I was poking around the music section at our campus bookstore when I picked up a copy of RZA’s Tao of Wu, something I’ve been meaning to read for awhile. Flipping through, I came to a part where RZA talks about the situations surrounding the production of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and the tracks “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck wit” and “C.R.E.A.M”.
RZA talked about how he made the tracks in poverty, borrowing a room next to his Aunt’s apartment, where he had to run a cord through the hall to his room in order to power the lone sampling keyboard he was using to produce and write.
Some of the most classic hip-hop beats of all time were made with a bare keyboard and stolen frickin’ electricity.
The first thing I thought of was Hugh Macleod’s 10th principle of How to Be Creative:
10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.
Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu would not surprise me. Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece with a silver Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in an airy SoHo loft would SERIOUSLY surprise me.
This stuff hits home with me, and probably most musicians/artists/creators because its just so easy to be a gear hound. I frequently fight the feeling that I need some new piece of equipment to make the music that I want.
Are these toys cool? Sure. They’re fun and I love them. I’ll continue to collect them. But I find it important to remind myself they don’t replace creativity, they just translate it. Top of the line kitchen equipment is worthless if you don’t know how to cook.