Excerpt From U-God’s ‘RAW: My Journey into the Wu-Tang’ Book
Every fan of the Clan knows Wu-Tang ain’t nuthin’ ta F with and in this excerpt from rapper and Wu member Lamont “U-God” Hawkins’ memoir, RAW: My Journey into the Wu-Tang (out March 5), U-God keeps it real about life on the road.
From random beatdowns to impromptu parties, U-God recalls falling into a bash thrown by 2 Live Crew’s Uncle Luke, wild nights with their entourage homie, Reef, and that time the late great Tupac helped RZA recover a chain. Allow U-God to take the mic from here.
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Now that I was getting ill in the booth and the album was dropping, we had to hit the road again. With the release of Wu-Tang Forever in ’97, we were practically a household name. This round of promotions and touring was gonna be a much bigger deal. Before, when we were doing shows promoting the first album, the venues were up close and personal— which sometime made things crazier. Things were haphazard, security was shaky, and promoters were shady.
Regardless of the unprofessionalism that went on in those early days when we were learning the industry, the tours were still a lot of fun. Even when shit got thick, we had each other to hold it down. Sometimes we fought to protect ourselves against a mob at a venue with inadequate security. Sometimes we were the aggressors. We stomped a few dudes out on some rah-rah shit, for no real reason other than angst. That was just the era. Rolling deep with a crew in fatigues, skullies, and hoodies was just the aesthetic, but we had a head start on everybody. Why do you think people always make metaphors and similes about being deep like the Wu?
We had so many other soldiers and cousins and producers and offshoots of the Clan and MCs in training on the road with us at times that we’d wind up sixty deep on a regular day, omnipresent forties and blunts getting passed around, etc. It was like we brought the hood with us everywhere we went. Rolling with a mob might get you sweated by the punk-ass cops, but it could save your life, too. These were the days when hip-hop clubs were still grimy. A shootout with a few fights sprinkled throughout the night was almost a given.
You had to have some dudes that were experienced in throw-downs and were gonna hold it down if shit got hairy. Every man in the Clan was already just that on his own, so together? We were definitely a problem when we wanted to be. Dudes were always testing back then, out of boredom maybe, or looking for a rep. Maybe some of ’em had that crab-in-the-barrel mentality, just didn’t like seeing other brothers getting successful. Whatever the reasoning, we were gonna get tested at some point.
If I saw a problem comin’ at us, I didn’t let it fester and always addressed it right away. As I got older, though, I learned how everything was a test. When you’re young, the answer is violence, or at least being abrasive—either you pop off or you knuckle up. Over time, you learn how to handle those tests differently. Then maybe, as a last resort, if you absolutely have to wash somebody up in the streets, you do it. Took my whole life to get to that level of maturity. We were wildin’ for years before I outgrew that nonsense.
Sometimes dudes would try to rush the back door so they wouldn’t have to pay and try to fuck some people up in the process. Some dude and his crew tried to come through the back door at one show. I knocked him down with a two-piece (two punches), and Masta Killa stomped his face. The rest of the Clan was right behind us, so his boys backed down real quick.
It’s awesome when you have your mob behind you; it’s like having a weapon you can’t get frisked for. But sometimes that Clan mentality gets out of hand, too. Like one night after a show in Europe, we thought someone had stolen Ghostface’s jacket. At the time, there was a dude on the bus with us. I don’t know if he was a fan or something, but he was the only outside dude that wasn’t down with us. We were conducting our own little investigation, and we were like, “Yo, dawg.” We brought him up into a fucking hotel room and started beating his motherfucking ass, trying to find out if he’d stolen the fucking jacket. I mean, I’m jumping off the bed onto his head, smashing him with chairs, all this shit. We were tearing this motherfucker up. We whupped his ass so fucking bad, I thought we was gonna kill this guy.
Then it turns out we did all that fucking sucker shit for nothing. Popa Wu had taken Ghost’s jacket and hidden it downstairs behind a goddamn vending machine. So we just let the poor, fucked-up guy go. Live and learn, I guess. It was unfortunate, but the violence we inflicted was born from a place of loyalty. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the way things went down.
And sometimes shit goes down and you don’t even know what the fuck’s goin’ on. We got shot at in Chicago once. That was a crazy night. Some dudes shot at us over there. We were just coming out of the venue when somebody started shooting. Fucking bullets flyin’, so we hit the floor and shit. To this day, I don’t even know what the fuck it was about. It was just more drama.
Another time, we were touring in Florida. Me and Meth are sitting in a room, smoking, drinking, playing video games, whatever. We were invited to go to this little gathering Luke Skyywalker from 2 Live Crew was having. But Me and Meth were like, “Man, we ain’t gonna do that shit.” We’re just keeping to ourselves.
