June 1, 2020 Interview – iNTeLL of 2nd Generation Wu’s GFTD
By definition, heritage comes or belongs to one by reason of birth. What we do with that heritage is up to us – we can honor it, ignore it, but we cannot deny it. Dontae Hawkings, AKA iNTeLL, is aware of his bloodline and embraces it as the son of Wu-Tang Clan icon U-God, as well as the nephew of Method Man. Proud of where he comes from, iNTeLL has been making his own way for years, but now it all coming to a head with the formation of 2nd Generation Wu and GFTD.
What exactly are these entities? In short, 2nd Generation Wu’s core consists of iNTeLL (son of U-God), PXWER (son of Method Man), SUN GOD (son of Ghostface Killah), and Young Dirty Bastard (son of the late Old Dirty Bastard). Then branching off, GFTD (pronounced Gifted), is iNTELL and PXWER, unifying as a dynamic duo for a forthcoming full-length album.
Together, both projects are compelling by association to the Wu-Tang roots alone, but upon a closer look, these spawns of Hip Hop greatness have talents that stand alone. Plotting a series of releases over the next year, the multi-talented iNTeLL recently sat down to talk about his vision behind the music, his view on his family’s legacy, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been surrounded by music your entire life. At what point did you realize you wanted to pursue it as a career?
iNTeLL – Probably when I was in college. At that point I had been writing songs for years. It was in college though where I found an engineer who was willing to work with me and help me work consistently. I knew once I had that consistent work flow down, I would be able to generate content in a way that would make a career plausible.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. At what age did you start writing?
iNTeLL – I was 13 when I started writing poetry; no beats, just rhyming words. That developed into writing songs and instrumentals, where I eventually considered myself a Hip Hop artist.
Cryptic Rock – It seems like you have been plotting your plan for some time. You started 2nd Generation Wu, but now you have GTFD. First, tell us, how did 2nd Generation Wu come together to begin with?
iNTeLL – It was around the same age of 13-15 years old, after I took it from poetry to instrumentals, to writing songs. I grew up with Ghostface Killah’s son, Supreme; his mom and my mom are best friends. I also grew up with Method Man’s first born son, PXWER; Meth is married to my mother’s sister, so that’s my cousin. We would always just make music together playing around as kids. It is in our DNA, but we never thought we’re going to be rappers. I think I was the one who sat there, maybe because I’m oldest, who said, “This is the future of Wu-Tang.” This was right in the middle of the original Wu-Tang’s prime too. Wu-Tang is forever is a real thing. In addition to Wu-Tang being forever with the original members, there’s also the next generation.
It was born years ago with me and my family making music amongst ourselves. As I grew my career, and saw that they still kept with it, I then thought, maybe it’s time to bring us all together. Throughout the years I’ve always tried to make it happen, but it was a matter of timing. It wasn’t something I could force, I had to just let it happen, and finally the timing was right.
Cryptic Rock – Interesting to hear. It has come together well and the tracks you have released thus far are very good. What was it like putting these songs together?
iNTeLL – Right before I did “7.O.D.,” I was thinking, “Maybe I should be doing something else, I don’t know if this music thing is really for me.” I’m also a filmmaker and actor, so I was trying to dive more into that too. Then “7.O.D.” was born, I heard it, and thought, “Oh my god, I’ve been thinking about this for 13 years.” We had interest from certain labels, but they didn’t really see the cohesiveness and where it was going to go. So, we decided to put it out ourselves, the world responded to it very lovingly, and we appreciate that.
Afterwards, there was going to be a follow-up with all of us together, but SunGod is with his father Ghostface, and YDB (Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s son) is with The Wu. Their schedules are very demanding. If we ever do get around to making another record, when the time is right, that’s 2nd Generation Wu. Now that me and PXWER are so tightly knit, and still making music consistently together, we decided maybe there is another monogram that we should go under to help emphasis him and I; GTFD. We thought this was important, opposed to emphasizing all four of us when all four of us aren’t going to be on all these records, and on this album particularly.
Cryptic Rock – Understandable. Let’s hope the 2nd Generation Wu thing happens again soon. GTFD is a strong project too. You recently released the song “New Generation” in a remix with Method Man. The video is interesting too. What was it like putting the video together?
iNTeLL – I usually do everything myself, there have always been team members, but I’m wearing all the hats. I’m at a point in my life where I want to work with other people to see what they are capable of, see what new creations come about, and let go of that need to control everything. This director, Ken Ngwa, saw the “7.O.D.” video, hit us up and said, “I love your work, the movement, I’m a Wu-Tang fan, and I want to work with you guys.” We had a meet and greet, went into the studio, listened to some music, and we told him, “This is the next single, we want to do a video for it, whatcha got?” We listened to it, came up with some ideas, and then came up with the idea of what is Hip Hop? If Hip Hop has reached every crevice of the earth, what’s the next step? The next step is off the planet, in other worlds, so what does Hip Hop sound like there? It’s also going to need protection wherever it goes as well, and that’s where we come in – to guide Hip Hop wherever it’s going to travel, but also be it’s protectors along the way.
