After 22 difficult years of life, Inspectah Deck sat down to pen a verse that would highlight his struggles and impact Hip Hop for generations to come. Survival on his mind, one eye awake to the ways of the world, Deck wrote candidly about intricacies of his life, the foiled plans, hardship, turmoil and the fact that life, as a shorty, shouldn’t be so rough. That verse, of course, landed on “C.R.E.A.M.,” a selection off Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
For shorties all around, even those who weren’t trying to hear knowledge kicked in their ears, Wu-Tang Clan symbolized a voice of truth. Eventually, 1993’s shorties grew up, passed the tapes or compact discs down to 2003’s shorties and beyond. Those words that Wu-Tang Clan members kicked throughout Enter The Wu remain notable and memorable 20 years after the group made their entrance.
Recently, Inspectah Deck spoke with HipHopDX about his verse on “C.R.E.A.M.” Deck dropped insight on the track’s depth, his mentality while writing it and how he views it in retrospect. Here’s a look into the mind that helped many shorties overcome heartaches and pain for more than 20 years.
Inspectah Deck On ODB Hologram & “Rock The Bells”
HipHopDX: You guys went through “Rock The Bells” without Rae and Ghost, and a lot of fans were looking for clarity on the situation. Can you shed some light on that?
Inspectah Deck: I would just say Raekwon and Ghostface got a Twitter, man. They both have their own account, so the same way y’all get at me, get at them brothers, man [laughs]. Get at them and ask them why they’re not there. I’m not gonna disclose their business. Their reason for being there is their reason, dog. But when you say Inspectah Deck’s name, I’m front and center on that stage. Let the fans know that. I put that work in, because I’m rarely never there.
DX: How did it feel for you to be there without your brothers?
Inspectah Deck: It’s weird as a mothafucka, man. I feel for the fans. I know that they come to see the 8-Diagram swordsmen in effect. So to see two dudes missing that’s major pieces in this whole situation is like… You may have wanted to see Rae kick his verse from “C.R.E.A.M.,” but instead you see us kicking it for him or asking y’all to kick it. Me, as a performer, I don’t like it. But I can’t be speaking on this man’s business and what might have prevented him from being at the show. All I know is when you come to the next “Rock The Bells,” if you’re there to hear some of my shit, guess what? I got you.
DX: You got it covered?
Inspectah Deck: Guaranteed, man. I don’t slack when it comes to this shit. I don’t make solo albums for the masses and the millions of radio fans out there, I make music for people that see things the way I see it. My lyrics will take you to fuckin’ college and back. And they ain’t gonna realize it until I’m gone. When I’m gone, they gonna put my rhymes in a poetry book for you to read them shits. I’m hoping that when I’m gone, my wife is gonna send that out there for y’all…all my shit, so y’all can read it.
When you question who’s one of the greatest of all time lyrically… I don’t sell a lot of records, but it’s all good, man. My first solo album sold over 500,000 copies. And my second album—which I put out independently—sold over six figures as well. I didn’t put out a whole lot of material and saturate the world with Inspectah Deck where you really even know a nigga’s true talent now. They know me from Wu-Tang, but if you look at my solo shit, I always pushed the envelope and tried to make it something else instead of doing the same old thing. I always pushed the boundaries and shit. I’ve got a song called “The Stereotype” and a song called “U Wanna Be.” There’s Rock shit and all types of shit, and niggas think it’s a game. Research a nigga. All my shit sounds different than they shit, because I was born and raised different. I’ve got an acquired taste, man. My shit is like drinking pomegranate juice.
DX: Right. They need to listen to “Born Survivor.”
Inspectah Deck: Come on, man. I ain’t gotta tell ‘em. They caught in a trap right now, and I don’t mean danger. Niggas is in the strip club throwing their money up and doing all types of Birdman shit. When we came up, we didn’t grow up like that. We learned how to hustle and get money. You stack and plan the future ahead—get your house, your car, your wife and start your family. Pass the jewel on. We grew up under those rules like the mob…the mafia. These little niggas is corny.
DX: What does it feel like when you’re on stage and you see the Ol’ Dirty Bastard hologram?