Then one of my peoples, General Wah, calls up. “Yo, son, you gotta get down here. There’s fucking mad bitches everywhere. This dude Luke is off the chain.”
At first, we were like, “Ah, fuck this, man.” But he called so many times, we finally said, “Fuck it. Let’s go.”
So me and Meth skate off to the motherfucking party with our crew. We get to the spot, and there’s a long corridor. This dude named Born was also with us at the time. Raekwon and his cousin Rico were there. We had these dudes who had just came out of prison, you know? Part of the entourage. All these motherfucking gangstas was already there.
We get there, Wah’s already coming out of the party like, “Yo, son. You ain’t gonna believe. Your man’s in there bugging the fuck out.”
We were like, “Who you talking about?” This dude Born was Busta Rhymes’s man. He just came home from doing eight or nine years. He was having a fucking good time. But I didn’t know the extent of the good time he was having yet.
We walk up in the door. And General Wah was like, “Yo.” He was on his way out.
I said, “Hey, man, how you gonna tell us to come to the spot and you leavin’ when we come here, motherfucker? Fuck is wrong with you?”
“Yo, son, you gotta go inside,” he said.
We get inside. Mad commotion goin’ on. Women are doing their little strip-dancing shit. As we got closer, the shit started opening up. In the middle of this fucking parted sea of people, this dude Born’s in there eating this girl out right in front of everybody.
Luke is looking at us like, “You! You with this dude? Is he with you?” I don’t know this motherfucker from a hole in the ground. I just met him that night, so I didn’t really know him all that well. He’s a 5 Percenter and had just come home after doing eight years, that was about all I knew. But we felt his pain, so we accepted him into our crew that night.
Now, one of our entourage was Reef, a straight-up gangsta who’d been with me since Sacramento, just a motherfuckin’ magnet for trouble who’d spent more than half his life behind bars. And this dude was still prone to violence. Every time I was around him, I had to wear my vest, ’cause we’d either end up in fistfights or shootouts. The really crazy thing is that nothing would ever happen to him directly—other dudes would get fucked up, but somehow he’d always manage to skate through.
He walked past me. “Yo, we gonna fuck your man up,” he whispers in my ear.
Now, everybody in the hood would say, “That’s your man.” That’s project slang. Like, if I introduce you to someone and I say, “Yo, that’s my man over there. Domingo’s my man.” If I didn’t know someone, maybe I’d just met them once before, I’d just say, “Yo, that’s your man.” To clarify that he wasn’t one of my peoples. They’d also say, “Your man Domingo.” Saying “your man” indicates that you’re connected with the person they’re referring to. And if I’m saying that, I gotta really know you down deep. Saying someone is one of “my peoples” isn’t done casually.
Reef came past me and said, “Yo, your man Born’s up in there. Look what he doing.” He was having a grand old time. I turn to my left, I see Kid from Kid ’n Play there. I’m like, “What the fuck?” He in the back room over there. I turn around the other way and I see Father MC. I’m like, “What the fuck? This whole shit is crazy right now.” But this dude is still going down on this girl. I was like, “What the fuck is going on?”
We were just sittin’ there in astonishment. Reef and all the rest of these gangstas were all staring at this dude like he’s a piece of meat they’re about to tear apart. Because he’s embarrassing the entire crew. We’re sitting there in the establishment, and Reef and all the rest of the gangstas are like, “Oh, shit. He’s embarrassing us all right now in front of Luke.” ’Cause he came in with us. Now Luke’s already thinking we little gangsta motherfuckers, so this is out of pocket for us.
All of a sudden, it gets weirder. Motherfuckers start cheering him on, “Go! Go! Go! Go!” He was tearing it up, eating her out faster, faster, and faster, and she was coming everywhere. Squirting all in his face. He got to the point where he pulled his fucking drawers down. He’s about to fuck her right in front of all these dudes.
Anyway, underneath his pants, he’s wearing a G-string with palm trees on it. We done lost our goddamn minds. We couldn’t believe this shit. I came from the streets, I ain’t never seen this shit before. I mean, I came from the can; we had dudes in their boxers and briefs and everything runnin’ around there, but I ain’t never seen some dude wearing a palm tree G-string before in my life, especially this up close and personal.
Reef’s ready now; all swoll up, getting hyped. He was getting ready to throw down. He walks past me again, sayin’, “I’m gonna fuck this dude up.”
I was like, “Aw, shit!” We were gettin’ ready to leave. This guy’s whole collar was wet. He didn’t fuck her, but the shit definitely got out of hand.