That’s the idea we came up with. Ken directed it and it was shot on an iPhone; I shot some of it, my wife shot some of it, and Ken shot some of it. Ken’s team did the visual effects and I did a lot of the final editing. It was really a team effort, but I would say I had a good amount of say on it.
Cryptic Rock – It came together really well. Let’s talk about the sound you are creating. You guys have an authentic street Hip Hop style. Was that important for you to bring that to the table?
iNTeLL – It was, but it wasn’t really a priority. I felt that is one of our many sounds… so I knew it would come out. I felt like a follow-up to “7.O.D.” should be that sound. Not because that is what people were expecting, but because we want to show respect to the foundation of that sound. To a certain bracket of listeners we want to show them, “Hey, we’re young, but we know where we come from and we know what sounds made the new sounds.” Then as we go along, we are going to start to show more diversity in our sounds.
Our latest single, “Soothe The Soul,” produced to 88-Keys, is like a bridging of that sound we’ve been delivering, but also ushering in the new sound that we’re going to be delivering. Then when the summer hits, were doing a mashup of lyrics that mean something, but you’re gonna have some music that’s gonna make you move.
Cryptic Rock – Sounds like a good plan. You have the sound of the old school, but still maintain a modern feel. Most importantly, the lyrics you are putting out there have potency. You grew up in the thick of Wu-Tang, but what has influenced you?
iNTeLL – I grew up on Eminem, Lupe Fiasco, The Roots, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent. There was a period where I went back and got into Snoop and N.W.A., but then I came back and started listening to The Game. Obviously The Wu is an influence too, but I don’t always want to go there, because it’s in my DNA. The Wu was the first CD that I listened to from beginning to end as an album. I was listening to mix CDs before that.
Cryptic Rock – That is a great mix of influences. Have you seen your lyrical style develop through the years?
iNTeLL – Absolutely. Right now, all the music we’ve been creating, I’m not just a rapper on it – I’m also composing the record, picking the beats, and deciding what goes where. I’m also deciding when the videos are going to come out, what the video is going to be, artwork, etc. I am also engineering the records with other members of the team. It gets a little overwhelming and I get earshot thinking, “I don’t even want to listen to any of this stuff now that we just made.”
I will go back then and listen to my stuff I made years ago and go, “Wow.” I can then go back to listen to myself as a fan and not the artist. As I was making the content I was always like – it sounds good, get it out. Going back and listening to it I think, “That was a really good album, or that album was rushed, or I wish I saved that song for another project, etc.” One thing that remains consistent when I go back and listen to myself, and this is some egotistical shit, but I’ve always been nice! I hear my growth and development in terms of metaphors, similes, and multi-syllablistic flows. In terms of my content, it’s always been there; I was always talking about something different than what my peers were. I have always been trying to inform and uplift.
Cryptic Rock – Right, the lyrics are the most important aspect of it all and you show that. Will the GTFD album be out in 2020?
iNTeLL – Hopefully, we are optimistic that it will be. It would have been out had the world not shutdown. The alternative plan is to keep releasing singles. These singles may or may not be cuts from the album. We have a song with me, Ghostface’s son and PXWER, where we flipped “Cherchez La Ghost.” It was a hit when it came out, but it got buried because people don’t bump. I thought, no one has tried to sample it or anything, so I grabbed that. You got Ghostface’s son, me (U-God’s son), before PXWER on the tail-end of it. To remake “Cherchez La Ghost,” and have the direct descendants of the original creators of the song, I think is dope. However, we couldn’t clear the sample, so we’re gonna have to just throw that out there for the people.
Again, we’re going to keep releasing music and content until we can release the whole album. We don’t want to release the whole album if we can’t fly out to go do a show behind it. We’re just going to keep releasing content for the people at home and hopefully continue to build our fan base.