Inspectah Deck: To me, it’s hard to see when you’re in the mix of doing what you do. I turned around a couple times and caught it. So as long as the fans love it, I love it. I didn’t know how they was gonna react, because they had already saw it. They saw Tupac, and I was hoping they wouldn’t think it was old and worn-out already by the time we got a chance to do it. But they embraced it. The most I can say is thank you to them for allowing us to still do that 20 years later. Cats don’t last 20 years in the game.
DX: Speaking of 20 years in the game, when you look at Enter The Wu-Tang, what is your favorite verse?
Inspectah Deck: I got a bunch of shit, man. Listen to my shit, dog. I’ve got some shit like, “This is emcee wizardry / Killah bee invasion / Men of respect, blessed with wisdom of the ancients / My words are blatant / I lacerate necks for statements / And launch like led projectiles straight out the basement.” My shit is third world on these niggas [laughs]. What more do you want, man? When I’m gone, my shit is gonna be in the books for y’all niggas to see on display. Then talk to me. Talk to my legacy, man. Niggas don’t get it right now.
DX: You talking about having an urban journal and being a broadcaster for eternity sticks out. You were talking about the Aztecs to kids…
Inspectah Deck: Before the U.S. went to war, I said, “Terrorizing jams like troops in Pakistan.” I been here already, and I’m futuristic with my shit—2020. I feel like I travel back in time sometimes to warn niggas about what the future is gonna be like. I’m like the Michael J. Fox of this shit. It’s too much access to information out there, and brothers are still lost. That’s where I’m at in life right now. It’s like, “What the fuck? What’s got y’all minds so occupied that y’all miss basic knowledge?” This is basic knowledge…not even in depth. It ain’t everybody, but it’s the majority of people.
Niggas don’t think, and I’m like, “Since when has Conscious Rap become like, ‘Ah, that’s that Conscious Rap shit. Nobody wants to hear that shit.’” When did the tables turn like that where the ignorant shit—where you could just be like, “Suck my dick, bitch! Suck my dick, bitch!”—was good? I don’t know when the tables turned, my G. I just know that it hit somewhere. So now it’s corny to be smart, and it’s cool to be dumb.
Inspectah Deck Dissects “C.R.E.A.M.” & Explains Lost Verses
DX: Well since we were talking about your verses earlier, where were you when you wrote the verse for “C.R.E.A.M.?”
Inspectah Deck: I was standing in front of the building with crack in my sock, man. There was two verses to “C.R.E.A.M.” A lot of y’all don’t know, me and Rae had two verses apiece for “C.R.E.A.M.” That was a long-ass song, and I’ve got an unheard, second verse that I’m gonna put in that book for you.
There’s a second verse to “C.R.E.A.M.” that I’m going to put out for y’all that never made it. So what I ended up doing was taking the first part of the first verse and the second part of the second verse and putting them together, and that’s how you got the version you know now. But I got the back end of the first verse and the beginning of the second verse as well. We’re telling a whole ‘nother version of the same story. It’s kind of ill. But, yeah I was in front of the building. I used to carry a notepad on me and shit. I used to stop and just jot down some shit.
DX: Well it’s interesting because even on that, you talk about going to jail at a young age and lo and behold, years later, you do end up making the “C.R.E.A.M.”
Inspectah Deck: Yeah man, like Biggie said, “It was all a dream, I used to read Word Up Magazine / Salt-N-Pepa…” I was that same dude, man. I had the lumberjack with the hat to match. That’s why I felt the homie like that. ‘Cause I lived that same life. It was just more or less like, all you see now is a reflection of that…the grown man version of that.
DX: Alright, I’ll walk you through some of this, and you just give me some insight as to what inspired the lines. I always thought, “Stay awake to the ways of the world,” was such a profound line. Where did that come from?
Inspectah Deck: “Stay awake to the ways of the world ‘cause shit is deep?”
Inspectah Deck: That’s just every news station everyday—the back-to-back death and destruction that they display. That was another inspiration for “Cold World”—the shit I did with GZA. It’s just the day-to-day chaos, because the shit in life will make you feel like there’s a thin line between feeling safe and feeling in danger. A slight turn will leave you fucked up just when you thought you was cool and comfortable. And it’ll be your friends, it’ll be your cousins, it’ll be your wife. Anything can happen at any time. You need to stay awake to the ways of the world, ‘cause shit is deep. The minute you get caught sleeping, you don’t wake up. And that’s the majority of the time. You don’t wake up if you get caught sleeping.
