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Wu-Tang Clan's Masta Killa talks X Games and the infinitude of knowledge

Wu-Tang Clan performed during Soundset at the Minnesota State Fair grounds in 2018. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com – May 27, 2018, Falcon Heights, MN, Soundset, Hip Hop Festival

Wu-Tang Clan performed during Soundset at the Minnesota State Fair grounds in 2018. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ • [email protected] – May 27, 2018, Falcon Heights, MN, Soundset, Hip Hop Festival Star Tribune

Legendary Staten Island hip-hop crew Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuthin’ to fuck wit, as the famous refrain goes. But does that hold true in 2019? Ahead of the Wu’s big X Games performance Friday at Minneapolis’ Armory, we asked Masta Killa that exact question about his group, plus oh so much more.

You’re performing with the X Games, obviously. Are you a skateboarder, BMXer, or motocross rider?

I had my experience with bikes and skateboards growing up. I’m not gonna say I’ve done anything professionally, but I’ve always been a fan. I love to see those guys on skateboards and bikes. Growing up, I had summers in the south, and we used to set up our own little ramps and pretend we’re Evil Knievel and try to ride as fast as we could, jump as high as we could.

If Wu-Tang Clan is an extreme sport, which one and why?

Oh man, well, I look at hip-hop as a sport. I look at us MCs and competitive – it’s like a competitiveness when it comes to the art of speaking. Wu-Tang says we’re a sword-style of speaking; we compare our sword-style of speaking to other MCs. It’s like a sport: Whose sword is the sharpest?

What’s your most extreme moment with Wu-Tang Clan?

Man, that’s so many times. Like, every moment is the most extreme. You can never say which one is the most extreme, because at any given time, it’s always Wu. Just being a part of this family has been a beautiful journey, and we’re still travelling. Just imagine growing up with nine brothers, and you’re all just incredible with you own way of thinking – it’s like genius! Every moment is special to me, that’s how I see it.

Any Minneapolis memories stand out from over the years?

Well Minneapolis, if I’m not mistaken isn’t that, rest in peace, Prince’s town?

You better believe it, yeah.

You see, I know that. I know it’s a big music town. It’s a great place to be, historically. It’s a legendary place to perform.

Kind of a longshot, but are you familiar with local rapper P.O.S or his group Doomtree? You’ll be performing with him at the X Games.

I’m really not, I wouldn’t lie about that. Ya know, when I started doing music, or even before, there was such a select few who were doing that style or this genre of hip-hop music. It wasn’t as global as it is now. Right now, brother, there’s so much musical talent. Ya know I go places every day and it’s just overwhelming. I’m not ashamed to say I’m not familiar with something, because there’s such an abundance now.

So you feel pretty good about the state of rap in 2019?

You see, nothing stays the same, everything evolves. Music is an expression. I can’t expect that the 2019 expression will be the same as my expression, because 2019 children didn’t experience what I experienced. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. What they had to experience as far as evolving to the level of what they’re expressing… it’s a different time. So now what we look for is substance, because that’s what drove us. We came from a certain grain of cloth; that substance drove us, gave us our fire and spirit to launch forward. We don’t really understand what’s fueling them nowadays. We’re looking for that same substance that fueled us. When we see sparks of it – if we see a J. Cole, if we see a Kendrick – when we see certain sparks of that energy, we can identify for that kind of substance. I think that young rapper find knowledge of self and culture, their substance will get a little stronger.

Tell me the most important lesson you’ve learned from decades in rap.

Man, it’s that knowledge is infinite. This is what I’m saying even about the younger generation: There will always be another expression, and you can’t really box yourself out from things. You’ve gotta stay humble to life, stay humble to that expression. Because that expression is just a voice, and if you close your ear to it, you become deaf to it. Staying humble and knowing that knowledge is infinite keeps me grounded, even to this day.

One more question for you: I want you to tell me, in 2019, should one fuck with Wu-Tang Clan?

Umm… it wouldn’t be wise [laughs].

Wu-Tang Clan
With: P.O.S
When: 9:30 p.m. Fri. Aug. 2
Where: The Armory
Tickets: $80 one-day music and sports pass; more info here