Among the numerous artists Wu-Tang Clan lyricist RZA has sampled while crafting records for the Staten Island-based group was blues singer Syl Johnson. During an interview with Nardwuar, RZA recalled sampling Johnson’s “Different Strokes” for Wu-Tang’s Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers record, “Shame On A Nigga.”
RZA spoke on sampling Johnson’s record and giving the crooner a check between $60,000 and $100,000 when asked about the late ODB offering fellow musician Blowfly a check for $6,000.
“He didn’t sample him. He parodied him,” RZA said while speaking on ODB parodying Blowfly in his music. “What happened was—Like I said we used to listen to this dude records and say his shit. And then Dirty did a version of that…You wanna talk some history? We sampled a song—There’s a song called ‘Different Strokes.’ When the song plays when it starts going off on a 45 like the last fade out when you can hardly hear anything, I sampled that one part. I had to normalize it over and over on my sampler just to get that loop. Aight? And that became one of the top Hip Hop songs of history. Sample from Syl Johnson. And you know what I did? Syl Johnson was not being respected at the time by the music industry. Not getting what he was getting. And we sent him I think a check between 60 to 100K. Put him back on his feet. We told him we were gonna use some more of his music…He got back on his feet after some energy like that.”
Throughout Wu-Tang’s interview with Nardwuar, RZA was presented with a number of movie posters from kung fu flicks. Among the movies RZA discussed was Shaolin vs. Lama, a film he says inspired the record, “Shadowboxing.”
“Shaolin vs. Lama this is one of the classic kung fu movies right here,” he said. “If you listen to this song we got called ‘Shadowboxing’ that comes from this movie right here when he was like ‘I’ve had the I-Ching manual for 12 years, if I haven’t mastered it by now I’ll regard myself an idiot. Allow me to demonstrate the skills of Shaolin. The special technique of shadowboxing.’ Listen, son. We find beauty in things that’s been neglected. We find things in—like Buddha said, ‘Lotus it grows on mud.’ But yet it’s the symbol of their whole religion. So, even in mud beauty can grow. So, we find things in the most unpredictable. That’s why it’s witty, unpredictable. It’s talent here.”