We finally pulled him off the girl, and we leave the party. He gets in the other car with all the fucking gangsta criminals. Now there’s levels of criminals. Me, I’m an ex-con, I did my little three years, don’t get it twisted. But these guys were hard-core criminal criminals—they’ve done a dime, twelve, thirteen years. Serious dudes.
Me and Meth and our dudes get in the other car, the light car. We were jetting around in little minivans with the sliding doors. We’re on the highway moving; Meth and me are in the first van, with the other dudes following us. We must be doing eighty going back to the hotel. On the way, I turn around to see the other van swerving all over the road. Then I see the sliding door open, and shit is rumbling in the back. I said, “Yo, they fuckin’ that dude up in the back of the van.” We’re still doing eighty miles an hour. Then I see Born hanging out of the fucking sliding door for dear life. Reef is trying to kick him out of the door at eighty fucking miles an hour. Finally, Born loses his grip and falls out of the van. He rolls into the fucking grass. I thought the dude was dead for sure. I was like, “What the fuck!”
The other van stopped. We kept going. “Man, keep going. Keep going. Fuck them dudes,” Meth said. So we kept going back to our hotel.
Everyone went upstairs, but I hung around in the lobby, waiting for the others to show up. The van finally pulls up, and Born’s back inside—somehow he survived being kicked out of a moving van without getting too busted up. However, Reef’s in there still fucking him up, still punching this dude in the face. I get out there and said, “Yo, man, chill, G. That’s enough, man. Just chill before you kill this dude.” The other guys leave. I hail a cab down in front of the hotel and say, “Yo, Born. Bounce, man, or they’re gonna hurt you for real.” While he’s sitting in the cab, Reef comes back out of nowhere like a fuckin’ ninja. He grabs the luggage rack on the roof and swings his entire body through the open window to kick Born in the fuckin’ face. One last time for the road. I was like, “This fucking guy.” It’s incredible. He survived that shit and made it back. He did it all on pure adrenaline. What a fucking night. The funniest part is that General Wah, the guy who called us out in the first place, he split when we got there and didn’t even stick around for all the drama.
Wherever Reef went, drama was sure to follow. He was a good man to have with you, because he always carried his weight, and you could count on him to watch your back. On the other hand, if he was in the mix, sooner or later something was gonna go down, and nine times outta ten he’d be at the center of it.
One time he got mixed up in some trouble with RZA’s brother Divine, and they ended up in a genuine shootout on the highway. I don’t know exactly how it went down, but Reef and Divine were at a club in Atlanta and got into it with some dudes. Long story short, they ended up with Reef driving their Land Cruiser like a madman at a hundred miles an hour down the highway, with these dudes chasing and shooting at them.
Divine was in the passenger seat, he couldn’t believe the shit he’s in now. Finally, he had had enough of these dudes. Reef had a pistol on him, and Divine took it, then Reef slowed down enough so the guys pulled up close, and that’s when Divine pulled some real Die Hard shit and returned fire. I mean he just let off on them, backed those dudes right off.
Reef and he come back to the hotel in their bullet-riddled car, and I just went, “See? This is what happens when you hang with Reef.” The whole scene was absolutely crazy.
And no one was immune, either. One time, RZA told me he was going to Vegas with Reef for a couple days. Now, I warned RZA, told him to wear his vest and be on point and careful, or he was gonna get popped.
He was like, “Nah, I got this.” Now, RZA may look kinda nerdy, but don’t let that fool you—Bobby Digital ain’t no fuckin’ punk. Regardless, two days later, he shows back up with a busted lip.
So I asked him, “What the fuck happened?”
He says Reef and him were at a party. Sure enough, when Reef got into an argument with a guy who had a bunch of dudes with him who were part of Tupac’s entourage, RZA ended up getting hit from behind, then got popped in the mouth and got his chain snatched.
When Tupac found out RZA had been the victim of the altercation, he ended up getting the chain back for him. He knew the guys who had rolled up on RZA, and in a matter of minutes Tupac got it back. He even arranged for RZA to see the dude who took the chain for a one-on-one if RZA felt like getting some getback. Nowadays that might be a big deal, but back then that was how the generals of movements could move.
When RZA came back, I just looked at him and asked, “Didn’t I tell you to watch yourself with that dude?”
This sort of shit happened all the time with Reef. Just another day in his life. Eventually he got busted for slinging drugs, but he did his time, got back out, and is turning his life around today.
Excerpted from RAW: My Journey into the Wu-Tang by Lamont “U-God” Hawkins. Published by Picador, March 6th 2018. Copyright © 2018 by Lamont “U- God” Hawkins. All rights reserved.
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