For the last year or two, I've been patiently waiting for a project entitled Wu-Tang Pulp, which dropped earlier today. The Wrecking Crew, which consists of Zilla Rocca, Has-Lo and Curly Castro, put this together as the ultimate homage to the Wu-Tang Clan. Like, I've heard a good amount of these tracks in various stages, and have been waiting for this one with baited breath. Flipping classic Wu tracks with a plethora of like-minded MCs (including Elucid, BLKHRTS, Castle, Al Mighty, Ethel Cee, Random and others), they crafted the most fitting tribute project I've ever heard. If you're a fan of the Wu, this is the fanboy favorite that you'll be sharpening your sword to. I threw some darts at the Crew, and they sliced them and flung them right back at me. Here's a dope behind the scenes feature on the construction and completion of Wu-Tang Pulp.
Like any self-respecting Hip-Hop fan, you guys are obviously Wu-Tang fans. What would you guys say was the first time you got put on to Wu?
Zilla Rocca: I think my first dealing with Wu was when the "Method Man" single dropped. It was really, really catchy and the video was rugged as a Tim boot. And I remember hearing the album playing at a sneaker store at this underground mall in Philly called "The Gallery", like the "Torture" skit and everything... in front of my pops when I was 11-12 years old. It was terrifying. I was hooked from that point on.
Curly Castro: I was in the Mecca when Wu dropped. And I remember an electricity in the Air about them. The rap crew dynamic was never more flawless. Every arm had strength, every leg had power, and the head - the Abbott was iconic - as the head. The new Slang, the advanced style... I knew my musical life would never be the same.
Has-Lo: I've got to say it was right from 36 Chambers. That album slowly seeped its way into the veins of my high school. By the end of '93 we all knew the clan was a group we needed to follow very closely.
Any particular favorite songs/releases from the Wu catalog?
Curly Castro: I'm a big fan of "Diesel", "Box in Hand", "4th Chamber" and "Mighty Healthy" & of course "Swordsman".
Has-Lo: "Reunited" is one of my fav songs. That's the one that made we want to start making beats. Other than that, there are so many I could name. I like a lot of the non-album cuts a lot. "Lay Your Hammer", "America Is Dying Slowly", "Wu-Wear"…those are amazing. As far as albums go, Liquid Swords and Ironman are my current favs, although it changes constantly. The first run of solos are all amazing. A lot of them have aged so well.
Zilla Rocca: Ironman is my favorite album of all time, in any genre. That album made me want to take a stab at contributing to rap. Before that, I was just a fan, but that album just intrigued me and excited me so much that I had to do something with that feeling. I met Ghost at an in-store signing a couple years back and I told him that when he autographed my copy of Ironman on CD. He just froze and gave me dap. I humbled Black Jesus right there.
Wu-Tang Pulp is the ultimate homage to the squad. I know this project has been on the table for a bit, but talk to the people about when the idea for a project of this magnitude first come about?
Has-Lo: It was about 3 years ago. It started out as a completely different project. It was supposed to be some freestyles over Wu beats. That's too basic though. Castro and myself kept pushing for Zilla to resurrect it. The ideas on HOW came very organically after that.
Zilla Rocca: The idea hatched in '09 after Cuban Linx 2 dropped. It was supposed to be a promo idea for my old group, just rhyming over our favorite Wu beats. Then we switched it to become an original production, but there was alot of downtime because I wasn't enthused about the idea anymore. A lot of other Wu-inspired projects were dropping and I didn't want to add to the herd. But Curly Castro kept pushing me to resurrect the idea, and one day I just decided that what we had in the can was too good to go to waste. Then we brought Has-Lo into the honeycomb and he was excited, too. Then everyone else we approached to collaborate was excited, so we knew we had something special. All of that took about two years. Then the "Pulp" aspect came up from the comic book world, where you read variations of characters you love, like Marvel Ultimates, or Daredevil Noir, the DC Elseworlds stuff. This is the audio version of that idea - the Wu universe re-purposed. It's familiar but it's new.
Curly Castro: At First this was a mixtape-styled endeavor. I wasn't involved much at that time, but I did recognize a good idea, about to go to waste. So when the project turned to original production based off of Wu source material, I bugged Zilla until he woke the fuck up and realized we should continue.
With the sheer volume of tracks out the Wu dynasty, were there any songs/ideas that were "must-haves"?
Has-Lo: I think some of the stuff from The W was must-have. We all view The W as a great but slept on album.
Zilla Rocca: Every song on the project was a "must have" either for personal reasons as diehards or as a way to check off source material from just about every main release in the Wu cannon. We made sure we didn't overdo it with stuff from the first run of Wu classics or go crazy with lots of Ghost songs, since we all worship him. We incorporated stuff from Inspectah Deck ("Circling the Premises") down to Cappa ("Devastating Menality"). We could make a whole other project based on joints we wanted to do but couldn't figure out how to flip in a different, new fashion, like "4th Chamber" or "Wu Wear". It hurts me that we couldn't think of way to flip "Wu Wear" any better than RZA.
