U-God Shares New Excerpts From ‘RAW: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang’ Book
Following the release of his new memoir, RAW: My Journey into the Wu-Tang (which dropped March 5), Wu-Tang Clan’s Lamont “U-God” Hawkins shares a few more excerpts from the book with TIDAL about shady promoters, getting “blackballed” from HOT 97′s Summer Jam, beef between ODB and Akinyele, run-ins with famous folks, and other eye-opening tidbits about the Clan’s tour life.
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One particular shady-ass promoter comes to mind. This was when we were first starting out. We had already learned that you get up-front money before making a move. Then you get the back-end money upon your arrival at the venue. We made the mistake of performing once without securing the back-end money. The promoter started crying broke to get over on us. Not a smart move. You don’t tell a bunch of hungry former drug dealers and gun busters that you don’t have their paper. Especially when you’re standing in front of us with a ten-thousand-dollar Rolex and mad gold chains on. Are you stupid?
Midway through one of his pleas, one of our crew just grabbed him and literally flipped him on his head. We all reached in his pockets and took his jewelry. Then our people just dropped him on the ground, and we was out the spot. He learned a lesson that night. WU-TANG CLAN AIN’T NOTHIN’ TA FUCK WIT’!!
Unfortunately, we had to teach that lesson to promoters several times. There was an incident in Chicago that got pretty crazy. The infamous Chicago situation. We were on the Wu-Tang Forever tour at this point. After every show we would have after-parties. Sometimes different Wu dudes had different after-party situations set up.
This one promoter tried to be slick and put our name on his flyer. He figured with so many Wu after-parties going on, we wouldn’t notice one more. Unluckily for him, though, we did hear about it.
He came to the show, unaware that we already knew about the sucker shit he was pulling. Some of our crew took him to one of the hotel rooms to sort matters out. He admitted to using Clan members’ names to boost his party. An example was made of him that night. Dudes beat the shit out of him. He got a black eye, bro- ken nose, we just did him dirty. He ended up with broken ribs that punctured his lungs. He sued us, too. Actually, that was one of our first lawsuits, but definitely not the last. Again, WU-TANG CLAN AIN’T NOTHIN’ TA FUCK WIT’!!
Sometimes, we had disagreements with radio stations over promotion or sponsored appearances. One time, we got banned from Hot 97, the legendary NYC radio station. We loved those motherfuckers, man, we thought they were family. And we thought these motherfuckers loved us.
We’d dropped Wu-Tang Forever and were on the road hard. They also had dropped Biggie’s shit (Life After Death). Both sellin’ through the fuckin’ roof. We debuted at number 1 on the Billboard chart and sold 612,000 copies in the first week of release. Crazy shit.
Hot 97 said they wanted us for the Summer Jam. We said we couldn’t do it that year because we were touring Europe. They said, “If you don’t come back and do Summer Jam, we’re not play- ing your fucking record no more.”
We were like, “Yo!” There’s nine of us, so we voted. Some of us said, “Let’s go back and do it.” Some said, “Nah, man. Let’s keep moving. Let’s keep doing what we do. We’ll fix that shit later.” The dudes voting to return won.
We wound up going back to New York and doing Summer Jam. Little did we know it was a fucking setup. They had us headlining only a few months after Biggie Smalls died. Ain’t no way in the world you can headline a show like that after the passing of a dude who was so iconic in the hip-hop game and so beloved by the entire city of New York. They shouldn’t have expected us to be the headliners—it should have been a tribute show to the Notorious B.I.G. It shouldn’t have gone down like that.
Twenty-five thousand motherfuckers in the arena. Lil’ Cease and Junior M.A.F.I.A. was going on before us. We sit back watch- ing their shit. Them dudes got all the New York shit on. They got all their shit together. We all fucked up because we’re off balance. Mind you, we didn’t get a sound check, because we just jumped off the plane and headed straight to the venue. I used to have nightmares about this shit every so often. They’re gone now, but every now and again it would come back on me.
