RZA sees the latest Wu-Tang Clan endeavor as the end of the influential rap group as we know it.
The 44-year-old Wu-Tang leader and producer says he's still six weeks or so away from finishing the Clan's overdue new album "A Better Tomorrow." The process has made him realize he's got different priorities these days.
"When you're a young man, you're hustling and you've got 12 hours a day to dedicate to music. It might be more than that," said the rapper, whose real name is Robert Diggs, in a phone interview. "The energy that's important is constantly pouring out. But when you've got to go seek for the energy, it becomes a little more difficult. Wu-Tang is forever, I'll never take back that statement. But we haven't recorded a lot of studio albums. This is the first album we've recorded in seven years, actually. And we can't wait seven years for another album."
RZA foresees a future where the spirit of the Wu-Tang Clan lives on in the children of the original nine members of the New York-based collective and in the untold scores of rappers, producers and entrepreneurs influenced by the group - folks like Drake, whose "Wu-Tang Forever" drew a lot of attention earlier this year. He's had trouble wrapping up the collective's plans in the now, though.
The 20th anniversary of the release of "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)," the Clan's still-powerful debut album, came and went last week, and the album meant to celebrate the moment remains a work in progress.
RZA says he traveled around the country gathering material for the album, even stopping over in Memphis, Tenn., where he conducted original recording sessions with players from the revered Stax and Hi record labels. Most of his production is complete, and most of the other members of the group - including GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Inspectah Deck - completed their versework in two sessions over the summer. He hopes to have it completed in 45 days or so after sending it to a few outside producers for final touches.
One obstacle remains.
"Everybody did their verses except Raekwon," RZA said. "He hasn't turned in his verses yet. I don't know if he's still trying to find the vibe of the music. We have to talk about it before it becomes too late. But he hasn't come to the table yet."
Attempts to reach Raekwon for comment were unsuccessful. RZA says he's not sure if the project can be completed without his crewmate: "Well, you know what, that's something that I would take a vote on with the rest of the crew. I'm not a dictator about that. Raekwon is a valuable energy to the Wu-Tang, his voice, his lyrics, his approach. Rae is a master lyricist."
RZA's got plenty to do in the meantime. He's recently finished the screenplay for what he hopes will be his second feature film and he's acting in the new Fox series "Gang Related," playing a Los Angeles police officer on a Los Angeles gang unit.
"There are moles inside the police department from the gang culture, that's the whole trick about the series," he said. "Who's going to turn out to be the double agents? Who's gang-related? Each week it's getting closer. I don't know if it's going to be me or not."
More and more, he sees acting - not producing - as his 9 to 5.
"I live in a capitalist country so I respect, `Cash rules,'" he said. "That might get me on the mic at 50. But I prefer not to be on the mic at 50."