Masta Killa on SELLING MY SOUL
by Gene Ching
It was twenty years ago today. Well, perhaps not today exactly, but such is the intro to any article concerning the 20th anniversary of a major music group, and when it comes to Kung Fu Music, no group has had such a profound impact on global pop culture as the Wu-Tang Clan. In 1993, Wu dropped their game-changing album Enter the 36 Chambers; hip hop, verily all of pop music, would never be the same. By sampling Kung Fu movies in skits between tracks, as well as referencing them within their lyrics, the Wu-Tang Clan brought a whole new audience to Kung Fu cinema.
Enter the 36 Chambers is a reference to the definitive Kung Fu film, THE 36 CHAMBERS OF SHAOLIN also known as MASTER KILLER. Released in 1978 by the grindhouse of Kung Fu cinema, Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers Studios, MASTER KILLER spawned several sequels and homages. The quietest and most mysterious member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Jamal Turner, adopted the hip hop moniker Masta Killa in honor of that great film. Masta Killa only appeared on one track of Enter the 36 Chambers because he was incarcerated during the rest of that album's production. In fact, he just barely made the cut. That track, "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'," was one of the more martial ones on the album, a tribute to another classic Kung Fu film, MYSTERY OF CHESSBOXING (1979). In a strange case of life imitating art, Chessboxing has become an actual sport, although it is western boxing and chess instead of Kung Fu and Xiangqi (Chinese Chess).
On December 11, 2012, Masta Killa released his 3rd solo album, SELLING MY SOUL. I got this chance to interview him the following day.
MK: Okay, okay, okay.
GC: I gotta say, of all the Wu-Tang Clan, I've always liked your name the best.
GC: When was the last time you watched MASTER KILLER?
MK: It's been about six months, I would say.
GC: Really? Six months? It must still inspire you.
MK: Yeah, I always go back to the old classics, man. That's where it all started, you know?
GC: Are there any Kung Fu samples on your new album, SELLING MY SOUL?
MK: Yes! I have a classic skit from the movie 60 SECOND ASSASSIN.
GC: I don't know that one.
MK: You don't know that one?! Aw man, that's a classic. Get that one! Check that one out. That's Minute Fong. You ever heard of Minute Fong?
GC: I'll have to look that one up.
MK: Yeah, so I have a classic skit in there from that. It's all about eating healthy and being wise, you know?
GC: I heard your track Food and I really enjoyed its soulful vibe.
MK: Thank you.
GC: This is a little off topic but I know you're an outspoken vegetarian and that's very Shaolin. Why do you choose to be vegetarian?
MK: You know, growing up, meat was never really my choice. Meat was something that was basically forced from the parents because they felt it was actually more healthy. And then you get tricked into liking certain things because, okay, you start thinking that, like, going to McDonald's, that's like going to see Santa Claus there. Know what I'm saying? (laughs) So you get tricked into liking certain things like cheeseburgers and all this kind of stuff like that, but in actuality, I never really liked meat.
GC: Are you practicing Kung Fu nowadays?
MK: From the mental aspect more than the physical. Everything is first from the thoughts anyway, you know what I mean? You would hope that things would never happen to even come to the physical. It's just all about being physically prepared for whatever you're addressed with.
GC: Well, let's talk movies. What martial arts movies have you liked lately? What new stuff?
MK: Um, the newest thing that I've gotten into, and this probably not even that new, is IP MAN. Yea, I love that. I think he killed that flick right there. That was classic.
GC: A real throwback to old school.
MK: Yeah, and you got Sammo Hung in there, playing a part too. So you know, that's a classic boxer.
MK: No, I haven't really had time to get into some of the new things that they got going on. Me and RZA was talking the other day and he might have been saying a couple of titles to me that I'm not familiar with, so I definitely have to catch up on a few things. But yeah, for me, when I do get a chance, I find myself always going back to the old classics.
GC: So what are some of your favorite old classics?
MK: BUDDHA ASSASSINATOR, TWO CHAMPIONS FROM SHAOLIN, SUPER NINJA . . .
GC: SUPER NINJA! (laughs)
MK: WARRIORS TWO.
GC: Ah yeah, Sammo again - truly a classic. What about these films inspires you and hip hop so much?
MK: I would say for me, it's always been the principles of what they would even be fighting for. When you see some of the story lines, like FIVE DEADLY VENOMS, that's one of my favorites, just the storyline alone, it was a beautiful movie, know what I'm saying? Just everything.
GC: What did you think of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS?
MK: You know, sadly, I haven't even seen THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS yet.
MK: Yeah, I'm serious. I'm telling you. I had my brother even inviting me to come check the premiere, and I was supposed to go, and I didn't even get the chance to get to the premiere, man. I've just been so, you know, SELLING MY SOUL just came out yesterday and had a great response from most of the people and the fans. I've been getting the feedback and the response has just been great. I think it's like a breath of fresh air for hip hop and music in general at this time.
GC: Why the title SELLING MY SOUL?
MK: Well, you know, anything from the essence of creating, of self, any rhyme that I've written, or anything that I've put into the time and effort of creating, something from the inner self, I think that's a part of the soul. We are in the business to do well, to be successful, and make money, you know? (laughs) That part is the sell because we do our business. But I think that every inch of effort is coming from the inner self because I'm putting my all into it, every rhyme that I give, every production, thought. All my time is focused in giving you the best music that I can possibly make. And I think that's all coming from the soul, you know?
GC: Just judging from Food, it seems much more of a soulful sound.
MK: Right. It's just different changes, you know. Music is universal, but sometimes you can fall in different chambers depending on your mood, depending on your study, or what you might be into. It could affect your creativity of whatever it is that you're into. I tend to listen to a lot of classic soul and R&B. Even if it's disco, it has a soul about it, even if it's rock. It's like there's certain rock, I would say primitive beat of all records. I think that's the soul of all things. Every song has the climax to it.
GC: Will you be touring with this?
MK: Yeah, I'm looking forward to doing that. I'm looking forward to going around the world and embracing the fans. It's been about five years since I toured solo. I'm definitely looking forward to going out.
I'm also looking forward to this 20 Year Anniversary with my Wu brothers as well. I'm definitely looking forward to going out and embracing the fans with this new material.
GC: We wish you all the luck with everything.
MK: I appreciate it. I appreciate it. Thank you.
GC: Got any shout outs to anybody?
MK: Shout outs to the whole Kung Fu universe, man! (laughs) Yeah man, the whole Kung Fu universe, the whole movement. Everything played a part and I can never take credit for anything for myself. I'm just a vessel that's giving back everything that I've studied. So everything played a part in everything.
I would just like everybody to go check my SELLING MY SOUL album. I think it's very fulfilling and nourishing and I hope the people can enjoy it.
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