It’s no secret that RZA, the mastermind behind the legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, is in tune with his spirituality. The rapper, director and producer has blended a variety of religious traditions, including Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity, with his affinity for kung fu throughout his career. Even having a simple conversation with RZA might lead one to reflect on their own spiritual beliefs, which is why it’s not surprising that his latest project centers around TAZO tea, guided exploration tracks and meditation.
“I partnered with TAZO so we can go and give out these guided explorations to unlock the creative abilities that people sometimes have that are stagnant,” RZA told Blavity.
RZA, who’s a fan of TAZO’s 45 tea flavors, said the partnership was almost second-nature for him, because of his passion for meditation. His goal in finding the Zen, a meditation practice in which participants solely focus on their current state of being, is in everything he does. He believes having Zen is an important aspect of creativity, thus guiding people to achieve Zen was the inspiration behind his new meditation tracks. Throughout the five tracks, which were released on Wednesday, RZA invites listeners on a journey to discover the peak of their creative potential while making them more mentally equipped to get rid of frivolous distractions.
RZA, who started meditating as a teenager, said he learned meditation is about much more than being quiet early in his spiritual journey. The exploration tracks reflect that lesson. Each track encompasses a different meditation approach: journaling, power posing, mental noting, verbalizing and walking.
“I was introduced to meditation in my early teens, because I watched a lot of kung-fu movies,” RZA said. “Eventually, I became acquainted with a monk, and he taught me that meditation isn’t about just staying still. It’s also about movement. In fact, kung fu is basically meditation in action. To concentrate on yourself, at any given moment, should put you in a meditative space.”
Camp TAZO, which takes place towards the end of February, is a two-day meditation experience that features RZA guiding a select group of campers in his hometown of Staten Island, New York City. The exploration tracks are simply ways for those not attending the camp to be included in the experience.
“One of the explorations is called 'Kill the Noise,' and that’s just trying to center yourself regardless of the noise that’s happening around you,” RZA said. “We use the analogy of the sun’s gravitational pull and it being able to center itself while the planets spin to challenge people to consider being the sun in their own solar system and eliminating distractions.”
“Fan Your Flames” is another track on the project. RZA said the focus of that track is for people to reconnect themselves with sparks of inspiration. For him, fanning his flames meant being more connected to his hometown, where the story of the Wu-Tang Clan begins.
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RZA said the wisdom he’s giving in the tracks is something he wished he’d known in his early twenties during the nascent stages of the Wu-Tang Clan’s career.
“At that age, I was so energetic, so I would’ve probably told myself to take a breather at certain times in the day,” RZA said. “I was very nocturnal at that age, and it wasn’t enough time in the day for me. I think about times when I would just be in the zone with my music, but I’d never take a break, so I would’ve definitely taken a 15- to 20-minute break every hour. I’m in a very creative space right now where I take walks every day while I’m working, and it really helps a lot.”
The self-care practices that RZA describes has taken a significant presence in the national discourse surrounding mental health. When asked about mental health in hip-hop, RZA agreed that today’s rap music is addressing it more. He credits artists like Kanye West for bringing more awareness to the conversation.
“He spoke about mental health and not being able to admit it and understand it, and, for him, it took the Bible and church and those types of things to calm him down,” RZA said. “When he did that song 'Closed on Sunday,' that’s at least giving yourself one day to center yourself and close yourself away from everything else and get into that meditative form.”
Outside of his partnership with TAZO, RZA is busy working behind the camera. His new film, Cut Throat City, which follows the journey of four friends from New Orleans as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, will premiere at SXSW in March. Also, fans of Hulu’s Wu Tang: An American Saga can expect an exciting new season.
“One thing I’m excited for people to see in the second season is that you see some of these characters, but they haven’t really fully identified themselves,” RZA said. “You get to see how Clifford [Smith] becomes Method Man or how Dennis [Cole] becomes Ghostface Killah, so I’m looking forward to audiences to see that because a lot of people don’t know about those transformations.”