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WU-TANG: MATHEMATICS The X-Press Interview

Mathematics of the Wu-Tang Clan wouldn’t be known to the casual Wu fan. However the DJ has been with the Clan since the beginning, manning the decks for their live shows. Most would recognise his work as a graphic artist, being the designer of the ubiquitous Wu-Tang logo. Now he’s the producer of the latest Wu-Tang album (sans ‘Clan’ because U-God isn’t involved), The Saga Continues. NEIL SOLACE woke early to chat with Math about the making of the album, taking the reins from RZA and vegan breakfast options.

How did you come to produce The Saga Continues?

(laughs) Hard work! Originally after we finished A Better Tomorrow, RZA first came to me with the idea. He was hearing how my production had developed at the time. He came to me and suggested that I should produce the next Wu-Tang Clan album. I was like, “I don’t know about that one,” I told him that. For one I don’t think I was quite ready yet, but I guess he’d seen something in me at that time, and two I’d seen what he dealt with in the making of that album (A Better Tomorrow).

What I started to understand, in the process of making this album is that he was going to do it (but) because he was dealing with individuals… If you look at it, Wu-Tang has been out officially 25 years. So you look at when we came into this game, we was young, we hung around each other more, we were more the same frame of thoughts with everything. Then with the years you get older, you grow more, you develop more, you have family, you have to spend more family time and then you’re handling your business. So we’re not around to see each other as much as we used to be. So, with that, certain things change.

So with that, the direction that RZA wanted to go in on that album (A Better Tomorrow), everyone didn’t see that direction, and I think you have to have everybody vibe into a project to really make it a successful one. I bought into it as a producer, because I’d seen his vision, I understood, but I guess that’s because I’m a producer, so when I made my tracks for A Better Tomorrow, I made it to gear towards that direction. But, I see what he went through, everybody didn’t see his vision and I remember 8 Diagrams, I was like “I don’t really think so” (laughs).

So, it kinda got this myth, but then as time got on, when I actually started really working and buckling down. I decided to really hit a project, which became this project. I alienated myself from music, I listened to only two albums, and that was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and (Dr Dre’s) Chronic 2001. I listened to no more music and just focussed on working and what I was doing, and I just really buckled down to create an album from beginning to end. An actual album, y’know, of great music, and as I started working on it, and getting involved it just became more like “yeah, this is what I’m talking about”. And I’m loving it. I was constantly working on it and perfecting it and, it didn’t happen overnight. It took time, because I would listen and listen and figure out what needs to be fixed, what needs to be tweaked, what needs to be added, what needs to be changed, this bass line isn’t strong enough, gotta do another bass line, or add a string, or… So I was just determined to make a complete album, and that was my whole drive. Just to show the world what I can do. So I kinda lost sight of the whole thing, of the fact that the RZA first asked me to do the Wu-Tang album and I wasn’t ready, I guess I became ready. It happened naturally.

Wow. Amazing. RZA is listed as an executive producer however, what was his role during the process?

Uhhh (laughs), RZA was the executive producer part. He came in when I needed him as an artist, he played his part as an artist. And as I said, I was so much in a drive, in a zone, I didn’t think about it till after the project was good. I remember we were doing an interview, and he was asked a question like, “how hard was it to not step on Mathematics’ toes and take over?” And he said he didn’t have a problem with it, you know he came in as an artist, and he did it. And I had to think about it like “yeah, he actually did”. He came in, he took direction, he did what was needed of him, and he never tried to change or alter anything.

It wasn’t until the very end, like when I was actually finishing the album and I wasn’t sure, y’know. I knew it was finished, and I guess I’d maybe burnt myself out so much trying to make it the perfect album. I just felt it still wasn’t right, what I wanted it to be like. Something was missing. I wasn’t sure what it was, so I went and saw the Abbott and we went into the studio, and we sat down and got in front of the big speakers, he got out his pen and pad and listened to it from beginning to end, and he took his notes. I thought I was going to get a few pages back but I got a little paragraph back. It was a few little things. That was actually a blessing, because when I made those little changes it really brought out the album. They opened it up. I was like, “that’s what I needed”. So his part was definitely important on that level. On all levels! Executive producer, and bringing me in as far as letting me do me and him just do his part as far as the business.

