By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Content Editor
With more than 40 million record sales worldwide, having been named in About magazine in 2008 as the “No. 1 Greatest Hip Hop Group of All Time,” and having been referred to in Rolling Stone as the “Best Rap Group Ever,” Wu-Tang’s widespread popularity is known for their hot hits over generations, with its members together and individually impacting the trajectory of the Rap and Hip Hop genres. Celebrated for their music with millions of followers around the world, the group is acknowledged by one symbol that can be recognized even more than the first notes in songs such as, “C.R.E.A.M.” (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)- the Wu-Tang W.
From merchandise donning the logo, to people throwing up the W with their hands, Wu-Tang’s symbol is as much as part of their history as the music, and that’s why in this season of Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” audiences meet Ronald Maurice Bean also known as Mathematics, DJ, producer and creator the Wu-Tang logo.
“Rza knew that I could draw, brothers knew that I got busy. And when it was presented to me to actually do the logo, it’s like I had no idea that it would be a huge component. Even though we had talked about it, ‘We need something that’s going to represent us. Something that’s going to be kind of powerful, something that’s out there that when they see that, they know we’re coming.’ And it’s just crazy that it turned out to be just that. I never thought that it would be as big as it is today. I would be lying if I said I did,” Mathematics said on AFRO Live.
“It’s still surreal,” he went on to say. “I was in an airport the other day… and we just finished doing a show. We were walking and [someone] turned around and they had a Wu-Tang shirt. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I see that from time to time. It always catches my eye. Raekwon told the story one time, he was somewhere and the guy had a big ‘W’ on his face- his whole face he had the W tattooed on his face and he said the dude walked right past him. He didn’t recognize Rae. He recognized the W enough to put it on his face and not recognize Raekwon,” the multifaceted artist said.
The DJ and artist explained how he came from an artistic family, following in his mother and brothers drawing interests, then joined his first art crew in middle school and even went to a technical and vocational high school majoring in commercial art.
While the W is an iconic artistic emblem of the legendary group, Mathematics, a Queens native, explained how art has always been part of the tradition of Hip Hop.
“Drawing, art, graffiti basically has always been around as far as Hip Hop goes. It’s actually one of the fundamental elements of Hip Hop. Whether you go to a park jam, with jam in the park there was always like a piece on the wall, something to that nature. We used to tag up all the time. Rakim said it back in ‘86, ‘writing my name in graffiti on the wall,’” he explained.
The Hulu show is one way to learn the history of Hip-Hop’s development, Wu-Tang clan and get some entertainment. Mathematics served as an advisor for the show and recreated some of his artwork for the show’s second season.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Mathematics said, “just to have our story brought to life every week it’s incredible, it’s amazing. It’s really a good feeling because especially where we come from.”
He explained what it was like when he was asked to work on the show and recreate his old artwork.
“I haven’t drawn in a long time. They wanted to look at my book and I keep that under wraps. They wanted me to recreate as well, which I had no problem with,” he said smiling. “It was good because I started liking to draw again… And I had time, because we were in a pandemic.”
Mathematics explained the importance of productivity, particularly during the pandemic.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people started exercising and fell off, started drinking, smoking, overeating. So you have to learn to use your time productively because you’ve got to know this is a moment in time and it’s going to pass. And we as people, we’re kinetic energy. We’re always in action, we’re always working, even when we’re doing nothing, the body is working, but what are you actually doing,” he emphasized. “As the controller of your vehicle, what are you doing whether to be productive or whether to educate yourself, you have to do something kinetic- it can’t just be potential energy because it goes nowhere. You always have to keep it kinetic, keep it moving.”
With decades in the game, Mathematics has advice for aspiring DJ, producers, rappers and artists. He explained how it seemed like Hip Hop was the only genre that people try to put an age cap on for pursuing their dreams- as if someone in their 40’s or up should not be rapping any longer. Mathematics said to ignore doubters and keep working to achieve one’s dream.
“Never let nobody deter you because everybody can’t see your vision, but you know your vision. As long as you stick to it and you apply yourself, and use that kinetic energy, you’ll definitely get something done. You don’t know how far you’re going to get, that all depends on you,” he said.
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