Curly Castro: The only thing we adhered to was "don't do the obvious". We intentionally did some of Wu's forgotten gems, as well as our personal favorites, which varied immensely. So instead of doing the typical, we ended up acting off our fandom, on what to re-create.
Wu-Tang Pulp features you guys, the Wrecking Crew, alongside an array of MCs, including Elucid, BLKHRTS, Ethel Cee, Al Mighty and more. Was it hard finding the right voice for the right track(s)?
Has-Lo: Sometimes it was but persistence and patience rewarded us in the end. So many people we know and think are dope are also Wu-Heads. As the word spread in our circle, more people were open to being involved. That gave a lot of voices to work with.
Curly Castro: It was almost Kismet, some of these tracks have stories, lineage, how we ended up with certain eMCees on particular tracks was rooted in fate. Half of the tracks have third choices on them, and that's not to slight anyone, but more a product of what was meant to be. And subsequently these eMCees fit like a glove. I can't see Wu Pulp existing other than how it is, how it was meant to be.
Zilla Rocca: It was easy figuring out the right voice for the right track. It was like casting a movie. And the further along we got, people were very willing to hand in vocals. But like everyone else knows in this day and age, waiting on rappers to send in vocals is the 5th element of Hip-Hop. So that was the challenge, because there was no money involved, so we had to wait for people to shoot over vocals on their schedule. But all that time was worth it, because we met newer cats like Zero Star and Gee Dubs who banged out vocals really fast just to be down. Other guys like Boogieman Dela and Dave Little came by and took very specific directions on the spot -- "rap like Cappadonna" or "you have 8 bars and your model is Masta Killa". I love the array of voices on the project. There's nothing else like this out there right now. Great rap voices like Random, Elucid and BLKHRTS are really interesting to hear on the same project.
Was there any one track or tracks that was more difficult to finish?
Has-Lo: Oh my god, "12:10"! That song was a nightmare to complete lol. I think "Venom #2" was a bit... precarious in some spots, but "12:10" takes the cake for me.
Curly Castro: I remember "Venom #2" being troublesome. That song included four emcees, three states, three sets of vox, two failed emails and, finally, vocal effects. Some tracks have walked the long journey, so to speak.
Zilla Rocca: "12:10", the remake of "Impossible", was almost impossible to complete. Blurry Drones of Shadowboxers fame originally made the beat in '09. As the album evolved, the song was great but wasn't keeping up with the dynamics of everything else catching up the past 2-3 years. So we had L'Orange remix it. We had Rah Sungee, an ill live bass player who tours with Lauryn Hill, play on it. Alaina Nelson laid down heavenly vocals. And it just didn't sit well with us. Literally every other song was finished but "12:10", even with all these great new ingredients. Finally, Has-Lo knocked it out to where it made sense sonically with the vibe of the project. Less is more is the lesson we learned.
Right now, we can't get enough of "Devastating Mentality", "Pain Bringer" and "Monty Hall Expo". You lot are the architects of this - what are your personal favorites?
Curly Castro: I really enjoy my comrades solo endevours: "Awkward Slang" & "Devastating Mentality".
Zilla Rocca: "Crown Renowned Kings" is one of my favorites. I'm a sucker for great album cuts and "Bells of War" is a classic off Wu-Tang Forever. I had my friend Robin Gazzara, a singer-songwriter, come over and played the keys on there. Disco Vietnam was on Facebook that day posting the scene from the movie Fresh that I used to break up the verses. Every emcee on there perfectly captured the vibes of the original emcees but added their own flair. I've heard that song about 400 times and still love it. It's a song with just rhyming but it's very somber and melodic. It hold serious weight.
Has-Lo: I love "Scallops". I really dig "Mad Light Inside The Dark", "Homeless Swordsman" is really ill, I love how "Awkward Slang" came out. "Known Piranhas", too! The UK bonus track is super raw.
What's it feel like, having the project finally done?
Has-Lo: It feels surreal. The excitement didn't start to kick in until we were right up on the release date.
Curly Castro: Some relief, mostly excitement. And a good deal of pride. This one was epic, and I feel it will live up to the adjective.
Zilla Rocca: Jesus Christ on crutches, I'M SO HAPPY TO HAVE THIS PROJECT FINISHED!! From the mixing aspect, to the online anticipation, to the artwork... it's really been an surreal experience. Every song we leaked, people went batshit, so it encouraged us to pick up the pace. But we also let things happen on their own -- nothing is rushed with this project, which I'm proud of. There's no big Wu project we're stealing shine from right now as we release this. It's its own project. And I think that will help people really get lost it in, because, on the real....we are rapping our fucking asses off on this album.
