Interview With Wu-Tang Clan’s Masta Killa – ‘Talent Is Talent And Business Is Business’
Being a member of the most influential rap group of the past 20 years is like holding a passport for access to whatever interests you have: Acting suits Method Man, GZA has given lectures at MIT, and RZA has worked in Hollywood and cosigned Chipotle for a new ad campaign. Masta Killa, the last core member of Wu-Tang Clan to release a solo album, has more specific priorities, namely becoming the vegetarian hip-hop spokesman for PETA, and releasing his solo music independently—something he’s been doing for almost 15 years. Masta Killa has always valued health. If you look back at his first appearance with the Clan on the seminal hoodie-and-Timberlands anthem “Da Mystery of Chessboxin,” he spent his introductory bars warning of attacks to the immune system.
On the heels of his latest solo album Loyalty is Royalty—his fourth solo record—Masta Killa remains an elegant writer shrouded in mystery. On the Nature Sounds released album, Masta Killa celebrates the courtship of beautiful women, passing wisdom down to the next generations, and the rudimentary beginnings of hip-hop in the 70s and 80s that led to his life of rhyming. I spoke with Masta Killa on being unburdened by industry demands, enjoying the freedom the Wu-Tang shield has given him, and how he survives in a rapidly changing business.
Zilla Rocca: You’ve been involved with a major label in Wu-Tang Clan through Loud Records and you’ve been with Nature Sounds, one of the longest-running independent hip-hop labels. What is freedom for you as an artist still after experiencing every level of the rap industry?
Masta Killa: Well I’ll tell you, brother, I’ve been very blessed to be in this industry even from day one. You know, I was caught up in a position where I was so blessed to be in a group to be able to learn. And I was also kind of being paid to learn. Even with the Loud situation, that pressure wasn’t directly on me as far as my freedom because all of those beginning albums, I was still learning and perfecting my craft. I was on [Enter The Wu-Tang] 36 Chambers but I was only on “Da Mystery of Chessboxin.” Do you know why? Because that’s the only rhyme that I had. That was the first rhyme that I ever wrote.
Zilla: How about that!
Masta Killa: Then came [Raekwon’s] Cuban Linx, [GZA’s] Liquid Swords, [Ghostface Killah’s] Iron Man, all of those albums that came, I was still learning the business, learning my craft with MC’ing. So I was in a position where I got to enjoy all the perks that came with being in that industry. I wasn’t actually signed to be contained to stop my creative flow of learning and growing. And that was a blessing to me.