Straight from Shaolin, Wu-Tang Clan's U-God Talks About His Hometown
PARK HILL — Nov. 8, 2013, will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Wu-Tang Clan's classic album, "Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers." The legendary LP, which put the rap supergroup on the map, also made their home borough of Staten Island, aka Shaolin, world-famous.
As a founding member of that legendary rap collective, U-God (a.k.a. Lamont Hawkins) is now a New Jersey resident. He remains connected to his home neighborhood of Park Hill, but that doesn't mean he actually enjoyed spending time there.
"I never really liked to be on Staten Island," he said.
Having put out his fourth solo album, “Keynote Speaker,” in July, U-God remains a creative force in the city. DNAinfo New York asked the 42-year-old rapper about the spots he loves in the city, how he feels about stop-and-frisk and what’s going on with the next Wu-Tang album.
Q: The Wu-Tang Clan is Staten Island’s pride and joy. Do you spend much time there now?
A: I mean, I was raised on Staten Island but I never really liked to be on Staten Island. I was always moving around. I’m a Brooklyn and Staten Island baby. But if I’m on Staten Island, Staten Island is one of the smallest places you can go. It ain’t that big. You got a certain amount of 'hoods over there, you know what I mean? I never really had a spot that I would go to that’s like, "that’s my spot." It’s not that type of town.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time in the five boroughs these days?
A: Certain times I’ll be in Manhattan and you might catch me at my favorite Thai spot [Spice]. I’m over there in Union Square a lot. I get some books over there, [see] the crowd at the Paragon over there.
I go down Fifth Avenue. I’d probably go to the Polo Mansion or Bloomingdale’s over there. Or I might head to Delancey Street and get me a good deal on a coat. When we was young, you used to go to Delancey Street and if a coat was $150 dollars, you could bargain them down to $120. I go to Frank’s Chop Shop to go and get my little haircut down here on the LES. I’m all around.
Q: Are there any spots from your youth that you miss today?
A: I miss the old Kung Fu flicks on 42nd Street, even though the movie theaters were s----y as hell, it still was a popular spot to visit. That was a good thing back in the day.
Q: Where do you stand with the mayoral election?
A: Well, you know how it is. It’s Bloomberg’s time to go. Bloomberg did a good job. I’m all for the city being safe. I grew up in the era where it wasn’t safe. Right now it’s real Walt Disney. It’s real calm. You’re always going to have your treachery.
Q: What did you think of stop-and-frisk?
A: I grew up in a stop-and-frisk era. I was always getting stopped and frisked, so we had to adjust. They stopped and frisked and they still couldn’t find it! [laughs] It definitely kept criminals on their toes. You come out of the house, it’s almost guaranteed you’re going to be stopped and frisked, so you’re always going to be extra careful if you’re up to no good. It definitely worked. For me, it worked. You’re talking to an ex-criminal and I definitely got to say that stop and frisk works. People always say awww that’s all black, that’s all white. Nah, nah, nah. I ain’t going to say that it’s all black and white because in the poor parts of the ghettos, that’s where the crime is the most rampant and yeah, you need to be patrolled.
Q: When are you going to start promoting the new Wu-Tang album?
A: When we finish it.
Q: When will that be?
A: I don’t like to be under pressure, sweetie. I don’t like that. I tell people all the time, don’t pressurize us about "when we going to finish it, when we going to finish it?" When it gets done, it gets done.