Desus and Mero can be forgiven for fanning out hard on their guest on Thursday’s show. Multi-hyphenate Wu-Tang Clan legend RZA even gave back a little of the pair’s old school Bobby Digital beeps and boops in greeting, as the hosts greeted fellow New Yorker and their childhood idol with unbridled enthusiasm. (The fact that RZA paused before signing off their extended interview to tell the now-established talk show stars he’s proud of them clearly made an impression, too, as you might imagine.)
And why wouldn’t it? Desus told the story about skipping school because he’d heard that record stores in his neighborhood were getting Wu-Tang Forever a day early (no dice, sadly), and the pair plied their illustriously successful guest for wisdom about making it all the way from their respective New York boroughs to the top. As ever, RZA waxed philosophical, quoting his own lyrics about only “planting your seed deep inside fertile soil,” which, as an artist, means thinking long term, listening to your artistic voice before making decisions, and—throwing in some Shaolin—“keeping the sword sharp.” As to the similarly housebound Desus and Mero’s questions about keeping it together during the pandemic, RZA was unsurprisingly far-sighted, explaining that he’s been using his time to “play with his toys” in working on new music and telling his hosts/students, “Those things that you preserve become that things that become truthful and multiply the rest of your life.”
RZA also explained how he—again, in true martial arts movie style—has found it necessary to sit himself at the feet of those whose work and careers he’s wanted to emulate. Or, you know, surpass, as when he joked about how he “beat Quincy Jones” after learning from the music icon that Jones scored his first movie when he was 30. (RZA scored Wu-Tang fan Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai when he was just 28, not that it’s a competition or anything.) RZA also told his hosts how his long history of successfully wrangling the numerous ambitions, talents, and egos of the Wu made his transition to directing feature films that much easier. (He even directed the notoriously prickly Russell Crowe in his debut, just to give some respect to the man’s leadership skills.) Calling the process of gathering a film crew together akin to getting the Wu-Tang Clan into the same studio, RZA said, if making an album is “getting the band back together,” then prepping a movie is “getting an orchestra together.”
And RZA’s newest directorial effort, the post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans crime drama Cut Throat City, certainly has a big, impressive band. Wesley Snipes, Ethan Hawke, and Terrence Howard all joined up in support of the likes of Eiza González, Kat Graham, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Joel David Moore, Isiah Washington, Keean Johnson, Sam Daly, Denzel Whitaker, Rob Morgan, Rich Paul, Demetrius Shipp Jr., and Shameik Moore in the film, which follows a group of young Black men left stranded by governmental indifference after the Ninth Ward went underwater, who turn to crime. “Aspirations get washed away and they turn to desperation,” RZA summed up the harrowing plot of his third film in the director’s chair. He also spun his own theory about how unexpectedly rising waters have been his nemesis, telling Desus and Mero about the two separate times his New York basement recording studio flooded, wiping out untold floppy discs full of work. (A leaky skylight also ruined his prized new piano recently.) As ever, RZA was centered about the whole, Biblical bent of fate, saying, “Noah had to deal with the big flood, but what he was able to do was grab what was important, keep it moving.”
Cut Throat City is currently available on VOD.