Robert Fitzgerald Diggs was once known around Staten Island as Prince Rakeem, but his mother named him for a man who was president (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) and another who might have been (Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy). Best known today as RZA, the Wu-Tang Clan mastermind expressed admiration for Donald Trump’s New York City bona fides—but not enough to back his White House run.
“Trump keeps it real,” RZA said in an interview on Bloomberg's With All Due Respect. But, he continued, “I think somebody like Hillary Clinton as our next president—I like that. When you think about the history and trajectory of our country, from the beginning of the founding. You know, we've seen a black man as a president, that means a lot in this country. And then, a woman as a president: to me that’s a one-two punch.”
“We’re really living out freedom, justice, and equality, the pursuit of happiness, liberty,” he went on, speaking with Bloomberg’s John Heilemann. “Those things are really becoming real. And we’re not discriminating from who’s qualified to be the best person for the job.”
RZA supported Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Asked how he felt after seven years of his presidency, RZA replied, “I still think it’s a great thing for our country.”
“Before he was president,” RZA said, “I traveled the world, and it wasn’t even kinda cool to be an American. People was very snobby against us, because of the way that Mr. Bush was running our country.”
But now? “I’ve traveled the world after Barack Obama—it’s cool to be American again, baby,” he said with a laugh. “People don’t know how much that means to citizens like us, who are in a celebrity position, who represents the country through our culture and through our art.”
The hip-hop producer said Trump was indisputably “a smart dude,” and one he’d certainly like running his company. But running the country, RZA stressed, is different. “Does he have all the qualities?” he asked. “One thing about Barack Obama that we all can agree is the man is highly intelligent, great speaker,” RZA said. “I like my presidents to come from Harvard. You know that that’s an institution that’s been educating men on American culture for hundreds of years.”
The qualifications for the nation’s highest office, he says, are not the same. That is, RZA joked, “Unless somebody tell me: America is nothing but a big company.” His chuckle left open the possibility.
After auctioning off its album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” to disgraced drug-company executive Martin Shkreli for $2 million, RZA told Bloomberg, “He bought it, he can do what he wants.”
RZA also offered his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, a hashtag that emerged in response to police brutality that has grown into a political call for civil rights. “Of course black lives matter,” RZA said, firmly. “All lives matter. I stopped eating meat because their lives matter to me. I don’t think it’s necessary for us to grow a cow to kill it.”
He spoke of how views toward police officers have shifted. “Look, I wanted to be in law enforcement as a kid,” he said. He referenced the coolness of characters on the television shows Baretta and Starsky & Hutch.
“You wanted to be these guys, you know what I mean?” But the image has changed. “In the old days, a cop, you’d let him in your house and give him a cookie and milk. Now you’re like”—he recoiled, expressing wariness and difference—“yo, yo yo, yo.”
In late 2014, Wu-Tang responded to police shootings in a track called “A Better Tomorrow,” which featured the verse, “We want justice, police supposed to protect and serve. And then they shoot us down like wild animals. The nerve of those cold-hearted killers with blue suits slaying our black youth. The earth cries from all the blood that’s being spilled. We need a solution fast, get InshAllah bill.”
“All lives matter,” RZA repeated. He continued:
I love what the police do for our society, I love the idea of it, to serve and protect. Those who are upholding that idea, then they are beneficial to society. But those who lose that focus, whether they lose it through fear, through stress, or through not being properly trained—and they are allowed to go out on the streets—how can you enforce law if you don’t understand law?
When you think about some of the brothers who are being brutalized by the police, you also got to have them take a look, and us take a look , in the mirror, at the image we portray. If I’m a cop and every time I see a young black youth, whether I watch them on TV, movies, or just see them hanging out, and they’re not looking properly dressed, properly refined, you know, carrying himself, conducting himself proper hours of the day—things that a man does, you’re going to have a certain fear and stereotype of them. I tell my sons, I say, if you’re going somewhere, you don’t have to wear a hoodie–we live in New York, so a hoodie and all that is all good. But sometimes, you know, button up your shirt. Clean up. Look like a young man. You’re not a little kid, you know what I mean? I think that’s another big issue we gotta pay attention to. Is the image that we portray that could invoke a fear into a white officer, or any officer.
It’s a matter of image, he said—and in the other direction, too. “Now that there’s been so much police brutality, a lot of the young people are scared of the cops.”