'I hadn't paid my dues to music, and so I went and started studying theory,' Wu-Tang beatmaker tells Mixtape Daily.
By Rob Markman, with reporting by Adam Murphy
Behind the Beats: RZA
RZA can chop a sample with the best of them. The chief Wu-Tang producer has flipped samples from Isaac Hayes and Gladys Knight to make classic hip-hop records like "C.R.E.A.M." and "Can It Be All So Simple," but it was a random encounter while buying music equipment that changed the Abbot's entire perspective on sampling music.
"The first thing happened was that I was at a music store buying equipment," RZA told Mixtape Daily. "I went platinum, I became a millionaire, I was probably feeling myself egotistically, going to Sam Ash to buy a whole bunch of equipment, and a regular musician stopped me because people were giving me attention, 'That's RZA, that's RZA.' And this guy said, 'You're ruining music.' "
Of course, a young RZA was taken aback at first. "He's a musician, but because of sampling, he can't get a job. Because of drum machines, his drummer can't get no work. He said, 'You're not a real musician.' I said, 'What you mean I'm not a real musician? I got a platinum album.' He said, 'You're not a real musician. You don't know nothing about music.' "
It was at that point that RZA's outlook began to change. "He was right. I couldn't tell him what a C note was. So he challenged me, basically," he said.
Feeling inspired, the Wu-beat banger started to study music theory and began to craft sample-free tracks. That, coupled with multiple lawsuits that he faced for reworking compositions from others, led to RZA's growth. "It's unfair sometimes for us to have success on things when we haven't paid our dues," he said. "So even though I paid my dues to hip-hop, I hadn't paid my dues to music, and so I went and started studying theory."
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