Interview by Jared B. Ware
Although he may not have any platinum singles under his belt, or major label promotion,
DJ Allah Mathematics is responsible for the Wu-Tang Clan’s logo, many classic Wu-Tang bangers,
and for maintaining a grimy hardcore sample-based feel to his production in the era of the crispy
clean digital sound. For those who aren’t too familiar with his work, Mathematics is an in-house DJ
for the Wu-Tang Clan and the often overlooked producer of several of your favorite Wu tracks including:
Ghostface’s “Mighty Healthy,” “Wu-Banga 101,” “Cobra Clutch,” “Strawberry,” GZA’s “Publicity,” “Amplified Sample,”
"Fam (Members Only)," Method Man & Redman's "Dat's Dat Shit," & "Fire Inna Hole," Wu-Tang Clan's "Shaolin Worldwide,"
"Hand Clap," "Thing Thing (Do You Really?)," "Rules," Masta Killa's "Last Drink," "D.T.D," "Whatever," Method Man's
"Dirty Mef," "Everything," Inspectah Deck's "Uncontrolled Substance," Cappadonna's "Oh-Donna," RZA's "Cousins", and (apparently)
"Must Be Bobby" as well various joints for Killarmy, Black Knights of the North Star, and other Wu-Affiliates.
As he gets ready to drop his fourth album in the last three years, and heads out to promote last year’s Method Man album,
I had a chance to catch up with Mathematics and talk about his new projects, random Wu rumor, The (White) Rapper Show, his
involvement in Cuban Linx II, and the state of both the Clan and hip hop in general today.
PhilaFlava.com: So you've got a bunch of projects right now. The Beat Kings DVD, the Wu-Tang Clan & Friends Unreleased
album and this mixtape you did with Statik Selektah to promote the dvd. What's that like having a bunch of projects coming out at the same time?
Mathematics: It's work y’nawmean? It's like I'm still working and I'm working on new projects. Yeah it's all work. It's just good that you can do work and it'll come out.
PF: What was your favorite interview on the Beat Kings DVD?
Math: Yeah I don't know. I had like a lot of them. You know cuz to sit down with all of these producers it was easy to vibe with 'em
cuz it was like we was talking music. And we're producers that's something producers like to do… So a lot of them. Like from Havoc to Premier to
Marley y’nawmean. It was real educational to me.
PF: When did you do the bulk of these interviews?
Math: Umm whoa it's kind of hard for me to remember. Cuz you know I was doin' kind of a lot of other things in between. It's like you know...
PF: Yeah when I was watchin' the dvd it kind of looked like you caught Kanye before College Dropout and some of the other ones might have been later, but some were earlier.
Math: Yeah Kanye was definitely before.
PF: Was this originally a Nature Sounds projects or was it something the creators pitched to them after it was finished?
Math: Yeah that's how I did it. It was put together and we we're looking for a place for it. Just kind of best deal type thing y’nawmean?
PF: A lot of cats talked about their equipment in the dvd. What equipment do you use when making beats?
Math: ASR 10 is my main thing. I use a lot of different equipment, but I run everything through the ASR 10.
PF: When did you start producing and who were your mentors?
Math: I started producers actually really in… officially I'd say ‘96. Cuz it's like at the time what influenced me to really produce is
I got to see RZA produce "Ice Cream." And I seen that. And that was like ‘95 and at the same time we was doing a lot of touring back then. And
I had bought my equipment but I didn't really get to sit down and start working with it until like '96.
PF: You seem to have perfected the sound of the Wu-Banga. Is there a specific approach you take, or equipment you like to use, when making that grimy hardcore sound?
Math: Nah, that's the thing. It's no approach. To me it's emotion. You just do how you feel y’nawmean? that's just me.
PF: Do you get requests to do beats from a lot of artists outside of WTC?
Math: I've had requests, but nothing actually never transpired from it. Basically garbage dudes or you know timing
of just I guess albums and my schedule and things like that. And then after like Beat Kings like I said I learned a lot.
It's like right now I'm making more time for that. This year I'm doing a lot more branching out.
PF: Have you ever produced any beats that you didn't get credit for?
Math: Umm. Yeah well you know. You could say that, you know what I mean? Say like a joint,
"Must Be Bobby," I did that for RZA and there was a mistake on the album credits and I wasn't listed.
But nothing like I got jerked or nothing like that. It was correct on the single I think.
