Lamont Hawkins doesn’t need you to tell him he was a part of a Golden Era of hip-hop.
Better known as “U-God,” one of the original nine members of the illustrious Wu-Tang Clan, Hawkins, 47, doesn’t need anyone to tell him anything. He was part of rap royalty, a spoke on a diamond encrusted wheel that turned the way we all witnessed the many ways to drop lyrics over the same beat completely upside down.
Now, Hawkins is retelling the highs and lows of being a part of the legendary group in his new autobiography, Raw. The book, one-part reflection and one-part social introspective is the first by any member of the Wu-Tang Clan. As part of a nationwide book tour, Hawkins will discuss his reason and timing for the book at the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia on March 8. He spoke with Philly Weekly about his book, his memories and why you can call him an “OG,” just know he’s anything but.
With such a compelling story like the one that is Wu-Tang’s, it’s pretty remarkable that you’re the first to tell it. Why did you think now was the right time?
All my brothers are in this book. But the one difference between me and them is that I’ve went through a lot more than my brothers. Real talk, I was a little more daring and that has enabled me to write these stories...being that I saw so much and remember so much of our upbringing and how things went down to get us to where we were, I just said to myself, “it’s high time to write this fucking book, man.” So I got with my man Domingo and we just started putting pen to pad and my man helped me correct my errors, my grammar and penmanship and shit. [The process] took two and a half years to put it together of constant writing and correcting run-on sentences but in the end I’m pleased with how it all came together.
Raw relives a great time in your life and that of the Wu-Tang. But after reading, there’s a good amount that lends introspective into what it’s like being a Black man in America. Was that by design?
I don’t know anything about 'by design'; I don’t design shit. Design means that you have a pattern or playbook or agenda you’re looking to follow. I don’t have a pattern, I do my own shit and I follow my voice...I like to listen to the voice in my head because when I do it’s usually right.
You’re coming to Philly in March as part of the book tour to promote Raw. What are your thoughts of our fair city?
Philly is live, Philly has always been live and I always have a good time in Philadelphia. You got the Muslims out there, the brothers be out, the women were always right. Philly is a hard town. I could never knock on Philly, plus you’re right next to New York, so when [dudes] from New York got hot they ran to Philadelphia, and vice versa. There’s some hard motherfuckers to come out of Philly, B. Not on some gangsta shit, but I’m talking about just hard motherfuckers, [dudes] you don’t fuck with. Real [dudes]. That’s y’all’s resume.
What’s it like to be viewed and to have Wu-Tang viewed as OG’s in the hip-hop game, especially to an entirely new crop of millennium listeners?
I don’t really look at it like that, B. I look at it like, I’m just a musician looking for the next declaration. I don’t see myself as no OG, I do things my way and it’s been that belief that has kept me and the music I’m a part of at the forefront. I’m all about incorporating my shit with this [new school] shit. You can call me “OG” or Triple OG” all you want man, but at the end of the day, I know I’m inspiration. And I’m looking for inspiration and there are a lot of these little bucks out here that have inspired me in a different way. I’m a songwriter [and now after this book], I’m a writer and I’m looking for that Phil Collins moment.
We’re certainly not calling you an OG, but perfect segue as we have to ask what you think of the state of today’s hip-hop scene?
It’s a new time in music, I don’t care. Listen, some of these [dudes] might mumble something and I’ll be like “damn, was that a word? Did he just say a word, right there?” You asking the wrong person to critique how these little youngins are out here doing their thing because sometimes as much as you pride yourself on being the teacher, sometimes the student becomes the teacher and wants you have that concept in life you’ll never see yourself as old or played out, you’re always going to be young. But, I’m not gonna lie some of this shit is fire, I’ll listen to it and be like, “yo, who’s this, he’s nice.” You have to respect the ones that out here trying to do it, because for everyone of these young-in’s putting out shit that’s weak, you got just as many dudes out here putting out some quality shit, B.
What’s a typical day for U-God now?
A typical day for me now is catching up from being burnt the fuck out. You have to think I’ve been working on and writing [Raw] for two and a half years, close to three years straight, plus touring with Wu, plus other situations I’m just burnt, man. I haven’t hit the gym in like two or three months and I’m starting to get real rubbery right now, so I’m kinda fucked up with that. I was in the gym every day, so I’m getting back on the routine of working out, eating right, you know. I don’t eat no swine and I try to eat right so I can keep my heart right because a lot of us Black brothers out here getting these heart attacks, so now it’s really focusing on getting my body right.
You still smoke though, right?
I don’t smoke cigarettes and to be honest, I take it easy on the weed. I don’t smoke like I used to. [Bro], I used to smoke every day, now I can go about 2-3 months without smoking and it feels good to have a clear head. But you know every now and then I’ll take some puffs...I’m not chasing women [anymore], I have children I have to take care of and I have responsibilities, so I’m just chillin, B. You know as you get older you level out – well, some of us do. When I come out now, it’s a special occasion. I’m trying to preserve myself, you know? I’m in preserve mode, so it’s about being my best self and hopefully growing old.
In Raw, you write “give us time to come back together and we’ll show everyone that the Wu-Tang Clan still ain’t nuthin’ ta fuck wit.’ Would you consider joining the flock if everyone else in the group was considering making a return?
Look, the situation is like this. As an MC, I never went anywhere. Our production has went down and our music took a nosedive. But as far as us grindin? We still here. We still some notorious [dudes]. That’s the problem and the reason for all the [reported] conflicts with us...once we’re able to get some hot beats and some hot shit going again, we’ll be right back in your fucking face just that fast, B. Just that fast. I truly believe that.
Lamont “U-God” Hawkins | Thursday, March 8, 7:30pm. $15. Parkway Central Library, 1900 Vine St. freelibrary.org/calendar/event/72430