How Being Incarcerated Shaped Inspectah Deck’s Outlook On Life
DX: Now, you also talk about you had a dream but it failed because you went to jail at such an early age. Did you think in your mind while you were writing this rhyme that you would succeed?
Inspectah Deck: Yo, when you look at that line, I believed in everything I said, because everything was coming straight from the heart. I went through that. I was 15, locked up like, “Yo, what the fuck? I’m the only one from Stated Island in here too. I can’t look for no help. I got to hold myself down. Niggas is looking at my fresh New Balance. Niggas is looking at my Yankee hat.” I was hustling. I was in it with my Yankee shirt, just rocking all the latest clothes. Me going to jail was was like, “Damn, I’m a young nigga in here. There’s grown men—murderous niggas—looking at my hat and shit.” So you got to learn quick. As a youngster, I had to grasp who I was. I’m like, “Oh shit, I’m in here, and I’m a young nigga. Don’t talk too much.” That’s when Inspectah was born. That was the nigga that shut up and just started analyzing things. That’s when you got to pay attention to your situation and know what’s going on, like, “Oh okay, I ain’t speak a word, but I know what time they use the phone and what they hours is.” You got to make observations and determine when to make moves, and that’s how I became Inspectah. I learned that, came home and that helped me learn how to survive on the streets.
DX: Now when you say, “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough.” A lot of people have taken that and have used it as something to explain the trouble they’ve seen at an early age. When you look at kids today, how do you try to help the youth knowing that life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough?
Inspectah Deck: When I say, “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough,” I’m talking about me, myself—I grew up poor, but we grew up happy as a family. We ain’t have shit, but we was always cool about not having shit at that period and time. My mom was working, doing her thing, but I looked at other cats that used to come to my house and used to come play with my toys. We only had about two or three of them shits, but these niggas had none, so they over at my house everyday.
As a shorty, you might be dealing with, a father who’s a fucking career criminal, your mom’s on drugs. You ain’t got no discipline, you up all night, and you seeing shit you ain’t supposed to see. Niggas is blowing cigarette smoke in your face…weed in your face. They’re drinking and fucking, and you just a 10-year-old or 11-year-old. You get to see all that way ahead of your time. You’re seeing coke getting chopped on the table, guns and all kinds of shit at a young age. That young age is when your mind is the ripest, man. All that information is going on, and it gets sucked in. Your brain is young, and your brain is new. You catalogue all that, and that’s what you become. You become what your surrounding is. If you’re surrounded by lions, you going to move like a lion. If you surrounded by lambs, you going to move like a lamb. So kids are forced to be grown men fast.
Why Inspectah Deck Thinks Some Are Reluctant To Take Advice
DX: Has knowing that inspired you to help kids who might be struggling.
Inspectah Deck: Man, I try to talk to them. I do a lot of things around the hood. There’s definitely a lot of different ventures I’m getting in as far as one on one and talking to the people, ‘cause I believe that’s where it’s at right now. But a lot of young people don’t want to hear what you have to say. They looking at you like, “Oh you an old head nigga. You had your shine. You had your time, and it’s my time now.” So they won’t accept the jewels. But for me, when it was my turn and I was looking at the OG’s like that, I wanted to know everything like, “Put me up on game. Let me know what’s really poppin’, so I know what to look for when I’m out there.”
So as a youngster at 15, 16, I rolled with 24 and 25-year-olds. I rolled with my older brother and his clique, ‘cause it was all about getting the knowledge of what you getting into. It just goes back to some niggas is smart, and some niggas is just ignorant, man. And you can’t force things on nobody. So kids growing up, and their lives as a shorties are rough. These niggas ain’t have bikes, they don’t know what birthday parties are, and niggas don’t get Christmas presents. Niggas growing up hard, man.
DX: Do you still feel that living in this world is no different than living in a prison cell?
Inspectah Deck: I mean, definitely. Definitely. It’s like being in a prison cell, just with different type of inmates. There’s inmates that walk around sleep with TVs, cell phones and all that shit. You have the appearance of being free. That’s all that really is. They control everything I do. I can’t do but so much. No matter what it is, you can only go to a certain extent before you put yourself on a radar for people that’s looking for mothafuckas like you. And that’s whatever you do. You put yourself on a radar when you become too successful at certain things.
