It might be the maiden release from the RZA founded lifestyle company 36 Chambers ALC, But Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues has been in the works for years, albeit in the mind of longtime Wu-Tang Clan DJ and producer, Allah Mathematics. For some time now, Math dreamt of compiling an album using the soundscapes from the genesis of the hip hop pioneers, with more modern sounds from the genre.
To get the job done, Math achieved the impossible – He got everyone together. Not at the same time, and not for very long, but long enough for his brothers in the outfit to pick up what he was putting down. The Saga Continues features skits, as well as vocals from RZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killa, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, ODB, Redman, Sean Price and more. Math also buried himself in just two albums for the entire 3 years it took to make the record – Enter The 36 Chambers by Wu-Tang Clan and Dr. Dre’s 2001.
Now Math’s dream has come to life, with the album officially out and in the hands of fans. While closer to a Wu-Compilation than an ‘official’ Wu-Album, The Saga Continues seems to be far closer to the Wu-Tang Clan sound than 2004’s ‘offical’ album A Better Tomorrow.
We caught up with the studio dweller to learn more about how he brought his passion project to life…
Mathematics: …I forget it’s summertime there right now. The wildest bug smacked me in the face out there too, one time in Australia. I was like What the hell? That thing was trying to make its way into my mouth. It hit my face and I brushed it off. It was the biggest bug I ain’t never seen before.
The Neversphere: That’s the trick, you have to learn how to speak with your mouth almost closed to make sure bugs don’t get in. That’s apparently how the Australian accent developed.
Mathematics: [Laughs] Ok. Ok. No, I see that.
The Neversphere: How has it all gone down?
Mathematics: A lot of hard work and dedication. Patience…constantly working and trying to make something that when people get it, as you say, they want to sink their teeth into it and enjoy it and want to sink their teeth into it more. That was the whole process of making the album for me; the passion of just trying to make something special. I wanted people to hear it, I wanted to get it out, so now I’ve accomplished that, I’m just hoping everyone does enjoy it.
So far the reception has been great. There was no deadline on this project; it wasn’t like it had to be finished by this date. There was no specific direction; the music spoke for itself. When the brothers heard it, they gravitated to it. Once they gravitate towards the music, from there you can find a direction for that particular song. As the producer, my whole job was to make each song stand out and be special, but still mesh with the next song, and the whole album had to mesh together…like a beautiful wedding cake.
The Neversphere: It took three years to make this album. That’s a fair while to be producing an album. Was it difficult to not change the goal posts on yourself half way through the process?
Mathematics: I didn’t have to change nothing! There’s a certain type of music, music that you can listen to any time. They call it ‘timeless’, like Shook Ones [by Dr. Dre], you could rock that and everyone will always respond the same way, [Dr Dre’s] The Next Episode, or [Wu-Tang’s] C.L.E.A.N; these are certain songs that resonate like that. For me, I didn’t want to get caught up with what’s going on now by listening to the radio or anything else – that’s how you lose direction, or you lose yourself in what’s going on because you get influenced by other music you may here. When I started this project, and I really started bumping down, I listened to two albums – two album and that’s it. I was going to listen to anything else until I finished my work. I listened to [Wu-Tang Clan’s] Enter The 36 Chambers and Chronic 2001 [by Dr Dre] because they were my favourite producers.
I took my notes from both of them. I wasn’t trying to replicate either one because there’s no way to do it. First of all, they stand alone with their own project – that’s what I was trying to do. But I took notes, and from the notes I took, I applied that to what I was doing. Working overtime, constantly going back…I might change a bass line and make it heavier. I might add a string…but I’d never change the song, because I was so happy with the direction it was already going. That’s why it took so long, and that’s why I wasn’t listening to anything else.
What I was making I thought was dope myself. I’d listen, listen, listen to the same song over and over again until I could work out how to make it perfect…or at least perfect enough for me to release. Once I did that with all the songs, I couldn’t wait to release it.
The Neversphere: It must be cool to use your own opinion as a gauge for something, then realising that opinion was totally correct given the massively positive response to the album…
Mathematics: Because it was all on me. I guess I’d live or die with it either way. I made it for myself first meaning that I had to be happy with what I’m doing. I’m a fan too, so I’d listen along and think if this was something I’d want to actually hear, or something to that effect. So, when people hear it and they love it it’s a blessing, it feels great.
The Neversphere: Everything points to you with the album. All the other guys giving interviews, they point to you. This was the album you were ‘crafting’. What was it like to find out that you’d be spearheading this one? Was it intimating? Or were you just hungry to get into it?
Mathematics: I was hungry to get into it. Nothing was really said like that. It was just my work ethic…my determination to make it right. I guess, brothers seen’ what I was doing and just let me do what I was doing. Any time they heard anything back, they were like ‘Oh, ok.’ Then there was this period of time where they didn’t hear nothing! [Laughs] Right before the album dropped. We’d taken a trip to do a show and we had about an hour and change drive, so on the way back I played the album right through to the end. That’s the first time a lot of brothers got a chance to really hear it. They were like ‘Oh, shit…’ [Laughs] They had trust. They were pleased with it.
The Neversphere: It feels like globally there’s a huge movement happening in Hip Hop, I can proudly say that even in Australia, our emcees are addressing some big issues and expanding some perspectives. Given you’re on the frontline of the hip hop movement, are you noticing this new wave of emcees around the world?
Mathematics: Yeah, I am. I just came back from Europe. When I was over there we went to Germany. Me and RZA listen to some German rappers and they were dope! I remember first coming to Germany, there weren’t no German rappers. Over time, you heard a few but it just didn’t sound right. But now, they got it! I don’t know how long they had it for but they got it, it’s rockin’. We were in London with this group Section, and they were dope. We heard some other cats, Paris has some ill Emcees, so I’m really keen to check out some Australian Emcee’s man.
I know there was always a strong hip hop fanbase in Australia, though, so it was only a matter of time before it really pops.
The Neversphere: When do you think you’ll be bringing The Saga Continues down to your Australian fans?
Mathematics: Hopefully soon! We working on a few things right now, trying to get everyone together. But, you know different schedules; it’s kind of crazy right now. I got brothers making TV shows and movies, GZA is doing lectures, some brothers are working on an album and doing shows too. We’re just trying to get together. The 25 Anniversary is coming through next your too so I’m pretty sure we’ll be stomping through the Down Under soon.
The Neversphere: How do you think you’ll celebrate the 25th Anniversary?
Mathematics: Oh we got a few things in the works. Ghostface is talking about doing a Wu-Tang album too, so hopefully we get that next year too. I’ve been speaking with Ghost and he’s on it man, he’s on it. So hopefully that comes next year.
The Neversphere: We can expect some big things to happen next year, then…
Mathematics: Oh, definitely…