The RZA of Oz

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RAPPER, award-winning music producer, actor, author, director; it’s fair to say The RZA is a busy man. Yet somehow, BBM writer

Listening to the dark Wu-Tang beats, deciphering The Gravediggaz morbid rhymes or catching icey stares from the cover of a Bobby Digital record, you would imagine The RZA (pronounced rizza), the man behind these hip hop outfits, to be obtuse, hard, even scary. But a 20 minute chat reveals him to be a chess loving, kung fu obsessed, film fanatic and, in general, a good bloke.

RZA was out here last October with a few members of the Wu-Tang Clan for a brief tour but he’s back in mid February to spit rhymes all over the country as The RZA. He’s made more tracks than cityrail in a career that’s pushing two decades, so there will be no lack of material for his shows. BBM asks him what’s in store for punters catching his upcoming shows.

“I just wanrzawebt the audience to come out and have a good time,” he says.
“I’m thinking about getting some crew from The Gravediggaz to come out with us, so we can do some Gravediggaz songs, I think that would be a real bonus right there.”

Having The Gravediggaz as guests is a pretty good suprise for fans but BBM was secretly hoping he was going to bring ODB with him and make him perform like Weekend at Bernies.

On the topic of guest appearances, BBM informed The RZA that some of his contemporaries would be in town around the same time. Busta Rhymes, Salt n Pepa and Naughty by Nature are all touring in mid February.

“I hope we all hook up cause that would be fun,” he hints, so look out for some cameo appearances onstage, or at least some exorbitant bar tabs at the swankiest bars around the country.

Technically, the RZA has come a long way with his music production skills since the epic 36 Chambers in the early 90s, a record where, retrospectively, he admitted to not knowing anything about making music such as chord progressions. Now he’s the man behind Tarantino’s soundtracks.

Entry into the film industry has humbled The RZA.
“I’m just gonna continue building my resume and build myself up so I can get the opportunity to work with some of these great people,” he says.

At the moment one of the great people he is working with is Eli Roth, famous for the the Hostel series of films. Together, the pair are producing The Man With The Iron Fist. RZA was protective of the storyline but sounded confident in the film’s valour, quipping: “Its gonna make you wanna buy two buckets of popcorn.”

BBM also brought up the RZA’s appearance alongside Bill Murray in Jim Jarmuschs’ Coffee and Cigarettes series.
“Mr Murray is a funny dude in real life,” he says. “Sometimes you start out as a kid and you admire people and you watch them and you grow up to an adult and get to work with them.”

The RZA went on to mention how this appearance for Jim Jarmusch was his gateway into film making. The Coffee and Cigarettes series also features appearances from Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Jack & Meg White, Cate Blanchett, the eternally creepy Steve Buscemi and more.

An entire page could be filled listing RZA’s music collaborations, the most recent joint project being Blakroc; Dan and Patrick from The Black Keys turning their blues rock into instrumental tracks for some of Hip Hop’s most creative lyracists to message over.

After telling BBM that he will be spending a week in the studio with Blakroc before coming to Australia, The RZA discusses how he came to be involved in the project.
“A lot of people grew up on Wu-Tang, and The Black Keys said Wu-Tang is what inspired them to be a band,” he explains.
“I liked what they were doing too.”

Mos Def, Q-Tip and Pharoahe Monch are a few other guests that also liked what the Black Keys were doing and feature on their self titled album.

Wu-Tang was really the first Hip Hop group to become a brand and do more than just make music to connect with their fans, most noticeably with their range of ghetto fashion and, at their most bizarre, www.wuchess.com. An online chess website with Wu-Tang theming seems like a confusing line extension but RZA, in his thick accent, explains: “I like chess cause chess is a game of thinking and strategy na mean? A game of chess is like a sword fight, you gotta think before you move.”

Let’s hope The RZA’s next move is less about strange brand extensions and more about the heavy beats and basslines we love him for.

CATCH The RZA at the following venues:
10th Feb: Villa Nightclub, Perth
11th Feb: Fowlers, Adelaide
12th Feb: Prince of Wales, Melbourne
14th Feb: Metro, Sydney
17th Feb: SF Bathhouse, Wellington
18th Feb: Studio, Auckland