Ever feel like your creative and economic motivations misalign? Maybe there isn’t enough time in the day to keep the lights on and write that book you’ve been meaning to author for some years now. Or maybe you've struggled harnessing your creative potential all together in the everyday hustle and bustle of staying above water.
Wu-Tang founding member and hip-hop luminary Robert “RZA” Diggs joins tea giant TAZO to launch the return of Camp TAZO, a two-day guided retreat for artists of all trades meant to encourage self-exploration and self-discovery in the name of creative enlightenment.
“TAZO has always been a company through their [late founder], Steven Smith, that’s dealt with exploration. For him, it’s to explore blending teas in an artistic way. For me, I’ve been exploring different ways to hone my creativity, as you know, within the different disciplines I deal with creatively, whether it’s writing or directing—all these are different ways to explore my creative expression,” RZA tells BET over the phone.
Albeit RZA can’t guarantee anyone a dream, what the rapper, actor and director is offering aspiring creatives is a unique opportunity in his native Staten Island, New York, to explore his or her wildest potential using the power of Zen. “With that being the foundation and cornerstone of our concepts, we’re going to try to spread that Zen spark into other creatives and hopefully let them open up their unlimited potential.”
BET catches up with RZA in a brief Q&A below on all things Camp TAZO, including all that accepted applicants can expect from a two-day experience under the tutelage of one of hip-hop’s most prolific MCs. Camp TAZO: Zen is officially open and accepting video submissions from all walks. May the power of Zen be with you!
BET: What can selected applicants expect to gain under your guidance over the course of two days?
RZA: We combine this ideology of exploration and creativity and we have what is called Camp TAZO, which will actively be a two-day program that will distill and instill some of the ideas of which I use to hone my creativity. It's going to be based in zen. We are using the zen flavored tea of TAZO.
Sometimes, our potential is blocked by being all engaged in our daily hustle. Sometimes, our families, jobs, or even our tendency to be lackadaisical causes us not to fully explore our creativity energy. This camp and particular campaign is lighting that wick. Hopefully, it explodes their ability to be creative. I have five pillars of different explorations. It can be as simple as sitting meditation. Some of it will be moving meditation. We have a whole program and we are going to release the program when we release the website.
BET: What will you share about your personal approach to creative enlightenment?
RZA: For me, on a broader stroke, steel sharpens steel. The only way light and fire continue to burn is if somebody takes that candle and light(s) another candle. Sometimes, our creative energy or whatever stronger position we play in the world or the lives of family, people, fans, or whatever… sometimes we stay isolated from it. This is a way for me and TAZO to actually touch some people, and light another candle so they can go find their creative passion.
BET: What is creativity, how do you define that?
RZA: The thing is you can liken creativity to water. Water will take the shape of whatever vessel you put it in. So, a lot of us, we work everyday even if we work in a creative space. Like you are a creative person. You are working in journalism. But you’re motivation may be the economic reward for it. Therefore, the creativity is bounded by the economics. But if you removed the economics from it, how much further would that creativity flow or which vessel would it find itself in? For me, it’s recognizing that I could put this [energy] into any shape I want whether I want to make a beat, make a lyric, write a script or compose since the creative energy is like electricity. I can turn on whatever I want to turn on. You got many appliances in your house but they are all ran by that electric current.
BET: Describe why using zen as part of the foundation for this program is so important?
RZA: What zen means is awareness of yourself. Complete awareness and not to lose that awareness. So once you identify yourself, as far as using creativity and creative energy as the nucleus, do you know where it is at all times and can go to it when you need it? A singer knows where to pull that note from. Patti LaBelle knows where to pull that note from. She delivers it. Those who don't, then they are searching for it and sometimes you can search your whole life for it. So, we hope that this will cause a spark in people who come to the camp and that spark can turn into a blazing fire for many people.
BET: So now I have this wonderful experience and knowledge in my hands. What’s the end goal, the determined idea?
RZA: The duty is now you get to go and do what you want with it. That becomes your decision. The best question you can ask a person is what gets you out of bed in the morning? Why are you getting up? Where are you going? And then, measure that. Measure that versus what is your gain from it [and] what is your loss from it.
The guaranteed thing you’re going to lose is the most important equity of life, which is time. That’s the only thing you can't get back. Everything else can be replaced in one form or another. But with time, there’s no refunds on it. So since you know that and you’ve become aware of that, how you are now going to spend time [or] spend this equity? If you come to this camp and you spark your creative energy and you see what it means, now you have to think about how is the energy going to continue to fulfill me, fulfill my awareness, fulfill my journey.
BET: You make better or different use of your time—
RZA: So, let’s say a person works eight hours a day. They may still work eight hours but now that their creative light is on, their creative approach to work will be different. Their output will be different. Or their work remains the same and when they’re not working, that [time] becomes different and better for them. It’s all about, when you get your tools, how you use the freedom is all up to you. To use me as a small example, you’ll see that I’ve taken it to many different arenas. If you watch the American Saga, I’m the kid that started in the basement trying to get a beat machine to now a kid who has inspired beat machines.
When you hear someone like Kanye West say RZA inspired me, that shows how far that inspiration of me in that basement has gone and continues to go. And that’s what we want—for other people to find that for themselves, whether it becomes an individualistic thing that helps them or [something] that expands to their family and community, their country or whatever. It expands based on the input or output of that individual.
BET: When you look at the trajectory of your career and all that you’ve accomplished, what would you say is the biggest jewel being a founding member of the Wu has afforded you?
RZA: My biggest jewel is going to be my family and my children. To see how much my circumstances could’ve easily snuffed my light out and to realize since my children and family are not now facing those circumstances, to see the light they know shine and exemplify. I have a 21-year-old son who didn’t drink or smoke his whole life until he reached 21. Never been arrested. He’s never kicked nobody’s door in. He’s never sold a drug. He’s never did all the things that my circumstances forced me to do. He’s a gentleman, and that means naturally we are good people. Naturally. Our circumstances force us to be all these other different conditions of ourselves.
My greatest jewel is to see for actual fact that with my own life, based on the success of what the Wu-Tang blessed me with, I was able to bless another being, which is my children, with a more clear journey in life. Mind you, my son can lift about 250 and don’t eat meat. None of that. He hasn’t had a steak in his life. He conquers all the myths. I don’t want to hear the myths of what he’s supposed to do.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo courtesy of Camp TAZO)