Residing in Detroit and a member of Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA’s production group The Wu Elements, the calm-spoken Bronze Nazareth stays busy tailor-making sonic ambiances for some of the biggest names in hip-hop music today. Lyrically gifted himself, his solo albums The Great Migration and School for the Blindman have been heralded by fans for not only creative and engaging production, but also for high-level writing.
Critically-adored as a producer and recording artist, Nazareth is literally a stand-up guy; for this exclusive SoulTrain.com interview the Wisemen member and Wu-Tang affiliate stood the entire time, leaning casually against a plain white wall while never breaking eye contact. “I see the big picture better than I ever have,” says the Grand Rapids, MI native, born Justin Cross. “I’m ready for everything.”
SoulTrain.com: Bronze, I’m sure we could stand here all day talking about your artistry and who you’ve worked with, but as an accomplished and professional working man what does it mean to have a gold standard?
Bronze Nazareth: It means you have to achieve a certain level of quality where it can intersect with your means of living–basically, your income. I think that’s the gold standard. You could have fifty pieces of gold or you could have two; you’ve still got gold. So a $50,000 job is gold; a $200,000 job is gold. The standard is where your income level meets your success level.
SoulTrain.com: Given the level you’ve reached, have you dealt with anyone trying to compromise your standards to achieve their own personal goals?
Bronze Nazareth: Being a producer it comes down to the case of…producers are picky, man! We really don’t want just anybody and everybody on our beats. In music there’s hills, ups and downs–especially as an independent artist grinding. The worst times [are] when you have to compromise for your pocket. That happens underground and on the mainstream level.
SoulTrain.com: You work both sides of the studio glass in the music industry. Does the recording artist side of you make your production side even stingier?
Bronze Nazareth: [Laughs] Heck yeah! Sometimes I’m running through folders of beats I’m about to send somebody, then I’m like, ‘I gotta keep this for me!’ And I don’t know if that’s all positive, because it could be that one somebody picks that takes off. But as a producer and a recording artist these beats are my babies, so I get stingy sometimes loving them.
SoulTrain.com: I think many would agree your beats and words are both well-articulated. Do you feel this the most when you’re choosing words for lyrics or tones and sounds for beats?
Bronze Nazareth: When you’re making a beat, whether you’re sampling or playing something, the notes are there already. But lyrically can you think of your own stuff to say that’s going to reach somebody or make them rewind it? I think it’s more work doing the lyrics than making the beats. You use your ear to make something melodic, but lyrics? That takes work.
SoulTrain.com: Bronze, your work makes people pay attention. Once you have it would you rather have them respect you, admire you, or believe in you?
Bronze Nazareth: I’d say believe in me. If someone said to me, “I don’t believe in you or believe in your music,” that would probably hit me harder than, “I don’t admire you.” I could push that off to they just like a different style or something. Respect comes and goes; you give and you get. If no one believes in you, you’ve got nothing–no respect, no admiration.
SoulTrain.com: How far has belief gotten you? And has the belief you’ve gotten lived up to your gold standard?
Bronze Nazareth: I think so. When I first got started I was a big fan of The Wu before I even got involved with them. When I started making beats it was just raw hip-hop, but when I heard The Wu I wished I could just make one song with them! I made the right connections. Once I got to that goal I wanted to make an album with them! It’s like an addiction–once I hit a goal I somehow find another goal behind it. That’s how I keep climbing, and the gold standard keeps resetting for me.
SoulTrain.com: Tell us how working with Wu had influence on your mathematic standards.
Bronze Nazareth: It increased them. I watched RZA in the studio, I watched paperwork go through, I watch albums come out; I saw how they were doing it, the whole process. I think that’s what RZA was trying to spread to me. I got that. The math is advanced; money-wise and the things I do to beats, it’s all on a scale.
SoulTrain.com: All across the country people understanding math in general is on the low end of the scale. Standardized testing continues to prove this, especially in your home state of Michigan. Bronze, why is it urgently important that math standards be made more important?
Bronze Nazareth: If this was football, and the receiver was catching 25% of his passes and dropping 75%, he’d be out the game! We’ve got the statistics right in our face and people just ignore them! Mathematics is key for everything, for life and for equality. You can’t have equality without the numbers being right. That topic is hot, especially with the mass incarceration rate. I think that’s going to play a big role in all our mathematics soon.
SoulTrain.com: You hear a lot of blame put on our government for our country’s educational failures, but shouldn’t the people be held equally responsible?
Bronze Nazareth: The people can’t do anything if they’re not educated and the government is cutting certain programs to educate the people. So, it’s a mixture of both their faults. First of all, if the people aren’t being supplied with the information, how do they know? Second of all, if you don’t know the info but see somebody else doing something, go look it up! Go find out!
SoulTrain.com: Bronze, you’re an educated man. Why are school system standards falling short?
Bronze Nazareth: I don’t think it’s everywhere, but certain areas don’t get the help they need. I used to do social work. I’ve seen it firsthand in Detroit. There’re some neglected areas, and there’s always some laws and rules they’ll make to justify what’s going on. Again, it’s mathematics!
SoulTrain.com: Okay, which of these three have done the worst job educating our youth: the school systems, the parents, or entertainers?
Bronze Nazareth: I have to say the parents. I believe it starts at home. If you lay down the correct path at home, they’re going to follow that in school. You can have a poor school with no books, but they’ve got handouts and copy machines. If you don’t know what to do as a parent, and you’re just slacking off as a parent, everything else to them won’t matter. Conduct starts with the parent.
SoulTrain.com: What standard was instilled in you by your parents that you wish others had?
Bronze Nazareth: Sticking to my commitments. I can remember committing to something as a teen, then start thinking, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ My moms was like, “You made a commitment; you have to stick to it and do it!” That crossed over into my adult life; I take care of business. That was key.
SoulTrain.com: Some believe children are listening more to music, television and movies than their parents at an alarming rate. Do you think parents and entertainers have gotten away from teaching what it means to have a gold standard?
Bronze Nazareth: People are deceived by what’s on TV. Fame is a powerful thing. It brings a lot to you. So to answer the question: Hell yeah! Certain parents see their child is going to school, they see they’re passing; okay, cool. They’re not paying attention to their activities, who they’re around, if they’re playing sports, nothing! That is obviously away from the gold standard! Silver is not good enough, you feel me? You have to go to the school. Too many parents aren’t doing what they should to instill proper values in the kids.
For more on Bronze Nazareth visit his official website BronzeNazareth.com and follow him on Twitter @BronzeNazareth.
–Mr. Joe Walker
Mr. Joe Walker, a senior contributor for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and feature writer for City Locs, is an award-winning entertainment and news journalist and columnist published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Former Editor In Chief of XPOZ Magazine, his work has graced the pages and covers of Notion Magazine, Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, Real Detroit Weekly, and MLive.com. He loves to create, loves that you read. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker. Also visit ByMrJoeWalker.blogspot.com.