I’ve been a hip-hop fan since the age of 12. I was attracted to the spirit of the music, but I always felt out of touch with the themes—the street part especially. When I picked up my first Wu-Tang Clan album I was jolted by the Chinese influence, and it became a way I could really connect with hip-hop culture.
Through the journey of life I got to meet the RZA. This was a long time ago, when they were recording Wu-Tang Forever. He invited me to Legacy Studios where I met each member of Wu-Tang, watched them record, and talked with the RZA about film. After that we’d chill here and there, but I never had a chance to dig deep into who he is, why those themes are there, and how in touch he actually is with Chinese culture. FRANK151 gave me that opportunity.
For those in China who should know you but don’t, who are you and who do you run with?
My name is the RZA from the all mighty Wu-Tang Clan. I started off as a hip-hop lover: break dancing, writing graffiti on the wall, and DJing. I grew to be a producer and MC and the father of the Wu-Tang Clan in America, and that led to selling millions of records around the world. Some people would consider me one of the godfa- thers of modern hip-hop.
Recently you’ve been doing movies.
Yeah. I used to always go down to 42nd Street as a kid and watch a lot of kung fu movies. I got inspired by the Asian culture, and would go get kung fu bucks, kung fu slippers, the pants, the belt, all that. And we would play around. As a teenager I formed a crew called the Wu-Tang Clan based on that philosophy, and that led to a musical career that led me one day to meet Quentin Tarantino.
He’s also a big kung fu buff, and we started seeing who knew the most movies. Like, “You seen Hong Kong Cat? You seen Chinese Super Ninjas?” We would battle until we became friends. We watched a lot of movies together, and that led to me scoring his movie Kill Bill. That was after I did a movie called Ghost Dog with Jim Jarmusch and Forest Whitaker. That was my first movie score. But once I did Kill Bill, I got a chance to really go onto movie sets and see how they worked.
I went to Beijing, China and stayed there for a month, and I really fell in love with the place and the art of filmmaking. I asked Quentin Tarantino, “Can I be your student?” He said yes, and I studied with him for some years. After acting in movies and scoring maybe a dozen movies, finally Universal gave me a chance to do my own, The Man with the Iron Fists. What makes me really proud about that movie is not just that I lived out a dream, but I got to go back to China and work with some of my film heroes. I mean, Chen Kuan-tai, I got all 60 of his movies. Gordon Liu. Lau Kar-leung, the style that I’m using in the movie is a style that he did in one of his old movies that was directed by Sammo Hung.
Sammo Hung. Classic legend.
All these legends inspired me. Kar-leung is my action director. Of course, Woo-ping was one of my big inspirations. And John Woo.
I got a chance to go make my own film in China, in Sung- Jin. What made it beautiful was that I think about how much the Chinese culture gave me creatively, and we had $15 to $20 million that I brought back and shared with the people.
It was super authentic. You guys were in the mix of the place that you were filming about, right? I’m sure that that gave even more energy to you and the crew on set.
To me it was a very spiritual thing. A lot of people from the West attempt to go to China to make films, but I don’t think they respect the culture or love the culture as much as a guy like me. And my buddy Quentin Taran- tino, yo. We had it in the budget for him to come, but he flew on his own dime. He stayed about a week with us. All his per diem money, he gave it to the crew!
To read the rest of this article, cop Chapter 52: China!