Masta Killa may be the silent assassin of the Wu-Tang Clan, but his sword cuts sharp when he does speak. The legendary Brooklyn emcee recently released his third solo album Selling My Soul and I had the opportunity to speak with 9th member of the Clan about a variety of subjects. Masta Killa & I spoke about the new LP, his inspiration for its production style, the status of his Loyalty Is Royalty album and why timing is of the utmost importance to his work. Jamel Arief also sheds light on a reggae project he’s been working on and explains why he believes we’ll finally see the Wu-Tang Clan come together once again for a new album in 2013. You can check out everything Masta Killa had to say below.
Justin: What’s up Masta Killa?
Masta Killa: Just, what’s going on brother?
Justin: I wanted to talk a little about your new album Selling My Soul. Originally the third album you were planning was Loyalty Is Royalty, so how did this one come about and end up being released instead?
Masta Killa: I was kind of testing the climate of where I thought the music was at this time. And it just seemed like to me, Selling My Soul was needed for the Hip Hop universe because right now, my opinion is you can’t get any music like [Selling My Soul]. Everything else is like you can get that over there, you can get that over here. I just felt like Selling My Soul is needed right now for the people, just good music that you can put on without having to fast forward and be played at any occasion. I felt this was the right time for this particular project.
Justin: One of the things that stood out about the album was the vibrant, soulful production. It actually reminded me of Ghostface’s The Pretty Toney Album and I know you shouted him out on this LP. So, was there any influence from that project for you here?
Masta Killa: Well, I’ve been influenced by beautiful music since I knew what music was. I have a song on there called “Dirty Soul” where I mention a few artists that I’ve been a fan of and that I’ve studied since, like I said, first started listening to music. So for me, to just want to make something beautiful and to make something nourishing is only me giving back everything that I’ve studied.
Me and my brother Ghost, we have that same ear for music. He loves a lot of old soul. We get on the road, we go in chambers, put on some old stuff and we be singing and bugging out. [Laughs] So our chambers are similar and that’s probably why you hear that closeness of both our chambers.
Justin: You mentioned “Dirty Soul” and you pay homage to Ol’ Dirty Bastard on it, mimicking his rhyme style. What was it like to do that tribute to him?
Masta Killa: Aw man, I had to give it to ‘em cause to me he was one of the most soulful brothers within Wu-Tang. I mean, he was dirty soul! When I heard the production, immediately when I heard it I was like, “This is something my brother Dirty would’ve loved.” It just sounded like him. So I was like, I’m gonna go write in one of his chambers and I’m also gonna pay tribute to – not all cause if I list all the groups that I loved, it probably would’ve been a ten minute song [Laughs] – but I’m gonna drop a few names of a few people that I love and respect and I have to mix in my brother Dirty. And as a matter of fact, I’m gonna say a rhyme of his just to pay homage and how I think he would have done it you know?
Justin: Absolutely. Now another standout track for me was the joint with Kurupt, “Cali Sun,” and it does not have the typical production we’ve come to associate you with. Is it important to challenge yourself like that as you continue on in this game and take those types of chances?
Masta Killa: Well, this is the thing. For my fans, or for music fans period, we have to remember “why am I listening to this music?” You know, why am I watching this movie or anything of entertainment? We want to be entertained and we are looking for good product; we’re looking for something that tastes good. My whole thing is it might not be something that you’re expecting of me, but did I kill it? [Laughs] That’s what I want the fans and the people to listen for. Did I give you something that you appreciated? Because if I did that, then I didn’t deviate from where you expect me to be as an artist, I did what I felt was necessary for the time and I still gave you beautiful music. So that’s what I want the listener to always remember. Listen for… did I deviate from the art of mastering this craft, did I kill it? Cause killing something only means to do it to perfection. That’s what makes you say, “He killed it!” Did I bring you a beautiful piece of work? If I did that, then I’m satisfied.
Justin: Now as far as Loyalty Is Royalty goes, can we still expect to see that and is it still on the table? What’s the status of that album?
Masta Killa: I got so much work brother, who knows? I might give you something else before Loyalty Is Royalty. I have to test the climate of the people and test the climate of the whole musical universe to see what’s actually needed at this time. My Loyalty Is Royalty project has a lot of features on it and my brother Ghostface just released the project with The LOX, Wu-Block, which has a lot of features on it. You got Wu-Tang and The LOX, so that’s a lot of features. And my brother RZA just did The Man With The Iron Fists and that soundtrack, it has a lot of features on it too. So with me to come with Loyalty Is Royalty with what’s already out there, I didn’t think you would be that hungry for that kind of meal. Now if I give you a different type of soup and it still tastes good, I felt it would be appropriate at this time.
Justin: So your mindset was with the Wu-Block project and Man With The Iron Fists soundtrack being released, it would be overkill to give us Loyalty Is Royalty now when you’ve got something different to offer.
Masta Killa: Exactly. I felt with me being a part of these other projects that I already knew covered a certain amount of ground as far as what the fans might’ve been looking for, from that chamber, I felt it was already being done by a member of my own family. So Ghost has that covered, RZA has that covered. So I had to come with something that’s needed and something that’s not being done so the fans can appreciate another chamber, another look. When I feel that Loyalty Is Royalty is needed, I’ll come with it. Or you might want my reggae project! [Laughs] See, I don’t know. I had a reggae project before too, but Nas happened to come with that album with the Marley brother, so I had to fall back on that. I was like, “Nah my brother Nas killed that” and I loved that project, so I didn’t wanna give you that at that time.
Justin: Wow! [Laughs] Now I’ve gotta know about this reggae project. What’s involved in that one?
