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Thomas Hasson , August 9th, 2013 05:42

We catch up with the Wu-Tang Clan member to talk about his new album, The Keynote Speaker

Although he was a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, U-God was unable to contribute quite as much to the group’s now famous debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) as he might have liked due to his conviction and subsequent incarceration for criminal possession of a controlled substance. But, after being paroled in 1993, U-God returned to the Wu for touring and recording their follow-up album, Wu-Tang Forever.

Twenty years have since passed and he remains an integral part of the collective, touring with them as they celebrate the anniversary of their debut album's release. Alongside his touring duties with the Wu (which include verses on ‘Protect Ya Neck’, ‘Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’’ and ‘Winter Warz’, to name but a few), U-God has just released his fourth solo record, The Keynote Speaker.

Of the album, U-God says he’s addressing the hip hop community. Not that he has any issues with the community itself, he says: “I can only do what I do. When I step to the podium and spit my rhymes, I have your undivided attention. That’s what The Keynote Speaker really means.”

Fans of the Wu-Tang Clan will warm to U-God’s fourth album, as it doesn’t stray too far from that unique genre of hip hop they created twenty years ago, something you’d probably expect when you see that the Wu’s de facto leader, RZA, is credited as the album’s executive producer. It may not break any new ground musically, but as a rapper, that’s not something that concerns U-God right now. “I’m just honing my craft. I’m going to age, and grow, and get better at my craft,” he explains.

When asked about the artwork for the album (a close up of an old boombox, reminiscent of LL Cool J in his prime, as well as sitting-on-stoops early hip hop), he says that it’s not about harking back to the past but that it instead was an attempt to try “to figure out what was part of me. And I’m hip hop.”

“I feel like it was up to me to bring that to the forefront,” he says. “For people to go, ‘Damn, what’s that radio right there?’ People start questioning things and when you do that you start to learn about things. Like, ‘Oh snap, that radio’s from back in the day.’ It’s about history.”

So is it important to educate people about history?

“I don’t know about important,” he says “I’m not special like that. Don’t try and put me in a bubble like I’m some special dude. I’m just talented at what I do. I ain’t no brainiac, I’m an artist.”

So he’s not comfortable being seen as a brainiac, or an educator. Why not? Aren’t these things to be proud of? Apparently not. In response to the Quietus’ line of questioning U-God says: “I don’t wanna be complacent. I don’t wanna settle down. I don’t want to feel accomplished. As soon as you feel like you’ve succeeded it’s over for you. People get real lazy. I want to keep my edge.”

This way of thinking has, he said, made receiving criticism easier. “It’s all about making you better,” he says. “If you can’t take criticism, what the fuck are you supposed to do? I’ve been criticised my whole motherfucking life.”

“I don’t think people ever saw me as a real rhymer, just a member of a group. So right now I’m letting them know that I’m a fucking genuine songwriting, rhyming machine, motherfucker.”

The Keynote Speaker is out now