DX: I think one of the strongest lines is when you say, “I guess that’s not the time when I’m not depressed / But I’m still depressed, and I ask what’s it worth?” A lot of times people want to hide that kind of vulnerability, but you talk about that. Was there a time where you felt like you were suicidal at that point?
Inspectah Deck: [Laughs] Nah, man. I ain’t never been suicidal, dog. I’m too mentally strong for all that shit.
DX: But when you ask, “What’s it worth?” there is a sense of hopelessness there, right?
Inspectah Deck: Yeah, there is a sense of hopelessness of being that child thinking, “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough.” When you’re growing up rough like that—how I was just describing—you come into a point in life where it’s like, “Damn, I’ve been arrested three or four times. I got charges on my shit, and niggas don’t want to hire me.” You going through things with your girlfriend at the time. I wasn’t really going to school, but I always felt I was a smart nigga. I was raised on the street, and for me it was like, “Damn, you wind up at a dead end any way you go, whether it’s hustling…” If you get caught up, you losing money any time you get arrested.
So with the things adding up you’re like, “Damn.” You smoking, and you get high. For that temporary moment, you might think about some other shit, like, “Yo, remember when this was going down?” But then when that high is gone, you get right back into shit. If you’re depressed, you roll a blunt, and when your high is gone, you’re still depressed. I’m like, “What the fuck? What’s it worth? Why even smoke?” That’s what I mean in that line. I’m saying, “Ready to give up so I seek the old Earth.” It’s being ready to give up in the sense of, “Fuck trying to do this righteous shit and something happen. I’m ready to just go nose-dive right into the life now. I’m ready to either just become the kingpin or become the fucking clown and get taken out real quick. Either one.” At that point, you’re just thinking, “I’m about to go head-first into whatever it is I’m doing.”
Inspectah Deck Shares Final Album Title & Post-Rap Plans
DX: But then you got some good advice, “Working hard can help you maintain / To help you overcome the heartaches and pain.” Can you talk about how you got that advice and how you got that perspective?
Inspectah Deck: Yeah, that’s mom dukes. That’s all her perspective and the way of life that she raised me in. My pops died when I was six, and I said that in the part two of the “C.R.E.A.M.” verse. But back when my pops died at a young age, my mom threw us on her back, and she just went like fucking She Hulk. I respect her for that, and she made me strong by seeing her be like that. For her to carry three without complaining about nothing… We got evicted and all that shit, my G. They threw the couch and all that shit in front of the building, and I’m thinking, “I’m never going to be like this again.” I watched my moms come back from that with us. A lot of kid’s moms would’ve bounced like, “You know what? Fuck that, stay with your grandmother, or you going over here.” Some of them would’ve just left. You got some crazy shit going on up there. My mom stuck around, carried us and made it pop.
I was fortunate to run across the brothers I ran across at the right time, and I made something happen for myself. And my mom was proud of that. So that’s why I always big her up in the records and all that. That’s why my project before my next album Rebellion—which is my last album—is called Cynthia’s Son. That’s just a reflection of everything my mom gave me. It’s a prelude to the Rebellion.
DX: When is that coming out?
Inspectah Deck: Rebellion is definitely coming out in 2014. With Cynthia’s Son I could spring that on you at any time. But Rebellion is 2014, man. That’s me going all out making my exit out this shit.
DX: Why exit?
Inspectah Deck: It’s definitely time to make an exit, because the days of genius is over, man. The days of being innovative, creative and doing something fresh and new is over. Everything is repetitive, copied and recycled. I like to consider myself like Jimmy Hendrix. He played that guitar, dropped to his knees and rolled on the floor, did a 360 on the floor and came back up playing the guitar with his teeth. They couldn’t understand that shit. It was way beyond they mothafuckin’ thought, and they didn’t even know the guitar could do that shit. That’s how I feel I am with my skill, and until the masses are there with me, I’m always gonna be over their heads. That’s how I feel. It’s not that I’m losing you by saying such dramatic shit that you just can’t comprehend, it’s just me being over your head because you’re not even looking up.