So, it’s our turn. They put us on an elevator lift. They lift DJ Mathematics up. On the way up, you’ve got the turntables. Back then there was no Serato. None of that shit. It was turntables and mixer—good old-fashioned hip-hop. The lift was shaking. The needle kept skipping while he was being lifted. I mean it was making big, fucked-up noises.
I’m standing behind Math. Math is turning around and looking at me. I’m looking at him. He finally gets to the top. I shit you not, he starts trying to rock, the turntables are spinning, and he’s trying to get us back on course. He starts trying to get the vibe going again. Half the fucking stadium starts getting mad. It was obvious Biggie had his fans, and we had ours.
The shit was so fucked up, Ghost gets on the speaker and says, “Fuck Hot 97. They sabotaged us. Ain’t no way in the world we could come behind Biggie Smalls after he fuckin’ just died, motherfucker. Fuck that.”
Then, all of a sudden, all of Biggie’s fans start leaving. He had about twelve thousand fans. We had about twelve thousand fans. Ours stayed. Biggie’s left. We rocked on. We did what we had to do. After that, Hot 97 calls up and said, “Y’all is blackballed.” They never played a Wu-Tang record again. I’m still pissed off over the whole thing. We’ve gone back in later years—performed there in ’06 and ’13—but the vibe was never the same.
That was a fucked-up situation. The whole situation was a sucker punch. But at the end of it, I guess it was all fair in love and war. We didn’t care, we were just trying to rock, but I guess some people took it more seriously than that.
On rare occasions, it wasn’t just the hooligans at the shows or the cops outside the shows. Sometimes we’d get into it with other rappers. Jack the Rapper was this huge rap festival during the early nineties. Every year, rappers from all over would flock to Atlanta to “network” with both established and aspiring artists and label executives.
One of the times we were down there, maybe our first time, Luke from 2 Live Crew would not give up the mic. He wouldn’t let us on. 2 Live Crew was mad deep down there, and supposedly had been getting rowdy during the whole convention. Maybe Luke was trying to protect his market because we were down south. Whatever his reasoning, we were up next and he was keep- ing us from going onstage. We tried to be patient for a few moments, but you know how that goes when you’re hungry for recognition. So after a few moments, the Clan had to rush the stage to ensure we did what we came to do. In the fracas that ensued, Luke’s DJ got knocked out.
We didn’t care, though. We had to get up there ’cause that’s what we were there for. Unfortunately, after rushing the stage and finally getting it rocking, we only had time to do two songs. Just as well. Rushing the stage did as much for us as performing would have in terms of recognition.
We had a few other little skirmishes here and there with other rap groups, but the funniest rap rivalry to me was one that a lot of people might not even be privy to.
Akinyele and ODB were like Batman and the Joker. Usually Dirt was the one setting it off, so I guess he’d be the Joker. He’d run down on Akinyele at the drop of a hat.
I still don’t know what their beef originally stemmed from. All I know is no matter the place or time, if ODB saw Akinyele, it was like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill—an alarm would go off in Dirty’s head. We’d walk up in the club or whatever, and Dirt would spot him: “I can’t stand this dude.” Even if Akinyele was up onstage performing, Dirt would run right up on him and swing. Akinyele would swing back, and the next thing you know they’d be wres- tling on the stage and rolling around on the floor.
It went down between them in ATL once when ODB rushed the stage. They fought over the mic for about five minutes before they were separated. And that wasn’t even the best throwdown between them.
The wildest fight between Dirt and Akinyele was somewhere in Brooklyn. No lie, I think this was the wildest night in history, period. I have a lot of stories of wild nights, but this one particu- lar time in Brooklyn was the epitome of wild. Of course, it starts with ODB spotting Akinyele onstage rhyming. “Oh, this bitch ass is here? Fuck this guy. This cornball-ass motherfucker, what’s he doin’ here? I hate this asshole.”
