.
KZA: Have you got news from ODB and shyheim ?
Cedric Muhammad: No news there, of course I hope and pray for both of them and wish them the best. KZA, I have to tell you I love Dirty. I never, ever had any problems with him. It was mutual respect and I will always have fond memories of how we interacted. Of course, Dirt Dog is off-the-chains a little but it was always good humor and with me, limitations were respected. I got him out of a couple of tight situations and was impressed by how he knew where to stop and not cross the line with me. Shyheim is a walking treasure of talent - can do anything he puts his mind to.
KZA:What do you think about fans saying that the wu fell off ?
Cedric Muhammad: Well, fans are fickle and fans are the best critics - all at the same time. I honestly think that RZA was so far ahead of the industry, the Clan and the fans , creatively that it just became too much to keep the mass appeal. I remember RZA telling me that it would take 3 years for Hip-Hop to catch up with "Wu-Tang Forever". He was right, he and I talked about that in 2000 and how Hip-Hop moves in 3-and-a half year cycles. One time RZA also told me that he had perfected producing and that he was seriously looking into microbiology and that he was looking to find a cure for cancer. I believe him. RZA is like that. He really is a scientist, in a lot of ways and a top student of the Lessons or 120. RZA is 5% for real. Not a phony version quoting rhetoric. I have seen him roast pretenders when the subject was knowledge, wisdom and understanding. I say all of that to say that a truly creative person will always lose his core or foundational audience as he or she moves through transition periods. If the fans are patient, they will gain understanding and fulfillment from the artists at some higher level. But they have to grow too. So, I understand the argument that the Clan fell off but I take it with a grain of salt and wonder where are those fans today? Are they Jay-Z fans; are they with Eminem; or Nas or the Beastie Boys? Do they like Common or Nelly? What? Where are they in their musical preferences? I know you represent some of the most serious Clan fans, who never left the fold. But I honestly think that the music moves in these 3.5 year cycles and it is hard to keep the same fans satisfied for longer than that period. You can get them back but I think every artist loses fans like that. The possible exception to the rule could be Jay-Z or Scarface.
But Snoop, Nas, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, KRS, Tribe Called Quest, Mobb Deep even Rakim went through that.
KZA: Do you have any anecdotes about the clan ?
Cedric Muhammad: I do and weave a lot of them into my Hip-Hop Fridays columns at BlackElectorate.com. On the spot, can't select just one or two for you. Hit my archives!
Oh...I have one good one. One day I was going to see Mary J. Blige to give her tickets for a celebrity party the Clan was having in Philly. I was going to her place in Manhattan, made a turn and got hit by this SUV with a mean grill. I was jacked up. They had to cut me out of the car and place me on this board, stabilize my neck, the whole nine. I was the star of a show on 5th Avenue that Sunday. This was like at 1 or 2 in the afternoon and I was supposed to be in Shaolin (Staten Island) in order to pick up the Clan and have the limos ready etc... The medical people would not let me leave. They took me to the hospital emergency room, somewhere in Manhattan and no lie, I picked up my cell phone called Power who was with the Clan and wondering where I was and told him I would be late. After they did a basic check and could see I could walk, I stopped the exam before they could X-ray me, called the limo and had it pick me up from the emergency room. It was wild. I then went to Harlem to see family and let them know I was OK and went straight to Staten Island.
Kza, I had glass falling out of my slacks and shoes in the limo and the Clan was looking at me like I was crazy. It was careless in many ways but I loved those guys so much and felt responsible that there was no way, in my mind, that I could get myself to justify leaving them to handle everything by themselves. It was family and I had a shepherd role and had to fulfill it. I took it very seriously. They appreciated and respected that.
