Came across this really great interview from 2003 with Rza. Link

Were you happy with the Prince Rakeem single “Ooh I Love You Rakeem”? It’s very different from what you did with Wu-Tang Clan.

That was more label-directed. I did it, but it wasn’t like me being me. I definitely love women, and that rap was a true story, too. Every girl I named was a girlfriend at one point, and some of them were my girlfriend at the same time when I did that song. I probably had three girlfriends when I made that song. When I was writing it, I was like, “I got too many ladies, I got to learn to say no to these motherfuckers, I don’t need all these girls.” That was just one song on an album full of hardcore stuff. In those days, hip-hop albums always had one R&B song or one reggae song or one love song. My album was like that, too. I had a lot of hardcore stuff. I had stories. Basically, what happened was, “Ooh I Love You Rakeem” was the single that I got signed for to Tommy Boy, but they weren’t sure they were going to do an album. I had a single deal with an album option. Even though the single wasn’t exactly in my vein, I thought, “Okay, let me do the single, but let me pen two or three songs on the B-side.” So for the same price, they got all that music, which made it basically an EP, but it was only a single deal. The reason I did that was because I didn’t want “Ooh I Love You Rakeem” to be the only portrayal of me. It’s funny: When I did my first photo shoot, I had on Timberlands and all that shit. I was a B-boy. I also wore Tommy Hilfiger and that sort of thing, but I was on some B-boy shit. When I saw Naughty By Nature, I was like, “Hold on, even though Treach is a wild nigga, that’s my nigga.” I knew him from back then, too. That’s the kind of pictures I was taking. I had braids. I was a rough-type motherfucker with it, you know what I mean? They gave me some pretty-boy shit because ladies in the office thought that I was charming. They’d go, “Isn’t that Rakeem so charming?” and that bullshit. It wasn’t where my mind was at. So when Wu-Tang Clan came out, when that first video came out, what do you see? You see a 40 in my hand. It’s rugged. That’s what I was all about.

Rza on Prince Paul

Actually, Prince Paul was one of the first producers and people who helped me in the whole music industry. Back when I did “Ooh I Love You Rakeem,” he did the drums in it. The high-hats. He schooled me on that. He schooled me on a lot of things. I did a lot of demos with him in those days. He told me I’m one of his favorite MCs of all time, and he knows a lot of MCs. When it came time for the Gravediggaz, Prince Paul was thinking about putting a group together. He wanted to get some good MCs. Poetic was another dope MC who was underrated out in Long Island. He had one single out on Tommy Boy that didn’t take off, but he was a dope MC. As the Grym Reaper, you know how many dope lyrics he dropped. Frukwan, one of the top lyricists out of Stetsasonic. He and Paul were friends already. He told him about me. He said, “I know this one guy who is super-dope.” At the same time, I was also trying to do Wu-Tang. I was trying to start my own company and stuff, so when Paul called me up and invited me to his crib in Long Island and told me his idea for forming this group, I thought it would be an honor to be in a group with him. But I told him, “I’m also producing a group, and I’m also part of a family that I’m building.” He said, “Yo, that’s crazy.” We would talk a lot of times. ODB came to his house a lot of times with me. Meth, too. We all would just go there and try to find ways to get out of the streets. Me, I was trying to get out of the ghetto. Paul had a lot of respect for me, so he helped me break out of it. I think he liked that I was so dark, but I didn’t know I was dark.

You produced nearly all of the early Wu-Tang Clan solo albums. How were you able to be so prolific?

I stayed in the basement for years. I didn’t even come outside. I didn’t know I was wealthy until 1997. Honestly. I didn’t even have sex with no other girls for years—I had one girl, and it was just me and her. I was really snowed in. I broke loose in ’97, after I was forsaken. After I was forsaken, I realized, “You know what? People are not always going to be good, no matter how good I am.” I started being good only for selected people. I started thinking about myself, yo. I bought my first car in ’97, my first fucking land cruiser, fuck it. A Lexus and a Range Rover. I bought two the same day. Fuck that. I was helping so many people, and nobody was helping me. People was trying to hurt me, it just slipped out. I was like, “Let me show these motherfuckers.”

What do you mean by “forsaken”?

People you put your trust in, from women to partners, and then they forsake you. Even the Wu-Tang Clan, when Wu-Tang Clan pulled out of the Rage Against The Machine tour, it broke my heart, because I recorded the Wu-Tang Forever album with democracy. I let everybody do what they wanted to do. The other albums were more like how I wanted it, and it came out better, people say. The other shit was more like drama. Not only that, but I told everybody that this was a very important tour for our careers. I said, “We do this tour right, and first of all, it’s going to be trend-setting. We can embed ourselves deeply into American culture. We can go back and do more tours with all the colleges,” because they just wanted to go out and get the black bitches, and get pussy, and get it popping. I’m like, “Fuck that. Let’s rock the world. Let’s spread our message to the world.” And everybody wasn’t understanding that. They wasn’t taking it as serious as I was taking it at that point. When they started backing out, it really hurt me and shit, so I backed out. I feel like I did everything for Wu-Tang. Like I said, I didn’t go outside for years. At that time, I looked like a fucking ugly hermit. That’s why, when Bobby Digital came out, I started chilling. I started having a good time. But then when they forsake me—and some brothers did, some brothers didn’t—if you have four people who aren’t into it, it’s not going to work. I went back to the Wu mansion in New Jersey, and nobody was up-keeping it. I paid a lot of money down for that shit, and they were treating it like a big clubhouse. They treated it like they were still in the hood, and I had to let them know that we weren’t in the hood anymore. We got to live elegant. We need to live where our feelings lead us. Fuck all y’all. Like, I got a studio, right? I paid for it. I put my money into it while other niggas bought what they bought. My studio belongs to all of us. Why would you come to your own studio and drop ashes on the fucking rug? It’s your own place. Why would you spit on your own floor? It’s just the hood mentality. Those things made me feel like I better start enjoying things, too.