DX: You know what’s dope though? I saw you guys in LA, and the majority of the crowd was young kids—people from 18 through 21. Do you think you reached some of those younger people just through Rap?
Inspectah Deck: Man, I helped a lot of people—millions of people—get through life with my words. What’s irrelevant about that? I see that word tossed around a lot on my Twitter feed. I’ve changed people’s lives with my words…millions of people across the globe for 20 years straight. My impact will last longer than I can ever last. I may not be on shelves right now, and I may not be selling the number one album, but my impact will last longer than all of this. It may even last longer than your favorite rapper who is blowing up right now. That support is there [for some people], but that love for the music ain’t. And that’s what put us in the category we’re in right now.
You tell me any other group with all these tattoos on fans. I can go anywhere in the world, there’s niggas with Wu tattoos and females with Wu tattoos. No matter where we go, we’ve got respect and love globally.
Inspectah Deck Confirms Wu-Tang Album Won’t Happen In 2013
DX: That’s what surprises me about you exiting, because you have so many fans going crazy over your performances. Drake’s song is a perfect example, with so many fans saying it wasn’t even a tribute. Why exit when you have so much respect and love in the game?
Inspectah Deck: There comes a time when… You don’t wanna look like Michael Jordan on the Wizards. You’d rather be Jordan on the Bulls. There comes a time when you know you’re right there, and you’re good. I feel like Michael Strahan. I just won the ring, and I’ve been on the team the whole time. Our 20-year anniversary is like, “I just won the championship.” Strahan fell back, enjoyed that championship and went on to do bigger and better things. He’s damn near one of the top TV personalities right now, and he came straight from the football field to do it. I’m at that level right now.
I do other things in life besides rap. There are a couple things that helped keep my lights on when I wasn’t rapping. I do mutual funds and all that shit. I got IT investments, and I learned a long time ago that I may not be the million dollar artist. When I saw Meth, GZA and everybody do their numbers… I don’t wanna say the lack of support, but I didn’t have the whole Clan’s support when I did my album at my time. Some cats might have felt like, “Deck, hold on a second. It ain’t your time to shine.” I felt like it was my time to shine and still pulled off a gold album. For my first album, I thought that was good.
That’s success to me. It may not be success to the next man, but coming from where I came from, I’m good. I’m happy with that. Some people talk about all that stupid shit like, “Oh you’re irrelevant. You’re only poppin’ now because Drake said your name.” Respect to Drake, because he never even responded to all this shit. It just shows that nobody is trying to take shots at the homie like that. All I said was, “I’m not feeling the title of the song.” Bottom line. And it’s not to explain myself; it’s just to be clear.
DX: You were talking about other endeavors. What do you hope to focus on after the last album?
Inspectah Deck: Man, I got a whole camera and movie set up. I’m trying to get out here and do fuckin’ films now.
DX: A lot of rappers compare retiring from Rap to sports. But, unlike sports, there’s no physical decline, so you can rap until the end of time…
Inspectah Deck: Exactly, man. That’s why I don’t get niggas talking that old shit. What does how old you are have to do with your rap skills? What other music genre categorizes artists by their age? If that was the case, all of your favorite Country artists—Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers and all them—they would’ve been finished. Ray Charles did it.
DX: There’s a lot of talk about a 20-year Wu-Tang reunion album. At this point, it’s not looking likely. What can you say about that?
Inspectah Deck: I’m not saying it’s unlikely, because all the brothers are on board. Everybody’s down to do it across the board. We sat down, and everybody listened to tracks. Speaking for myself and my brothers, we feel we just need to take our time with it. We don’t need to rush nothing out there because it’s the 20-year anniversary. We need to let everybody know, “Yeah, the twentieth anniversary is in effect, and this will be the album that commemorates that.” So we want to take our time and put together a decent project. We want to get some outside producers, some outside artists that we respect and have respect for us. We want them to come in and help us put this thing together.
So it may not come in 2013, but that’s all good. Just know that it is in the works. Brothers have come together, sat down and have been listening to tracks trying to put this thing together.
DX: So “Rock The Bells” has nothing to do with a potential album?
Inspectah Deck: Nah, “Rock The Bells” has nothing to do with a potential album. “Rock The Bells” is its own thing. The Wu-Tang album is us doing what we do.