Before anyone can say shit, Dirt’s onstage fighting with Akinyele. The two of them are rolling around, cursing and fighting for the mic. As usual, Dirt emerges the victor, complete with mic in tow. So Dirty goes to the front of the stage and gets ready to talk his shit. Someone in the crowd lets off a shot—POW!
Right after that gun went off, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” dropped right on cue. The entire crowd, everyone in that building, lost their goddamn minds. That energy, though it was teetering on a really negative vibe the whole night, still felt positive. In the crowd, dudes was smokin’ dust in the spot, mad trees is burning. People pushing and jumping around. A few people got punched in the face and beat down in the fracas, but ODB was still rocking. Toward the end of his second song, though, shit turned into a royal rumble. Everybody started fighting.
There was mad commotion everywhere, so we all congregated in the back to keep from getting swept up in the shit. Slick Rick the Ruler was there, watching the whole thing go down in the back with us. He’s in there in all his big-ass gold truck jewelry. There were bar stools getting thrown, glass breaking, someone got shot in the ass outside the club, people were getting stomped. All around us was chaos and bedlam, but no one touched Slick Rick. He was like the Statue of Liberty, motherfuckers just had respect for him like that. We made sure he was just shining with a sea of us goons separating him from the melee. The brawlers ended up taking their shit outside into the street.
With most of the fight outside, we took advantage of the little lull in action to gather up the soldiers and head out. As we’re get- ting everybody together, one dude walks up to us. He had obviously been fighting, judging from his head leaking all kinds of blood down his face. He didn’t seem fazed at all, though. In fact, he was hyped. He recognized some of the Clan and saluted us.
“Yo!” he shouted. “This the illest party I ever been to in my entire life! I fuck with y’all!” That’s all he said. Didn’t wipe the blood off his head or anything. Just said his piece and walked off.
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One night, after the American Music Awards, Ghost and I went out hunting for some parties to hit up in Las Vegas. We had the limo, so we were going over there and then over here and then back around the Strip hitting up different parties. All the parties we were hitting at first were wack at best.
“Yo, Ghost, let’s hit Puff’s party. I bet it’s popping off!”
We made a few more rounds before heading over to Puff’s. We finally get to his shindig, and the party was popping. The first tell- tale sign that it was gonna be a hell of a night was that Mary J. Blige was there. She was on her way out, but she still showed us love. Mary always showed us love since Method Man and she had that Grammy winner together. She was never too busy for a hug and quick chat. Once we saw her, we knew it was popping inside.
“I told you this was the party to be at, Ghost!”
It was all celebs when we walked in. Crazy champagne bottles and glasses everywhere. Puff throws the best parties. He’s the king of that. With Puff, everyone feels comfortable. If me or some of my Wu brothers threw a party back in the day, people might not come because they thought it might be too rough for them, or they might get shot or stabbed. But with Puff, all types of people feel safe and comfy enough to just relax and drink some champagne. People going to a Puff party know they have to come correct. You gotta get right before you fall through one of those shindigs, ya dig? Put your hard-bottoms on, maybe a suit, get your chinchilla out the cleaners and put your diamonds on, because it’s going to be a classy affair, at least in comparison to some of the functions I’ve been to. His parties were historic in their time. The late 1990s was just a really, really good time for hip-hop. Hip- hop was just becoming a billion-dollar industry, so money was getting thrown around. Dudes don’t party like that anymore. There’s rarely an occasion to get suited up or don a tux or even wear all white.
That night, I saw someone I’d had a crush on since I was a lil’ snotnose in Park Hill watching Good Times. Every black kid in America had a crush on Janet Jackson back in the day. She was looking as fly as all outdoors. I noticed there were a lot of dudes kind of hovering around watching her out of the corner of their eyes, but they all seemed too shook to approach her because she was Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) Jackson. You know me, I ain’t scared of rejection. If you can master how not to be hurt or bothered by rejection, you’ll conquer the world.
