Situated a few blocks away from Don Corleone’s compound, the Eve Ultra Lounge in Staten Island is in the business of keeping things gangsta. Sandwiched between an Italian sausage wholesaler and a shop called Crazy Goat Feed, the club sits on the corner of Arthur Kill Road protected by an army of Greco Roman statues. Renowned for throwing the borough’s wildest foam parties, inside it looks like a strip joint designed by Tony Montana after a particular heavy night on the sherbet. White drapes, a bored looking bosomy angel mannequin, and beach style cabanas frame the dancefloor while the staff keep themselves busy topping up the urinals with fresh ice cubes. Today this little slice of Miami circa 1985 is playing host to hometown heroes the Wu Tang Clan, who are here to play an intimate show and to take part in a Red Bull Music Academy Q&A about the making of their classic album, Return to the 36 Chambers and Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Links. All the killa bees are here apart from Method Man and Clan kingpin RZA, who is currently shooting a flick with his BFF, Russell Crowe. After an hour of insights into their verbal gymnastics, drug habits, fashion choices, and recording processes – most memorably an amazing analogy about Wu’s takeover of the music industry (“it’s like we ran over a deer and spread deer snot over the windscreen… we killed it”) – Ghostface Killah checked his pager and invited Dazed Digital backstage for a quick chat as his crew prepared for their raucously sweaty Shaolin throwdown...
Dazed Digital: Hi Ghost.
Ghostface: What’s good baby? Yeah.
DD: Does it feel good to be back on the Island?
Ghostface: It always feels good to be back on the island. I’m looking forward to whatever man, that’s how it is. That’s how we do it. It’s aiiight. It’s good to be infront of your people, you know?
DD: How has it changed since you released 36 Chambers?
Ghostface: The streets is more contained but brothers still be getting they game on. You know what it is, it’s like any other place, things change nothing ever stays the same.
DD: How did Wu Tang affect the local community?
Ghostface: We put it on the map, yo. Thieves put it on the map first, Wu Tang put it on second and blew it out the frame. We letting niggas know like yo, Staten Island motherfuckers are doing it over there. That’s the kind of effect we had on this shit.
DD: Are they going to erect a statue of Wu Tang here?
Ghostface: I don’t know, but they should, yo. Don’t praise it though, you’ve got to give praise to God first. We not here to worship anything but the father. After that they can do whatever they wanna do.
DD: We’ve just been walking around the neighbourhood…
Ghostface: This is not our neighbourhood, this is the nice neighbourhood.
DD: This is the nice neighbourhood?
Ghostface: Yeah, this ain’t where you get your head blown off at. That’s 10, 15 minutes from here. This is good.
*Inspectah Deck walks backstage*
Ghostface: Good to see you man. You know the Rebel INS, right? Inspectah Deck.
Inspectah Deck: Yeah.
*Inspectah Deck walks off*
DD: When you play the old songs now, do any of them take on a new significance as you’ve all got older?
Ghostface: Yeah, it just brings back memories. I embrace it, B. I thank God for a lot. We did what we were supposed to do and everything is good. But the darkness is still there and the struggle is still there. I don’t enjoy the darkness but I respect it. It lurks everywhere man. Just coz you see me doing this don’t mean that there’s not a dark spot in my life, yo. But I’m blessed, na mean? From Staten Island, Stapleton, to the rest of the world, they love us. Australia, New Zealand, Russia, everywhere! We’re men now, we’re older, we’ve got babies, we’re mature, into our Islam real good, still trying to stay away from the wrong foods. It’s like, yo, we’re here man.
DD Why do so many rappers embrace Islam?
Ghostface: Because Islam is about peace, man. It brings you more in tune with yourself, that why I read the Koran because it brings you more into yourself. It brings together all the prophets but it’s a book of warnings at the same time. I can’t speak for every Muslim, but Islam means peace to me. God brings peace to you when you find love, peace and happiness. It’s not peace, love, happiness, it’s love, peace, and happiness. One you’ve got peace you’re happy.
DD: Right. Are you happy now Ghost?
Ghostface: To a degree I am happy.
DD: What do you think the legacy of 36 Chambers has been on wider pop culture?
Ghostface: The influence has been marvellous man. People embraced us. I can’t say like no other rapper… fuck rap… they embraced us with they hearts, B. They grabbed us and held us like we was their children and I respect that,. When they did that we gave it back to them, because the energy you give to me I’m going give right back to you. We just wanted to be respected at the end of the day, that’s it. Aiight cool, B.
Wu Tang Clan appeared at ‘Five Out of Five’, part of the Red Bull Music Academy World Tour. It concludes in London on October 13th with ‘Revolutions in Sound’ - a one-night, 30-gig takeover of the London Eye. Click HERE for more info
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