Cryptic Rock – That sounds like a good idea. You mentioned that you listened to mix CDs prior to hearing Wu-Tang. How important is it to you that the GTFD album is a cohesive piece?
iNTeLL – It’s very important. That’s one of the reasons why it took so long to put together, it’s around 99% percent done now. When I first started working at Dock Street Records I realized, “Oh, this is the piece that I was missing to get everything together.” I needed one place for everyone to come, chill, vibe, and feel what I was trying to present instead of just going with what I was saying. That took about a year of people just coming in, chillin’, and collecting verses before the ideas really started to sink in.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months. You have these projects going on, so what does the Wu-Tang Clan think about what you are doing?
iNTeLL – I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but the reception we got from Meth and my father, U-God, was they have always supported the music. Then when we exploded with “7.O.D.” and 2nd Generation Wu they said, “The song is cool, we like what you’re doing, but change the name.” I asked why, because I couldn’t figure it out, because I like the name. You read some of the comments where people have their opinions on it in terms of lack of originality versus how we’re presenting ourselves as The Wu. Well, that’s not out intention, if you listen to the words coming out of my mouth you will know why we chose that and what it means. It wasn’t just something we decided to go with for marketability, it’s something that we realize that we are. When you realize what you are, you are proud to present that to the world – point blank, period. You can change your last name, but you will always be the children of your parents.
I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones, so if this was around at that time period, all my shields/armors would be in W’s, they would know I was part of The Wu-Tang Clan. Regardless of what the name is, those who do their due diligence when researching/listening to us, will say “oh!” and put the pieces together. Or they might put it front and center and that will be every question asked. We might as well put it front and center, ask what you’re going to ask, then listen to the music, and let us grow beyond that cloud of Wu-Tang.
Then I realized, 2nd Generation Wu is all of us, but I feel like if you’re going to get a real Generation Wu record, there should be at least 3 or 4 of us involved. There are more than 4 of us though – there is Master Killa’s kids, Rza’s daughter sings, Young Dirty Bastard has brothers and sisters. Who’s to say the next record might not have me or PXWER on it, but it will still be a 2nd Generation Wu record? That’s how important 2nd Generation Wu is to me and what I really think it is.
Cryptic Rock – Right, it is about embracing your roots while being your own person.
iNTeLL – Yes. It’s difficult to navigate that because a lot of the second generation of any great artist don’t stack up to their parents; they’re always going to be talked about in a certain way. There will be that ere that their parents just gave it to him. I’m faithful that people that get into us will learn we’ve been doing it for a while, without our father’s approval. I didn’t have the support of my father as a musician until around last year, but I’ve been rapping since I’m 18 professionally and writing since I’m 13.
You’ve got artists like Chris Rivers who has one of the most legendary dad’s, Big Pun. He was able to ride the ‘this is who my dad is cloud,’ but surpass it, and now he’s Chris Rivers. His pen game is untouchable, regardless of who his dad is. We’re trying to accomplish the ere opposed to, “they sound nothing like their parents.”
Cryptic Rock – Very good points. With athletes, Ken Griffey Sr. was a great baseball player, but Ken Griffey Jr. far surpassed him.
iNTeLL – I’m glad you brought that up. Why is that acceptable in sports and movies? Nicolas Cage is a Coppola! Why is that acceptable in those arenas, but in Hip Hop there is still a grey area? It’s also acceptable in the military, police, and for firefighters. If your great, great grandfather was a firefighter, and your a firefighter, your whole family is proud to be firefighters. My father is a rapper, a Hip Hop legend. I became an artist, soon to be legend, hopefully, and if my son wants to do it, I will embrace that. That would be 3 generations of Hip Hop blood. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out where your children surpass you, but that doesn’t mean don’t embrace them and let them into the empire you are building. That is how you keep your legacy and turn it into a dynasty.
Cryptic Rock – Exactly. Last question. As someone who loves films, what are some of your favorite Horror and Sci-Fi films?
iNTeLL – I love all genres. I’m pretty sure I can find a movie I love from every genre. I really kind of fell out of love with Horror for a while though. For a while, my favorite Horror film was The Exorcist (1973). I like Psychological Horror, I like Horror where you say or do something that makes me think about it, and when the movie is over, I’m still thinking about it.
Blood and guts is not my thing. I also like suspense… build something up for 5-6 minutes and then give me the pay off. A Quiet Place (2018) is my current favorite Horror movie. You don’t really see the monsters that much which I love; enough with the CGI. Scare me with the ideas. Scare me with people doing their job to genuinely feel fear in that moment and transmit it into the camera to re-create it for an audience to feel that same fear. I’m starting to fall back in love with Horror though based on what Blumhouse is doing, they are doing some really good Horror films.
As far as Sci-Fi, I love it. I am in the process of writing one now. It’s taking me a while because I’m more of a fantastical guy and I need someone to help me to loop in some hard science. I loved Inception (2010). I love films like The Fifth Element (1997), but I also like the type of film that it could be something in my lifetime. I also loved Minority Report (2002). Anything to do with time travel I will watch and give it a shot because it’s attempting to tackle that heavy of a topic. I think they did it most successfully and cohesively with Back to the Future series.