So I stepped to her with a swiftness, kissed her hand, told her I loved her. Right away I made her laugh. I knelt down next to her on a long couch—it was full up with Janet, Eve, Missy Elliott, Jermaine Dupri—and talked with her for a few minutes. She was wonderful, sweet and a little shy. I got a picture with her and a little kiss on my cheek.
I fucked up, though. I got up to make a few rounds around the club. I told her I’d be back. When I looked over my shoulder I shit you not, she looked kind of sad, like lonely. It’s got to be tough being that pretty, man. I never made it back to chill with her because not long after that Eve came up to me asking me about the Ruff Ryders line in “Cherchez La Ghost.” By the time I ex- plained it wasn’t a diss, Janet was gone. Damn.
I’ve shaken the hands of some of the most amazing people on earth. I’ve shaken Barry White’s and Isaac Hayes’s hand, God bless the dead. Little Richard. Cher. Garth Brooks. Britney Spears. Celine Dion. Bobby Brown. Whitney Houston, God bless the dead. Bono. B. B. King, God bless the dead. Lenny Kravitz. Macy Gray. Pamela Anderson. Tommy Lee. Deborah Harry. And dozens more.
I even shook Donald Trump’s hand. This was about fifteen years ago, at a mansion party in upstate New York. Me and my man Homicide came through, got pictures with Michael Strahan and Trump. I think Homi got that picture, though, ’cause I can’t find it.
We really knew the Wu-Tang Clan was lit when we went on the tour with Rage Against the Machine in 1997. That was a great feeling. It was probably the biggest tour of the summer, and un- like some of our previous experiences on the road, this shit was completely professional. Everything was highly secured. Every- thing was new and nice and neat and clean and proper. This was not some hood shit, like when we’d just pile in the van and drive a thousand miles to Wisconsin. This was straight top-notch living. Everything and everyone catered to us.
The tour bus was official. We’d roll into town on that bitch and hit the venue for sound check. Then we’d have this Winnebago- type RV take us to the hotel. When it was showtime, the Winnebago would scoop us up and take us back to the venue. Then after the show and parties and after-parties, we’d pile back on the bus and skate out of town to the next one.
We were surrounded by super-professional people all the time, making sure we had everything we needed. Our hotels were immaculate. They’d literally roll out the red carpet sometimes when we arrived at certain destinations.
Wu-Tang was a worldwide phenomenon at the time, but still kind of a mystery to a lot of people. To satisfy their curiosity, a lot of music industry vets were coming out to our shows. We saw Aero- smith, Paul McCartney, Metallica, Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Sound- garden, Lenny Kravitz, all the rockers. The sad part was that for a lot of these, I don’t have any picture of them, because this was before cell phones and all that, so if you didn’t have a camera there, you didn’t get the shot.
Also, a lot of times, at least in the beginning, I wasn’t checking out who was performing with us—after our set, I would usually head back to the hotel. But I changed all that on this tour. That’s how I got turned onto not only Rage, but Soundgarden, because I’d heard their music on a video game called Road Rash, and when I saw them on the schedule, I stuck around and checked out their set. Man, these dudes were total rock motherfuckers. That was the first time I really saw the electricity of really good rock music. I’m not saying that the other bands weren’t rockin’, but this motherfucker Chris Cornell onstage, his hair looked like electricity was going through it, his shirt was blowing, and he was out there on the stage tearing up these little young kids in the audience. And I was like, Whoa, shit.
That in turn had an influence on me trying to turn my music into that alternative style of hip-hop. That experience changed the way I looked at music. I was seeing how Rage and Soundgar- den were doing it, and how there was a whole different audience out there compared to what we were used to. Now, mind you, the Clan started out primarily in and for the black community, but as we grew more popular, our reach expanded to multiple races all around the world. That’s another reason why we’re so success- ful, because our music appeals to everybody in the world. As a musician, that’s what you’re trying to do, and that’s one of the things I think is wrong with hip-hop today—it doesn’t transition into other territories very well, not like it used to.