Masta Killa: [Laughs] It’s deep brother. I love to create. I love writing. I’m a fan of music first, so I have many songs. I can formulate and create and bring a world into existence. So I have a reggae project that I had in the wings for a minute as I’m always working. Since the “One Blood” from [Wu-Tang Clan’s] The W album, I’ve always loved the reggae music and I’ve always worked with different reggae artists. So doing that reggae album was always in the making, but timing is everything. For the people to be receptive to it and really understand, I just thought it was too soon for that reggae album. I didn’t feel I had enough Hip Hop albums under my belt solo wise yet. Group wise, you know I’m everywhere. I’m on everybody’s album as far as my family, as far as the Wu-Tang and all of that. But solo wise, I wanted to bring a little bit more as far as Hip Hop is concerned before I actually did the reggae thing.
Justin: You’ve spoken about how important timing is and I’m wondering if that was a factor in why it took so long, relative to the other Wu-Tang members, to release your first solo album. Because when No Said Date dropped in ‘04, most fans were excited because it brought that vintage Wu-Tang sound back. So was timing important to you in that way?
Masta Killa: Very much so. All those other years, remember I’m still growing and I’m still learning a lot about the business. So I’m blessed to be in a family that I can still be featured, still keep my name hot and still build myself while I’m learning. I don’t have to rush to do a solo album and it not be perfected to where I wanted it to be. I was able to take my time because of all the other projects I’m involved in and really put my best into what I was gonna give the world for the first time as far as a solo album.
Justin: Definitely. You recently spoke with SOHH and they asked you that always prevalent question about a new Wu-Tang Clan album. You sounded pretty optimistic about it and I know RZA’s also talked about how he feels 2013 is the year to do it. So, what do you think it will take to make that become a reality?
Masta Killa: From my understanding and from building with the different individuals within Wu-Tang, I think everybody’s pretty geared up to do it. I think if RZA’s in the chamber and he comes with the music, I think everyone’s just gonna fall in and make it happen because I think everyone within the group feels like it’s time for another one. It’s been a minute since we’ve all come back together as a group, as a family, and it did it all over again. This is the 20th year anniversary of 36 Chambers and it’s ideal. I think everyone is pretty much on the same page and looking forward to doing it. I know I’m looking forward to doing it.
Justin: I know we’re all looking forward to it. I felt like “Six Directions Of Boxing” from The Man With The Iron Fists soundtrack was sort of a teaser for that. What was it like to get back and create an official Wu-Tang Clan track again?
Masta Killa: Aw man, that’s always special to me. I love getting back in the chamber. It’s like that’s where it all came from. So to go back to the chamber and to see the family, it’s like – rest Michael Jackson’s soul – but I would’ve loved to see the Jackson 5 come together again and do another album. You know what I mean? I imagine for them to see all the pieces in position and knowing what they do, that’s a joy and a beautiful in itself. So being a part of that whole entity is something that I look forward to.
Justin: As far as a new Wu-Tang album, would you want it to be the classic way of RZA producing the entire album on his own or would you want some collaboration and other guys involved?
Masta Killa: When it comes to that part of it, I’m gonna always trust RZA’s judgment. I’ve always considered RZA to be team captain. He is The Abbot of the Wu-Tang Clan and I’m gonna trust his judgment on that as far as whatever he would decide to do production wise. I mean there’s plenty of brilliant producers out there, countless. Dre, Kanye, my man 9th Wonder… there’s so many producers out there and I have no problem working with different ones on that, but that’s not really my department when it comes to the Wu-Tang Clan. But I will be there with my sword sharp and to do what I do. [Laughs]
Justin: Speaking of RZA, what was it like for you to see him realize his dream and get to be the director and writer of this major motion picture that gets released?
Masta Killa: I was proud of him, very proud of him. This is something I’ve seen my brother wanting to do since we watched kung fu movies. [For RZA] to be a fan of something and then one day become an artist of it, controlling the screens of it, I’m very happy for him. It’s a thought that definitely took years to build and to see him walk it all the way through and be successful, I love it.
Justin: We discussed your recent contributions to the Wu-Block album and RZA’s soundtrack. I know GZA, Ghostface, Rae and [Insepctah] Deck among others are working on their own projects right now, can we expect to see you appear on some of those albums as well?
Masta Killa: Man, you know my track record. If you know my history, you know I don’t try to miss anything that’s going on with my family. I’m everywhere when it comes to that. If it’s going down, I’m there. I love supporting my brothers and what they do because they’ve always been very supportive of me. So whoever… if it’s going down, I’m there! [Laughs]
Justin: One last thing I wanted to ask you about. Wu-Tang fans might remember on your second album you had your son rhyming on the opening track. Is he still pursuing that lane as an emcee and following in his father’s footsteps?
Masta Killa: He’s definitely looking to pursue the music world, but you know when you’re growing up and you’re a teenager, you get a little distracted. [Laughs] But he’s still pretty focused on what he wants to do as far as music is concerned and we’re working on something for him as well. There’s so much creativity that’s being brewed. It can’t happen all in one day, but we’re definitely still working. You might have an album from my son, young Shamel Arief in the near future.
Justin: That’s great. Any final thoughts for our readers?
Masta Killa: Selling My Soul is out right now and I want them to get that. I think it’s a perfect album for the season. I think you can put it on in front of the fire place and just be cozy with it. I don’t think you can get what it offers anywhere else. It’s a beautiful piece of music that I definitely think you’ll enjoy.
Justin: Alright man, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a real honor, I appreciate it.
Masta Killa: I appreciate your time brother and a have good new year. Take care.