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Hanging with RZA: Wu-Tang Leader Talks Dreams, Tells the Government to Get Back to Work

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I was thrilled to have the opportunity recently to up my street cred and speak with RZA, leader of the Wu-Tang turned actor / director, at Bedrocktoberfest in LA's Echo Park.

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Photo Credit: Timothy Norris

My background in music hasn't lead me to working with many hip hop artists, but I can say with certainty RZA's not like most. He loves kung-fu, science and chess. He's a deep dude, a big thinker, and admittedly it wasn't always easy to keep up.

Brandon Deroche: You talked a lot tonight about following your dreams. You said your dream was to make a kung fu movie, which you've done -- what's your dream now?

RZA: I have a lot of dreams of course, we all do. I've had a chance to live out a lot of my dreams as well.

One of my final dreams that I haven't even begun to see materialize, is the dream of being a scientist, and bringing something to this world that's helpful. I thought I was born to do that. Ever since I was nine years old, I thought that I'd do something special for the world.

Now, some people would say I did, I did music.

But when I was about 13, and I started studying microbiology and magnetism, I had an idea that there's something that we're missing. We just haven't put in enough time to study, and I wanted to study it.

I think that if somebody was to say "look, you've never gotta work again, we're going to give you a million dollars, build your laboratory, take your 10 years of study and come on back to us," I think I'd come back with something.

Deroche: What is it you're trying to figure out?

RZA: I think we kill ourselves more than we realize.

In the bible it talks about man living 1200 years. Modern man and theologists might say time is different, but I think it's just something we haven't tapped into properly in a long time. I think there are elements we could use to enhance it. Just like we can smoke this shit and get high.

Anyway, you asked about my dreams, and I'm enjoying the dreams I'm living. Maybe these other dreams will never come, but the thing about a dream is you don't have to be the one to deliver it.

Deroche: You talk a lot about a sense of responsibility and being a leader. How do you put this into action?

RZA: I think I've lived it.

I wrote the Dao of Wu with enough inspiration that if any kid could read that, then he should be able to have a better jump on life than a kid who didn't read it. It's a good map.

I think I've put maps out there through my music and through my films.

Gordon Liu did a movie called Master Killer that I saw when I was about 12 years old. In that movie, there's only one minute of philosophy about Buddhism where a monk says "without wisdom, there is no gain. Everything is void of emptiness. It is inaudible and unexplainable, but it's there. That we hear the sound of bells, we hear nothing."

That scene was 45 seconds to a minute, but it sparked my mind. That guy sparked me.

Years later, I'm sitting with the guy asking him to be an actor in my movie, and he says no. If he wouldn't have done it, it wouldn't have existed.

I said listen brother, as a kid I saw your movie and you sparked me. I went on to sell millions of records and no telling who I spark. I just want to be able to have a moment in this movie that may do the same thing. He read it, he agreed with the words, he came, and he did it.

In the movie it's a small scene and he says what he says, but hopefully a kid will see it and be sparked.

So anyway, I'm living it out. I hope other artists are living it out. I think they are in their own way.

Deroche: Do you think music has played a role throughout history in creating change?

RZA: I think music has played a great role. Will it continue? I think the control on it before was less, and now it's a strong grip. So although music will continue to do that, we may have to find other mediums.

Deroche: What's your take on current events?

RZA: My ideal for the world is more spiritual than political, so I'll speak from a spiritual point.

Spiritual is common sense. You don't gotta say it, and I don't gotta say it, we know when we're bullshitting. We know when we're frontin', we know when we're hurting.

How can the government shut down? You mean there ain't nothin' popping?

Why would you shut a government down when you have 400 million people that depend on it and believe it to be what it is? How can they shut the government down? Ya gotta go to work kid. Ya gotta go to work.

They need to snap out of it. If they have any truth in what they're saying to us, they should work for the positive.