That tour was an eye-opener for me for several reasons. A big one was because it put us onto music festivals and shit like that. I love doing festivals. Those are the best shows. First of all, you’re not rocking for a couple hundred people, or even a few thousand. No, sir. You’re rockin’ for fifty thousand hard-core Wu-Tang fans. It was some prestigious shit. There’s no feeling like that. Since the Rage tour, we’ve rocked with Mos Def, Pink, the Roots, the Black Eyed Peas, you name it . . . shit, we’d run into everybody. We’d spend the night talking to some actors and directors, and then get back on that comfy bus on our way to the next luxury hotel. And of course, women were everywhere.
That Rage tour was so ill. I think the best show might have been the one in Hawaii. First of all, those islands are fucking paradise. You get there, the sun is on your back, everything is green and yellow and radiant, and the colors are popping out. It’s phenomenal. The water, the Jet Skis, all that fly shit going on, it felt like we were kings there. The whole time I had the Hawaii Five-0 theme song running through my head. I’m just a TV kid at heart. At one point on the tour, Zack de la Rocha, the lead singer of Rage Against the Machine, sprained his ankle during a performance. We thought the tour was going to be fucked up. We thought it was going to be finished, but nah. Zack gets airlifted out by helicopter, goes to the hospital. The next day he comes back with a cast on his fucking leg and starts rocking again like a true champion rock star, still jumping in the air and around
Two weeks later, Mook comes and says, “Yo, the promoters, they’re lowballing us. We could be getting way more money.” Mind you, we done made crazy bread already. I’m thinking like, Yo! We gotta finish this tour!
Ghost and Rae, though, said, “Nah, man. We need to do this. We need to do that. We shouldn’t be doing this.” They talked us out of finishing the fucking tour, and we ended up cancelling the rest of the dates and fucking up our relationship with Rage Against the Machine. That broke my heart.
Pretty soon, with Wu appearances getting spotty, that fucked up our Mountain Dew endorsement. It fucked up a lot of shit— no, that’s too harsh. It didn’t fuck up everything, but things would’ve been better if we had just finished what we started. We had no reason not to. We were at our apex and rising, and I wanted to take it to the next level.
That’s one of the main reasons why I was mad when our participation in the Rage Against the Machine tour started crumbling. We should’ve seen it all the way through, but things just got out of hand. When Ghost and Rae started complaining about the money, saying they were getting jerked around, things got fucked fast.
I never understood that. We were getting cake and expanding our fan base all over the world. At that time, we were at the top of our game, fifty thousand seats packed with Wu fans. My opinion is that sometimes, deep down, some people have a fear of success. I’ll never really understand that, though—isn’t that what we’re here for?
I’m gonna tell the truth here. I really think that at the time, some of my brothers were scared to make that kind of money. People say they want to make millions of dollars, but if you had a million dollars in your bank account right now, I bet you’d be scared to death. I think the average person would be, at least. Now you’re always looking over your shoulder, thinking every-body’s trying to get at you. You don’t know who you can trust. Those are the things motherfuckers with money are scared of.
And it is a problem. At first I didn’t believe it, ’til it kept happening over and over again. Every time we started getting a lot of money, there was always a couple dudes in the Clan that would get real funny about it. They’d start acting weird, sayin’, “No, we got to do this and this.” They’d fuck it up for themselves and for all of us. And I was like, “Dude, what the fuck is wrong with y’all?” Then I realized what the problem was: Wow . . . these dudes are scared to touch that type of bread.
That has never been a problem with me. There’s a certain way you gotta move when you have that kind of bankroll. You have to approach your life differently. You can’t be around certain people, anyone who’ll try to take advantage of you or get at your money. You have to take a more business-oriented view of your life with that kind of bread, that’s just what it is.
But of course, you get nine guys, each one having a different view of what they should be getting out of the business, and feel- ing that they aren’t getting what they need, that’s when trouble starts to happen.
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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