At the Heart of ‘Dark Matter’

GZA keeps busy with science projects (and the occasional show)

April 19, 2012

The Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA opens for local punk legends Bad Brains on Friday.

While his peers seem to belch up mixtapes after every meal, GZA prefers a more deliberate approach to songwriting. That’s why he’s formed his next record’s concept and title — “Dark Matter” — before the songs have even been written.

It’s not the first time the Wu-Tang Clan alum has started a project this way: In 2010, he announced work on “Liquid Swords 2: The Return of the Shadowboxer,” the sequel to GZA’s 1995 classic, “Liquid Swords.”

Both projects will take some time, GZA warns. “I am definitely a relatively slow writer. I’m fastidious and a perfectionist.” He’s also been busy lecturing at universities such as Harvard and MIT — which he says has imparted a science-related influence to his work on “Dark Matter.” GZA has also been playing some live dates, including Saturday’s show at the newly reopened Howard Theatre, where he’ll open for local hardcore legends Bad Brains.

Will the concept for “Dark Matter” have to do with science?
My inspiration has come from years of interest and reading, and from watching shows on networks like Discovery and National Geographic and from TED [Technology, Entertainment and Design] talks. On my recent visit to MIT, I met with quantum physicists and we discussed some pretty mind-bending stuff.

How did you end up on the college-lecture circuit?
I was first invited by Harvard to speak, and then the others fell into place. I talk about getting into rhyming as a child, my beginning days of rapping with RZA and ODB, the Clan, my creative process, where I get my inspiration and the current global state of hip-hop.

Do you remember the first time you heard Bad Brains, and how have they influenced hip-hop?
I don’t remember the first time, but I do recall that I was really impressed by their energy and musicianship. I think they influenced hip-hop in the way that many other non-hip-hop artists have — by properly respecting the genre.

Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW; Fri., 8 p.m., sold out; 202-803-2899. (U Street)
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Katie Aberbach · April 19, 2012