Speaking of car accidents. One of the scariest experiences I had was one day I was getting U-God some information so that he could get to a flight in Europe for a tour we had negotiated. He was talking to me on his cell phone and I was on the office phone. All of a sudden I hear all of this glass breaking and U-God cursing like CRAZY. Then it got quiet. I thought, "Oh Lord, U-God is dead" Then U-ey gets on the phone and is cursing like crazy. But it was out of relief. He had been hit from behind by a car and was OK. It is funny now, a little bit but man, I had no idea what had happened but knew it wasn't good. True to form. U-God was in Europe the next day.
KZA: When were you manager of the clan ? how was it? what was your role ?
Cedric Muhammad: My role was General Manager but you honestly play the role of lawyer, agent, friend, confidant, emotional babysitter, ego-massager, truth-teller, yes-man, business adviser. You really have to do it all. I did everything from negotiate contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to talking an artist into doing a show they didn't want to do - like I was some type of hostage negotiator. Sometimes the best approach was to argue with them, other times it was to play Madden on Playstation. It was relationship-oriented more than task-oriented.
I did all of this, essentially from 1996 to 1998. It was the most intense experience I ever had. Stressful and rewarding. I remember one time while on tour, I lost like 10 pounds, in like 3 weeks, just from the stress, the lack of eating. The responsibility was enormous. It hurt personal relationships in my life and at the same time built bonds that I will take to the grave.
Mook and I played good cop and bad cop, depending upon the situation. RZA once referred to us as Batman and Robin. But my role was to be a sober mind and voice and to handle the paperwork and negotiations. I dealt with the "suits" so to speak, a lot, and held things down in terms of business and even family situations while the Clan was on the road. Sometimes I would be the only person you would deal with if you were trying to deal with the Clan,; sometimes it would be Mook or Divine or Power or Rza. I dealt with Steve Rifkind, head of Loud Records, at times, Lyor Cohen, head of Def Jam, at times, and a lot with Tim Mandelbaum, RZA's lawyer, all of the major promoters and I negotiated the Mountain Dew endorsement deal and the Rage Against The Machine tour we did. Then of course there were times that I did things like make sure the food was kosher or fire an employee as if it came from myself but when it really was a Clan decision. Some "dirty" (unpleasant) work, some clean, you know? But the most important role was to carry RZA's vision into practice, work with Divine on plans and strategies and to always do whatever was necessary to promote Brotherhood and prosperity among the Clan, in all of our dealings.
KZA: What do you think about the link made between Killarmy and the Maryland sniper ?
Cedric Muhammad: Well I hope you saw what I wrote," Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COPINTELPRO XI: Meet The Press And Tim Russert Connect The Sniper Shootings With Hip-Hop and The 5 Percent Nation Of Islam" available at: http://www.blackelectorate.com/articles.asp?ID=732
I see all of this as the continuation of the COINTELPRO efforts of the 60s and 70s designed to neutralize and destabilize Black and progressive organizations. Hip-Hop is the target today. I have been writing about this for almost three years. Some people laughed and mocked what I wrote, but since I came out with Part 1 of this now, 11-part series, the evidence backs me up: the NYPD and FBI have special taskforce groups that only watch the Hip-Hop industry; articles have appeared mysteriously trying to say Biggie ordered 'Pac's murder and Suge ordered Biggie's, yet no one has been arrested in either murder and it is a fact that federal agents and undercover NYPD were following Biggie at the exact moment he was shot! Yet, people want to make it seem like Hip-Hop artists are killing each other off because of a East-West Coast beef. The evidence shows that informants, detectives and federal agents are all in Hip-Hop. We really need to wake up and see that the culture is under attack because of its spiritual, economic and political potential, impact and influence.
For Tim Russert to quote KillArmy lyrics and try to tie them in with the sniper shootings is evil and by design. I raised the question of where did he get the lyrics from. Who prepared him for the show? Who is really behind all of this? If we really were able to identify all of the forces involved, it would be revolution.
I see this attempted KillArmy connection as a way to demonize Hip-Hop, street organizations, the 5% Nation Of Islam and the Nation Of Islam all at once and then justify arrests and character and political assassinations.
It is a conspiracy against us and I am not afraid to point it out.
Friday, December 20, 2002