Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch - Wu Block

Born from the minds of the Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah and D-Block's Sheek Louch, the first album by their collaboration Wu Block features Ghost and Sheek joined by Method Man, Raekwon, GZA, Mastah Killah, Jadakiss, Styles P and Erykah Badu; so you can be assured it's a banger. Essentially a full-blown Wu-Tang/D-Block collabo, it's an album of exactly the kind of raw, original street genius you'd expect from from this line-up of New York hip-hop royalty. Ghostface has already said of it: "This is a unique street album combination, like milk with oatmeal. And a dash of cinnamon. We got killing on lock. It's like assassination day - nothing but darts being thrown. It's like Batman and Robin shit. It's real street shit for the fans. They've been thirstin' for this". Based on this description, I thought I should ask him and Sheek what the deal is with Wu Block - and hip-hop in general.

So what's Wu Block? How did it come about?
S: Wu Block is a classic bunch of motherfuckers, it started with me and Ghost, running around together and us having a respect for each other and getting on each other's projects. We just figured out we had this whole body of music, and said, "Yo, let's put some shit together and give the street something that it's been missing", and other cats came about you know, and just sprinkled their little bits and pieces everywhere. Classic project, man. The Lox and Wu-Tang.

Did you mean for it to be as big a thing as it is?

S: What up, what up - what I had I mind - I thought it was going to be me and Ghost, and he just painted this picture man, like "Everybody's gonna be on this", then it just turned into something crazy. I give all that credit to Ghost.
G: If it's called Wu Block, it just makes sense. OK, you got D-Block, you got Wu-Tang, we just merged all of that shit in one and just made a bigger project. You know what I mean? Me and Sheek.

How does it work? I mean, who does what?
S: We're together a lot. Like when we're touring. Me and Ghost lay the foundation, and then we'll say "Hey yo, Method Man will sound crazy on this", and we'll get him in there, and he'll hear it, and tell us what he think, and then we get Styles, and Jada, you know? We'll be together a lot.
G: This ain't no pieced-together shit, because you can't just put somebody on a certain track. That's coming from my side. If you don't fit there, you can't get on that. It's like he said there. It's like making clothes. That shit is tightly knitted, tightly stitched, you know what I mean? Fine stitched with the right shit, the right material. That's how we came out to make this great album. It's not just thrown together. It's not "OK, you can rhyme. Get on that because you can rhyme". Nah, nah. From who wrote the song, to the line-up of the song, to the order of the song, to everything. Everything just gotta be right, you know? That's what Wu Block is about right now.

So this is definitely a collaboration, rather than a compilation? There's a fine line sometimes.

G: Our shit is homegrown. Even the stories we got on there, you can tell we was all in there together, and how we feed off each other. When you hear it you know. It's just crazy, man.

Can you tell when you're writing a single, and when you're writing an album track?

G: You might have an idea of what could be a single, but for the most part when you finish that shit, when you finish all that, that's when you look at it and go "OK, this is what it is right here". When it's done. It's the streets and the producer of the album that are really gonna pick your song. When you sit back and listen to all the shit you did, one by one, that's when it's "Oh shit, this one stands out a lot", you know? Then you make a radio mix, and there you go - you got it.

Anybody can make tracks nowadays and put them out on a blog or whatever. What do you think about that? Is it detrimental to the overall quality of hip-hop now?
G: For me, hip-hop is 100% watered-down right now. I have to say this. I love it, as far as the art, and for how it gives motherfuckers a chance to get out there. Motherfuckers from China, Japan, wherever, motherfuckers who would have been in trouble. As an outlet, it's got me into movies and all kinds of shit. But the watered-down part I'm talking about, there's no more thought process in what motherfuckers are saying on the mic no more. Lyrically.
S: Right. Right.
G: If the beat is hot, they'll call it a day. They got their ringtone record, and they don't give a fuck about what they're saying on all the rest of the album. There's no more creative development, there's no more artist development now. You can't say to rappers now "I love all your old shit". They've only got one record. There's no substance to it. Everything is the same. Do you wanna sit through an album with fourteen songs - and it's fourteen fuckin' club records on it all day? To me, a great artist is one who can sit there, and make great music, and through that music paint a picture. I don't wanna be in the club for fourteen fuckin' records, because there's only so much you can talk about on that shit. Your jewellery, your bitches, your drugs, your cars. You know what I mean? Luxuries. And that's about it. And you wanna give me that for fourteen records? I'll be like, "Nah, tell me something!" Their struggle, tell me about that struggle shit. Let me hear what you went through, or let me just hear your imagination. That's what it's like with us, we have all that. We have records where we're rhyming, we have records where we're just jivin' around, we have stylistic records; we have Sheek, and Genius, and Masta Killa and it just sounds beautiful.