PF: "Where Brooklyn @?" on the Wu and Friends Unreleased is kind of a bold move from a beatmaker,
taking both a famous Biggie adlib as the hook and then reworking the sample to "Long Kiss Goodnight,"
which of course was credited to the RZA on Biggie's Life After Death album. I've heard claims made before
that True Master actually produced "Long Kiss Goodnight," but now I see a very similar version show up on
this compilation, which you produced. Where did the concept for this song arise and how did it reach formulation?
Any truth to the claims about "Long Kiss Goodnight" and True Master actually producing the record?
Math: Uhh... True Master producer that?
PF: That's what he allegedly claimed.
Math: I have no knowledge of that. That's just like certain beats when you sample,
it's like a lot of times people sample the same things sometimes then. "Where Brooklyn @"
was an old joint that I been had too and I loved it. But you know, RZA killed it, or True Master,
or whoever producer it. But I always loved that track ("Where Brooklyn @?") right there, so when
Bad Luck heard it, he was like yo I wanna rock that. And so we just came up with the whole concept
together and we just did "Where Brooklyn @?" y’nawmean?
PF: How do you feel about the state of hip hop these days?
Math: Hip hop... It's a lot of people got different opinions on it. Hip hop is hip hop y’nawmean.
The real hip hop if you know where to look you're gonna find it. And you know people mistake rap music for hip hop.
And you know like Nas said "Hip Hop Is Dead?" And I'm a Nas fan, I think he's one of the illest MCs out there.
But as long as you got individuals like himself doing it, and individuals like me doing it, it should never be dead y’nawmean.
I respect, me personally, I think that hip hop is the foundation and that's the root of it and from the root
branched a lot of different forms of hip hop music. Whether it's like your rap music, or whether it's your west coast,
or midwest thing, or whether it's down south crunk music, even Reggaeton is a combination of two cultures, combining
hip hop with the Latin thing, it's just more diverse and more versatile. I think a lot of people need more information on real hip hop.
That's why I think Beat Kings is real good for individuals.
PF: So I hear it’s really tough getting all of your samples cleared these days?
Math: You gotta have a team behind you doing what they supposed to do. I do what I do and I let them handle that part of it.
It's like more and more I'm getting a lot of stuff out my system. When you hear the future production... you'll hear it put it like that.
You'll see the progression. I think emcees, producers and hip hop in general should be about progression yaknawmean. You could be an ill cat,
but you can always perfect your craft even more. Or you can take your flow to another level or y’nawmean just always jazz it - play with it
sometimes, but still make it tight. Make sure it's good and professional, not amateurish.
PF: Is there a lot of unreleased Wu-Tang Clan material out there? Is your Wu-Tang and Friends Unreleased
just the tip of the iceberg or is it kind of the best of the best of the unreleased stuff you were involved with?
Math: It's a lot of stuff out there definitely. But yeah, for me you know, it's definitely stuff I had my hands in that I wanted to get it out.
PF: Are we ever gonna see a final Ol' Dirty Bastard LP? Is there a lot of ODB material out there that you know about?
Math: Well I look at it like this. It's a lot of material probably out there. I know he did a lot of different recordings with
a lot of different individuals... so... he was working with RZA. Yeah, it's a lot of politics involved you know that.
PF: Talk about "Rap Burglars" and "Treez." I know a couple of Raekwon albums that could have benefited from some Allah Math production.
Was either of these songs slated for Immobilarity or Lex Diamond Story?
Math: Nah, nah, stuff we just worked on. But I did work on something for his new album,
Cuban Linx II y’nawmean. It's a joint called "Mean Streets" that's definitely a good Raekwon joint right there.
Yeah it has GZA on it and Inspectah Deck too.
PF: How do you feel about Nature Sounds as a label? They seem to have found a nice little niche market for themselves,
working mainly with established underground or former mainstream label artists and providing them with creative freedom and
solid distribution. You, Masta Killa, and several Wu-affiliates seem to have found a home there or at labels like Babygrande.
How did you end up with them? Did they approach you?
Math: Project to project basis. When I first started stepping out and doing it… Well, when I first did "Always N.Y."
for the Love, Hell, or Right album I ran into Devin and he was interested and everything just kind of clicked from there.
PF: Did you have any involvement in the sessions for 8 Diagrams?
Math: Not yet, but I will be. Yeah.
