RZA has been a zeitgeist of creative energy for more than 30 years. AllHipHop.com recently ran into the co-founder/de facto leader of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan at a red carpet Urbanworld Film Festival premiere of the new documentary A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which spotlights the Wu’s 2021 performance with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at the historic Colorado venue.
As media and well-wishers crowded and disregarded the velvet rope enclosure, RZA—the Ambassador of the Urbanworld Film Festival—graciously spoke with reporters about the project. The Grammy and Emmy Award-nominated producer, actor, musician and filmmaker is also co-director of A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Gerard Barclay (Gee-Bee). The air was electric with excitement and creativity was the ongoing theme of the day.
“You vision is your vision,” he said. “Don’t let nobody else talk you out of it. Your vision is your vision. It takes making strong decisions and determination. It is hard to beat determination. I think Wu-Tang is purity. No matter what you go through, you always want to get back to the purity. With Wu-Tang, you get that purity of Hip-Hop and that purity of youth and the culture.”
It’s difficult to get any group of people to agree on a single course of action, even more so when it comes to musicians, with each having their own version of what it means to remain culturally relevant. When asked how he was able to corral the group and their many differently personalities to do the show, RZA replied, “It was nerve-wracking to do the concert because it’s not easy to convince my Wu-Tang brothers to step out of their comfort zone and do something [different]. Sometimes, when artists producer art, we put it into categories; Black, white, reggae, classical. We compartmentalize it. When art itself is ambiguous, in all reality. I think the film documents us going through that experience and I’m glad to share that with the audience.”
For many, creativity isn’t just a job. It’s a way to maneuver through life and create something from nothing, which is something RZA knows a lot about.
“Life should inspire creativity,” he added. “In the beginning of my career, of course, I’m in the hood. I’m in the projects, and you hear the sounds of the projects. You hear sirens in my tracks. As time moved on, I traveled the world and got the chance to be at the Hippodrome in Greece and all that. Now, you hear orchestration and different things. To every artist, let your self be the antennae to send the signal and also to receive it.”
For many, the name Gerard Barclay may as well be written in Martian hieroglyphics as it would be just as unrecognizable. However, Barclay has been a singular creative force behind some of the most breathtaking visuals of the Wu and is co-director of the documentary as well.
“I learned that you just have to be prepared because Wu-Tang has many tentacles,” Barclay said. “I went on tour with them in 1997. You may have seen my other documentary, The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Did you know I directed ‘The Mystery of Chessboxing’ with the giant chessboard. I did two versions of ‘M-E-T-H-O-D Man.’ I did ‘It’s Yours.’ I did ‘Daytona 500,’ I did all of the Killa Army videos. I did all of that.”
As anyone from “around the way” can attest, the hood is brimming with creative energy and talent. Barclay was just such a talent and it was by luck that he crossed creative paths with RZA. As he explained, “From 1983 to 2000, I was living in Staten Island. It was a serendipitous connection that got us all together. I had just gotten out of college when Wu-Tang was getting together.
“I had just gotten a communications degree and the first guy who started to do the Wu-Tang video never finished it. They wanted somebody who could do the job, and somebody said, ‘There’s a guy in 141,’ which is the building that I was staying in. Thirty years later we’re still working together and making things happen.”