I think it was pretty clear what the choice for this week’s dance break was going to be, especially after Beyonce brought some black-history-month realness to an otherwise bland Superbowl half-time show. In her most politically charged and powerful video yet, Queen Bey brings together Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, the police state, violence against black bodies, and black excellence in one stunning piece. If you haven’t seen it, I’m not sure what you’ve been doing the last couple of days. If you have, this is a good excuse to watch it again.
Supreme of the Mighty Wu-Tang Killa Beez grew up in the struggle. His father, known as D.C., was prominent in the Black Panthers Party, a Black Nationalist and revolutionary organization pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement. D.C. was instrumental in structuring the widely-known “Free Breakfast for Children” program. This fed thousands of poor inner city kids throughout the country and eventually got the FBI’s attention. They halted the program because they saw the Black Panthers as a threat to internal security.
“[My father] basically got told by our government to shut up. They did that in a way that was pretty bad,” recounts Supreme. “Some people basically entered our house and I was the one who was threatened because I was his only child. So it was like, Shut the f–k up and take this job and retire or else. That’s the other side of the government that people don’t know about.”
The West Coast Wu-Tang producer-turned-rapper says his dad had to make a choice and live under the radar. When Supreme was twelve, his dad told him that if he wants to speak the truth, he either has to be willing to die or go to prison. But that didn’t stop Supreme from lecturing, marching, fighting and “empowering the people.” The rapper has a business degree from UC Berkeley and is soon releasing an album that addresses serious social issues, including racism.
Supreme is finalizing tracks on his album and recording some music videos in Cincinnati, Ohio. Earlier this year in July, unarmed black man Sam Dubose was shot by white Officer Ray Tensing in Cincinnati. Tensing was indicted but is still waiting to go on trial, which should be happening next month. It seems almost serendipitous that as Supreme works on his music here, the trial is upcoming and expected to draw national attention as the shooting and indictment did. I spoke with Supreme about his new project and making the choice to not shut the f—k up:
ACRO: Tell me about your new project:
Supreme: This new project is called “Supreme Life Volume 1.” We’re gonna drop the album in the spring. It’s done but we’re just mixing down and mastering. It’s going to be a set of three albums. The first album is predominantly hip-hop and rock. The next album will transition into more rock. It’s the first album on Wu Rock, the new label that I created, which will be another branch and continue the legacy of Wu Tang. It’s pretty high energy. It’s geared for performance; it’s geared for stage. It’s geared to incite the people to learn, to seek, to open their minds and hearts, and it’s geared to ultimately unite the people through the music and to address issues and to heal. That’s what our mission is. We say Wu Tang is for the children. It’s for the people. It’s for the masses. It’s about the human family. We’re trying to get out of racism and classism and gender issues and biases and get people back down to the basics of humanity, love and peace.
Can you talk about one track you’re working on that highlights all of this?
I have a track called, “White Man.” It’s a song that is greater in content than “Fight the Power.” I won’t say it’s a greater song than “Fight the Power” because all respect due to Chuck D, to Flavor Flav, and to Public Enemy as a whole. That song definitely inspired this song. We came from that. So it’s no disrespect to our elders and to our mentors, our predecessors. We can say the white man this, the white man that, but we have become that which we hate. We have become our own slave masters. So this is what “White Man” is really about. We got classic Wu-Tang stuff. We got stuff that’s entertaining. But we want to address issues. Yes, we did go through slavery. Yes, we are affected by slavery. Yes, there is still slavery today. Yes, there is racism and biases and ignorance, but there still is no excuse [for our own actions]. We’re going to be responsible for self first. These are the things we need to rectify and correct first. Black Lives Matter, you f–king right they do. Why do Black Lives Matter? Because black lives are human lives.
So you’re here in Cincinnati where in July, unarmed black man Sam Dubose was shot by white officer, Ray Tensing. Do you have anything to say about this case?
It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word. Our love, our respect and our prayer go out to the family of not only Sam Dubose but Officer Tensing. Just because a white officer shoots a black person doesn’t mean his family or friends support him; they’re affected by that too. They’ve had a lot of white people fight and die for black people. [However], the fact that [police brutality] is tolerated, the fact that [Tensing] even had it in his mind that it was okay to take another person’s life, regardless of race [is the problem]. Was race a factor? You’re f–king right it was. And you can’t deny that, because he’s had issues and encounters with Caucasian people and he didn’t shoot them. He knows and everybody in the United States and world knows right now what’s happening — how many thousands of black men are getting killed. They know what they’re doing. Why are they putting black men and men of color in jail? But the root of it all is the fact that it is condoned. It’s tolerated. It’s accepted. It’s overlooked. We need to go to the root of the issue and until 350 million correct 8,000 people in power, nothing is going to change. Until people fix this and rectify this in themselves, [nothing will change]. Marching. We’ve been marching. What does that do? These people been killing us and they’ve been getting away with it. The reality of justice in this country is the reality of what has transpired in each individual case. We’re already geared and programmed to expect this guy to get off.
How do you want to address this kind of police brutality through your music?
I was in an organization called Copwatch. I went to UC Berkeley. I had a group back in the nineties called Black Underground Movement — the BUMS. That was before we did the Wu-Tang jump-off. [Cops] shot their 15-year-old kid at the BART Station in 1991 or 1992 for a [having a] Walkman. [The cop] said he had a gun and saw a flash and shot him. He was 15 and had a Walkman. Jesse Jackson came out. We performed. [Jackson] spoke. Nothing happened. What can we do with our music to curb this? We can correct it, speak out against it, educate people against it, confront people with it and convict people. The same issues that we’re facing are the same issues that have been transpiring not only now but a million years ago. We’re occupied! We’re occupied by Europeans. This land belongs to the Native Americans and the Mexicans. We’re in an occupied country but people can’t see. Why is it taking us dying to wake up? We just came out of slavery. Women just got voting rights. People are still getting hung. This sh-t is still here. Music is the universal language so we’re going to utilize music to lead a vehicle and be a medium for us to get to the people, man. Because everybody responds to love, everybody gets hungry, everybody hurts, everybody cries — we’re all one and the same.