And what was the process getting rappers on the tracks? Did you have specific MC’s in mind for specific tracks? Or did it just naturally come together?

I had specific people and thoughts for tracks. It’s like Lesson Learn’d. I heard Redman and (Inspectah) Deck. I heard that, because I was like “yeaaaah”. And them two never did a song together before, all these years. Yo, they never did a joint together, and now they got one together. But, certain tracks, I played certain tracks and certain brothers gravitated towards tracks. So, it was like, “alright come on, let’s go, let’s rock”. And if it worked, it worked and you know, it was working (laughs). You know, I think naturally is the best way to do it, because it comes out genuine.

Redman is on three tracks, more than some original Wu-Tang members. Was he just coming in hot, or was it a conscious decision to include him so much?

Well Redman, that’s big brother. I been rocking with Redman, since we went on our first tour together… I went on my first tour with Redman in 1995, when Redman and Method Man first did (stoner film) How High. So, since 95 we been rocking together, and to this day, Red and Meth always on the road. I DJ not just for Wu-Tang, but also DJ for Meth, and when Meth is on the road with Red and Meth, I’m on the road with both of them. So being on the road with both of them I get a chance… Me and Red, we build a relationship, and Red musically, he’s a workaholic too.

So a lot of times we be on the bus travelling and he’ll be on one side with his setup making music, or writing rhymes, I’ll be on my side with my setup working and y’know, we’ll vibe together after rocking it. Y’know, one of us has the speaker on, and the other one will have the headphones or vice versa. Depends who got there first. But we’ll be up all night working – smoking and working. And he would jam what I was working on, so getting him involved that was easy. He’s like, that’s like a Wu cousin, Redman. So y’know, that’s why he doing it like that. That’s my relationship with Redman.

You brought up touring, the album seems to be getting pretty good reception, is there any plans for a tour?

Yeah, I’m glad it is. We’re working on a few things, we’re trying to make it happen, it’s just certain schedules that’s kinda in the way, but we’re trying to work on that.

There’s so many Wu-Tang affiliated projects, you’ve had a few, Dreddy Kruger has had Think Differently, even the last Wu-Tang album, Once Upon a Time In Shaolin was produced by Cilvaringz. What do you think makes a Wu-Tang Clan album Wu-Tang Clan?

Hmmmm (thinking) well, it’s gotta be official, and y’know that’s coming through from the Abbot for one. And for two it’s got to have, y’know everybody has to be on it on a Wu-Tang Clan album, yeah, it had to have every member.

Speaking of Once Upon a Time In Shaolin, have you heard the album?

I’ve heard some of it, like early, probably like pieces of it. I haven’t heard the whole album in its entirety. I gotta wait the 80-something years like everybody else (laughs)… Unless Bill Murray steals it.

That’s a plan! What’s next for Allah Mathematics?

I’m working on a few other projects too, you’ll hear something real soon, like at the top of the year from me, the first couple of months, maybe not the top? But I’m definitely working on a few things. I don’t wanna reveal just yet, but you’ll know soon enough.

I’m intrigued! Is there anyone you’re wanting to collaborate with that you haven’t been able to?

I love to collaborate. Well let’s put it like this, people who I’d definitely love to work with, I’d have go to some of my favourite MCs like Nas. 50, y’know, that’s Southside. I’m from Southside, Queens. There’s a lot of new cats up and coming through that I dig. I just like to work with dope MCs… I just like to work. Period!

It’s super early here and I’m about to eat some porridge. What’s the perfect Mathematics breakfast?

The perfect Mathematics breakfast, uhhh, it would be scrambled tofu, with grits, some vegan sausages and toast. Yeah I’m a vegan.

Well thanks so much Math, thanks for taking my call. It’s been great, hopefully we see you get out here for a tour…

Yeah, hopefully should be down there soon in the down under!

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