PF: So that’s still being recorded then?
PF: What do you see as the "State of the Clan" these days? I know they have a couple big projects coming out this year,
but there are also a lot of rumors going around that things ain't all gravy anymore. Ghostface didn't show up for the VH1 Hip Hop Honors,
raising a lot of speculation, then we heard he's barely gonna be on Purple Tape 2 and not gonna be on 8 Diagrams. What's really goin' on?
Math: Ghost was overseas at the time. You know I can't answer for everybody, that's something you would have to ask him.
But I know when we was doing it, yeah basically Ghost was overseas. I can't answer that. I know like the Cuban Linx II, last year
he was on the road a lot, he put out two albums. I can't speak for him. Me, myself I do a lot of stuff to where I be traveling so
I haven't been around for the 8 Diagrams either and I'm getting ready to go overseas with Meth for like a month to promote the 4:21 album.
PF: What projects are you working on currently?
Math: Currently I'm working on a soundtrack and a score for a major motion picture called Michael's Method due out later this year.
And also Bad Luck he's on "Where's Brooklyn @t?" I think he's an ill emcee. And we hooked up and did that, me and him we put a whole album together already.
Matter of fact I'm gonna put that on myspace so people can just download that right there. The exclusive with Mathematics and Bad Luck Friday the 13th.
So umm... yanahmean we're still recording and he's just getting better and better and better I have to say. And like the first joint we did together was crazy.
I mean like "Where's Brooklyn @?" was supposed to be on his album and I wanted to put that out early to give him a little shine so I put that on the Unreleased joint.
Bad Luck is ill I still work with him, Eyes Low, the Clan members. So you know it's busy.
PF: Favorite joint you produced?
Math: There's a lot. I still love Cobra Clutch.
PF: Might Healthy is mine.
Math: That's yours? Yeah that's one of 'em too. Let's see "Hand Clap," I love "Hand Clap" too. Yeah it's hard to say… I don't know man. I just appreciate people appreciating my music.
PF: Favorite RZA beat?
PF: Favorite Wu joint?
Math: Favorite Wu joint in general... Wow. I don't know, it's like I got a lot of those too, you know. It's like "Ice Cream," "Triumph,"
"Brooklyn Zoo" uhh "Liquid Swords," it's a lot of joints. Cuz so many songs that's in the Wu-Tang catalog are high up there.
PF: What's your opinion on the current issue with mixtapes and DJ Drama and Don Cannon being arrested?
Math: Uhh I think right now with all that's going on the record industry must be hurting if they cracking down on a DJ.
At one time that's what record labels wanted to do. They wanted to have their artists song on the mixtapes yaknawmean.
They wanted their joint on the hottest DJ mix cd yaknawmean. So now for them to turn around and try to shut it down they must be hurting.
And to me they messed up the game anyway. You know. I was watching The White Rapper Show the other night. Do you watch the show?
PF: Yeah I've seen it.
Math: Ok, well you got Shamrock and John Brown up there. And you know you got the record execs up there. And you could clearly hear
that style-wise and lyrically-wise John Brown was better. And one of them said "It ain't lyrics no more it's about…" and you know that's how they see it.
And it is still about lyrics but it's how they trying to set the industry that's fuckin' it up. That's why I don't think people really go out
and buy records like that no more, because the labels is pushing in the direction to make that one record and not making a whole album, a complete album.
People are tired of being suckered into buying a whole album and only getting that one song that they heard on the radio that's been beat into their heads.
So they either illegally downloaded it or copying it the way technology is now. So now they find themselves I guess in a rat race against technology.
You know the artist is who's hurting though. You know… And the fans. But obviously the fans is hurting, they hurting too I guess. But now it's getting crazy.
PF: When John Brown was performing he wasn't trying to perform a club banger, but lyrically people were nodding their heads and enjoying what he was doing.
But it wasn't a shake your ass track, but then Shamrock comes out and did the gimmicky, canned, down south song that's popular right now.
Math: Yeah, yeah. Not to take nothing away from nobody, cuz it takes a lot of courage to get up on stage and perform period. And I've been there so I know.
But I just watch John Brown and a flow like that and he's got all his words in the right places at the right time. Like that's what I think about it. It's like
he's killing the flow of it and you know.
PF: RZA credited you with coming up with the Wu logos, do you still do artwork or design work?
Math: Nah. I can still draw though, but you know music is my thing.
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