Earlier this week, the Wu-Tang Clan released A Better Tomorrow—its first group effort since 2007 and its sixth LP overall since 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). While the album is, in many ways, a return to form, it swaps out the grimy claustrophobia of 36 Chambers for spacious sonics that help to underline how far the group’s grown over the years.
No member has come farther than the group’s producer and de facto leader RZA, who’s turned his love of movies into a successful multifaceted film career—along with developing a side hustle as a semi-professional philosopher. During a break at a video shoot, Bobby Digital sat down for a haircut and a quick chat with EW about the new Wu record—and why the original 1954 version of Sabrina was his favorite movie of the year.
EW: After all the time you’ve spent in this business and all the other types of projects you’ve explored, what keeps you making music?
RZA: Music is all in my DNA. I made a lot of money off music, but even if I never made another penny I’d do music every day. To be honest with you, I wake up every morning, and if I’m home I’m either practicing piano or guitar. I get up in the morning and do that first, and then I get into my day. That’s my daily routine, to get up and express some music in my life.
Does it center you?
Yeah, I think it does. I’ve been listening to music my whole life, and I’ve been trying to create it since the age of nine. So it’s almost like a habit. But not a habit I’m trying to break.
What do you think you’re saying differently at this point in your career? Not just, lyrically but also musically.
Musically I’m projecting a more optimistic, positive vibe of a person who’s traveled the world. Before, I projected somebody who was oppressed and stuck in the world. A lot of anger. I’ve still got anger, but it’s for a different reason now. Before, the anger was just my situation…personal anger. So once I was able to escape my personal hell, I started thinking about people who didn’t escape. I could be over thinking this, but I was thinking I could be a map for some people. My music now reflects that map.
Is there anything in particular that you want to accomplish that you haven’t already?
Yeah. [Laughs] The more you learn about art, the bigger the well gets, so therefore you start wanting to find better ways to express it. I’ve been fortunate enough and blessed, as people say–but it’s been through hard work and perseverance and creativity–to be able to go from music to film to writing a book or whatever, and been appreciated in my roles. But I still feel like I’m just developing as a man. I feel like that was a boy doing that. I’m fortunate to have peers in front of me… “big brothers,” as I call them. Quentin [Tarantino]’s up to his eighth movie, so I’ve got a way to go. I’m only two in.
Do you have any more film plans right now?
Yeah. I’m gonna do A Better Tomorrow, this album…that’s all I really want to focus on. We’ll get together another time when we’re in that world and talk about that. But I really want people to take a chance and check out this record. Have some fun with Wu-Tang. I think the creativity that’s in this album is inspiring. I’d love to see somebody take the song “Preacher’s Daughter” and make me another movie about women. I remember when we was writing that song I was like, yo, how many of you have seen Waiting to Exhale? Yo, how many seen The Preacher’s Wife? How many like Set It Off? I was just naming all these, you know, female movies and shit, like how about 9 to 5, you know what I mean? And taking different women as inspirations, and some taking women they know in their own personal life, they came up with those lyrics. But I think somebody who listened to that could think, “Oh shit, I could make a movie out of that.”
Would you like to see more people take your music as the starting point for their own creative projects?
Yeah, I think that’s what it’s done already, actually. I’ve been told by writers, directors, even doctors and corporate people that Wu-Tang [inspired them]. One guy came to me one day, he was on line shaking hands with the rest of the fans, you know, and he walked up, shook my hand, and said, “I just want to thank you for making me a millionaire,” and left.
That’s amazing. To wrap up, what’s the best movie you saw this year?
Wow. I see f–ing every movie. Let’s see…I won’t go to the old ones, because I watch old movies every weekend. I would say Sabrina…
No, tell me about that.
Have you seen Sabrina?
Man, Sabrina. They did it twice, but the old version with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn..she was just the chauffeur’s daughter who had no dreams of being nothing, who lived in a rich people’s house but lived over the garage, and she tries to kill herself because she’s in love with the guy and he don’t love her. And she leaves, you know her father makes enough money to send her to school in France, and in France she learns all the great etiquette and all the great things, and when she comes home, even though she’s just a normal…they’d call her a “peasant,” but she’s a f–ing princess.