Do you guys have any idea/wishes for the Wu-Tang Clan members to hear the finished project?
Zilla Rocca: We have a couple of seeds planted with folks who deal with certain Clan members. It would be incredible to have a Clan member on any branch of the Wu tree hear this album and get behind it. I remember Raekwon tweeting about the outstanding Memory Man remix project Cuban Revolution. But honestly, we didn't make it for members of the Wu-Tang Clan. This was ours. We didn't seek out big name features to hook casual listeners or buy visibility to blow it up. Wu isn't a mainstream group -- they're known, and they're legends, but they connect with people who worship them and cherish them. And we are born out of that. I'll be listening to Liquid Swords the rest of my life, and maybe Wu-Tang Pulp will be in my iPod 7.3 when I'm 90 years old too.
Has-Lo: I think we all hope they acknowledge it. That they give it a serious listen and love it. I hope they feel the love and appreciation we have for their music and their influence. Give us the stamp of approval because it takes big nuts to attempt something like this, let alone doing it with respect and quality.
Curly Castro: We have various six degrees of separation with the clan. If they hear it, dope; if not, no matter. They'll hear of us soon enough.
Any plans for a Wrecking Crew project in the future?
Has-Lo: If Castro doesn't find new friends then yes. He hates me and Zilla's slang so he's looking for new friends right now (laughs).
Curly Castro: We have some basic skeletal ideas. But nothing concrete, we have tracks in the stash, and some bangers I might add. Our solo output takes precedence and is our unified Wrecking Crew focus. We work on each other's albums, whether we feature on them or not. Pretty Wrecking Crew if you ask me. Plus the people have this (Wu-Tang Pulp) to tide them over…
Zilla Rocca: We've been kicking around the idea of a Wrecking Crew project for a while. We put some beats to the side. We've had discussions with friends about it. Wrecking Crew is more about our friendship and our similarities as rappers and rap fans rather than as a "supergroup" who drops albums. I talk to Castro and Has everyday, and it's not always about rap. Small Pro, Castle, My Man Shafe, Dr. Quandary -- these guys are in the small circle too. We need a nice vacation with a beach villa, some Vox Vodka, and a little studio setup and something ill will happen with the Wrecking Crew album.
What's in store for you guys in your solo careers?
Zilla Rocca: I've got a slew of stuff to drop by the end of this year. The Full Spectrum EP is out now doing incredibly well. Party With Villains EP is a 7-song jawbreaker coming out late September. And I have this other project called American Crime, as well as the return of the 5 O'Clock Shadowboxers called No Vacation For Murder. It's just gonna be "Zilla Rocca & The Shadowboxers" and feature some of my favorite big name rappers alive. Plus, I own approximately everything Curly Castro and Has-Lo got.
Curly Castro: Well, I'm closing up the shop on FIDEL, my upcoming LP. That should be out in a blink. Once that drops, I'll do my Atlas shrug and see what else I can come up with.
Has-Lo: I'm working on my next album and a I've been cooking up a couple instrumental projects. We're all on each other solo stuff as well. I have some production/verses on Castro's album and Z's album. They're going to be on my album, plus me and Zilla are wrapping up a pair of EPs.
You guys have an affinity for The Wire - any plans of a project like this for what many see as arguably the greatest TV show ever?
Has-Lo: That's more Castro, Zilla and Smalls' thing. I liked it but I wasn't religious about it like they are.
Curly Castro: At one point it was an idea with legs, but when Zilla and I started doing a solid run of shows in 2011, it lost momentum. So instead we let loose the singles, two have already dropped, with one more to come. And the next concept-driven record i do will be a solo, based on ______.
Zilla Rocca: Castro, Small Pro, and I had an idea to do a project based off The Wire called Major Crimes. But I'm kind of finished doing homage projects after this one, so we've scrapped that project as a whole and put out the singles we recorded for it like "Bunk" and "McNulty". We have one more called "Clay Davis" that will be on my project American Crime.
Any shouts before we wrap this up?
Curly Castro: Biggups to the Wrecking Crew, all the samurais on the record, our close associates, Killa Sin & Islord.
Zilla Rocca: Shouts to every emcee and producer involved on Wu-Tang Pulp. Shouts to RZA for making it hard to do almost every beat from scratch. Shouts to all the fans who have patiently waited for this. Shouts to the UK especially in that regard. Shouts to Fresh at 33jones for keeping the project alive when it was dead and buried. Shouts to Nicolas Cage for the inspiration, too.
Has-Lo: Shout out to the lovers, the haters, the winners and the losers.
Wu-Tang Pulp is out today for free download. Shouts to these three for their hard work. For even MORE on this awesome project, check out Zilla and Castro on Raw: The Breakdown; includes a performance of "Monty Hall Expo":