I grew up listening to Wu-Tang, but this shit sounds really fresh.
G: Identification is a must, man, with this shit. Motherfuckers gotta relate to you, and you don't wanna let them down but you gotta show 'em growth on this shit, like where we been all this time. For the person that loves real hip-hop, that's into not just lyrics, but everything - style, whatever the case may be - you're gonna feed off that on this. It's that time right now. What we gotta do is make sure that the masses are aware of it, and we can just do the rest.

What do you think of artists playing full albums live - old albums - rather than making new music? 
G: People do that?

Yeah man, GZA toured 'Liquid Swords'. Public Enemy did 'Nation of Millions'.
G: Those are classics! You can't deny a classic. Music is not how it used to be. Brothers are not pushing music like that, where everybody got something new coming every year or whatever the case may be. But that classic? That's what's left in people's minds. But it's not even old people, I've been to shows where there's kids eleven years old that are singing that shit. That's a plus! That means that you got fans still coming out for your old, old shit. You can do this shit like the fuckin' Beatles, man!
S: Yeah. Forever.
G: Ain't nothing wrong with it, to stay on top. For those type of fans, you gotta keep givin' it to them. Like, I don't wanna wait two years to do another album! Let me put out an album in like a year, and inbetween that time let me just put songs out. Just songs, and songs. Even if they're not on the album. But yo, make sure you do an album release once a year. A year to eighteen months.

What about people who don't do that? When you've got Lil B and A$AP Rocky making a track that almost lasts a year. Do you think the art of the hip-hop album is dying?
G: Pretty soon it's just gonna be all single deals. Remember I said that. It's gonna be all single deals. Brothers like that, they're not ready to put a whole project together. They just want to live through those songs. They'll put it out when they get ready. Everybody's different. Ain't nothin' gonna stay the same. Our thing is that we gotta remain who we are, but at the same time know when to adapt. You have to learn to adapt. For example, when Marvin Gaye was doing all that sexy shit, 'Let's Get It On', all that fly shit he was doin' back in the day, there came a time where he went through a whole period where he skipped off to fuckin' Europe to write songs. And by that time the disco era was coming in. And he had to adapt to it. He fucked around, and he made 'Sexual Healing' , but he didn't know that 'Sexual Healing' was gonna be that song, because everything was changing. So he had people listening to it for him, and he was scared. But then it came out and it did what it did. When times change, sometimes you gotta change with the times, but still have your shit on it, you know what I mean? You do what you do, but you gotta recognise that it's a new wave now. And that's what's goin' on right now with all this other shit, B.

Do you look forward to changing with the times? You guys kinda changed the times yourselves in the past. 
G: I'm always gonna keep my ear to the street. I'm not gonna become no-one else, but I'm always gonna have my ear to the street. You have to, if you're gonna stay in the game. When we get up to go today we're gonna turn the radio on and see what the hottest beat is, so we can freestyle to it. My friend, who's downstairs playing pool right now, I'll ask him who's hot right now. And tomorrow he might tell you something different. And then next week it's another rapper. It's that quick that it changes. You gotta keep your ear to that shit, man.

Who's new that stands out to you?
G: I like J. Cole. Uncle Murda. Is Drake considered old or new?

Both, I think.
G: Yeah, he's somewhere in the middle.
S: That's just going with the main shit. That's not the underground shit right there.
G: Here's what it is. You got brothers, and they know how to rhyme and stuff like that, so you can't sleep on 'em and shit, but the music changed. It ain't just about samples and all that other shit, like how it was back, back, back before. Now you have bigger beats now. It sounds like there's a lot of different musics comin' in. You gotta adapt. You gotta play that same card that they can play, but still keep your cards, you feel me? A'ight, so say for instance you're doing an album, and let's say you did do a radio record with them big-ass beats or whatever the case may be, you still gotta have - on the rest of the album - some of your shit that you know your people know you for. Or you're gonna lose 'em.

What's your next move, once the Wu Block album is out?
G: We got a lot of work. He's got the D-Block album to finish, and I'm gonna fuck around and finish my Supreme (Clientele) 'Blue & Cream' album. It's just a bunch of work we're gonna be doing. We're gonna keep it moving. But we're definitely gonna tour off this.

(Thanks again to the brilliant Andy Smoke for another rad illustration. Check out more of his genius - including some amazing mixes - at his blog, Little Lie Down.)

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