When you're talking to family, there is no such thing as being PC. If the love is real, you have to keep it real. So when it was time for Method Man to start working on his next LP, the RZA sat him down and told him what he needed: beats by the RZA.
"I think his last record had a little stagnation to it," RZA said of Meth's Tical 0: The Prequel. "It didn't reach the status we normally get. Some of that is based on the fact that the RZA didn't produce it. I explained this to Meth, like, 'When I was producing you, Meth, not only did you win a Grammy and have two #1 album [debuts] twice in a row, you was on a winning streak. Soon as you chose other producers, you decreased by 70 percent in your sales. Not one song made top 10 radio.' "
RZA said despite his candid talk with Meth, he did feel the Ticallion Stallion's last album was "dope." It was just missing an intangible chemistry.
"His lyrical content and energy — to me it sounded like Method Man was on top of his game," RZA said. "But sometimes it's that chemistry. Maybe we can't hear it, but the fans can hear it. Right now we're trying to go back and capture that chemistry. I was trying to guide him to making that #1 song again. When the RZA and Meth get together, it's like peanut butter and jelly. They taste good by themselves, but they're great together. That's what we're doing with this album: [matching] his great lyrical talent, personality and style with my hard beat-making and song-making."
RZA said he and Meth have been working together the past couple of months and that when he's not in the lab with Tical, he's working with the Chef. RZA and Busta Rhymes have been supervising the production on Raekwon's Only Built for Cuban Linx 2.
"We thought this year we'd take some time and produce some hip-hop," RZA laughed. "I did some good scores and all kinds of [movie] music, but we decided that this year we'd try to put out a couple of hip-hop albums produced by the RZA" (see "RZA Enjoying All The Scoring He's Been Doing Lately").
RZA's film scoring will next be heard in Jet Li's "Unleashed." As he tells it, director Louis Leterrier wanted him to score the project but couldn't get in touch with him, so Massive Attack were brought in to work on the movie. Finally, though, the RZA and Leterrier connected, and the pioneering producer was able to get some of his work played in the movie and on the soundtrack.
"I was looking to create something to add to the emotion that was going on," he said. "Jet Li's [character] lost his mother, and he had vague memories of her in his mind. Music would give him a flashback. So I made a song called 'Baby Boy,' which is like his mother is his guardian angel. Even though she's not here physically, she'll always protect him and be by his side. That's what the movie is about, the importance of family, music. My song is the complement to it.
"We also did a song called 'Unleash Me,' " he added. "We made this song to reflect any type of imprisonment. You listen to the words on the song: 'I'm free from you, unleash me/ There's nothing else you can do to please me, there's nothing else you can do to teach me.' That can go to your girl, your job — anything that's holding you back. Jet Li had reached that stage in the movie. He was raised as a dog, and he did everything he could for his master. But sometimes your dog will bite you. There's nothing else you can do for him. You can't appease him anymore."
"Unleashed" hits theaters on Friday (May 13), and the soundtrack is out now. The albums by Method Man and Raekwon are due later this year. While it looks like RZA will be handling most if not all of Meth's production duties, he will only produce a handful of Rae's tracks.