Reality rap comes to Sparks
Wu-Tang Clan talks about its State of Alert tour, terrorist attacks and Eminem
The town of Sparks takes some getting used to for newcomers. So when Inspectah Deck, Remedy, Cappadonna and Killa Priest—hip hop artists affiliated with the East Coast rap empire Wu-Tang Clan—come rolling into Victorian Avenue to play at the New Oasis this Valentine’s Day, it should be interesting.
The mint-green casinos and giant midget that grace Sparks’ main drag are a bit bizarre at first, but in the end they’re there to welcome all strangers. A railroad has run through the town since the beginning of the 20th century, so it’s safe to say Sparks is always ready for out-of-towners. But are these New York rappers ready for the Rail City?
Nevada is Vegas to Wu-Tang. They’ve heard of Reno—but Sparks? Not a chance. This doesn’t seem to matter, though, to the Wu-Tang members who decided a long time ago to go against the grain. They began rapping as teenagers in Staten Island and Brooklyn, inspired by the likes of urban legends Rakin and Slick Rick. Their love for hip-hop is true, and somewhere along the line it brought them to a crossroads.
“Chains and money, I don’t give a shit about that,” said Remedy, the one white rapper in the group. “I’m into the message.”
The message comes in the form of their State of Alert tour—a show that plugs new albums for the artists and has snaked across the United States from North Carolina to Michigan to New Mexico, rocking crowds upwards of 600 every show.
Killa Priest is performing songs from his new album Black August, to be released in June, and Cappadonna from his new album The Struggle, to come out in May.
Remedy describes Wu-Tang’s music as “reality rap.” He gives as example his own new album, Code Red, released in October.
He said the album’s title became frighteningly close to reality on Saturday when officials deemed the United States in a Code Orange state of alert—not far from Code Red, which would mean, in summation, the apocalypse.
In the intro to his album are recordings of calls made to NYPD dispatch immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Some of the songs that follow address the aftermath of the attacks. The rest of the songs in his new album are equally “real” in the subject matter they touch on, Remedy said.
Remedy’s no stranger to rapping about tragedy. His most famous song, “Never Again,” is about the Holocaust.
It was first released in 1998, and since then it has evoked an international outpouring of emotion from the Jewish community. He’s performed the song in front of thousands in stadiums in Israel, Moscow and Los Angeles, and has received widespread acknowledgement for the song’s social consciousness.
“I’ve had whole families come up to me at shows in Los Angeles and thank me,” he said.
Reality rap has taken Remedy and his friends away from the mainstream. But seen together, the three might be reminiscent of the now famous combination of Eminem, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre, who together graced the cover of a recent issue of XXL hip hop magazine with the words “Money, respect, power” following their names. But the only similarity there is the two-black, one-white combo.
“Eminem has put every white rapper in a pigeon hole,” Remedy said. “Now your prose is supposed to come easy to market.”
Despite the rigid honesty prevalent in the lyrics of all three, Remedy promises some tunes people can dance to as well.
“You got to give them what they came for," he said.