In honor of the 20th anniversary* of Wu-Tang Clang’s debut album, Enter The Wu: 36 Chambers, Amanda Seales, aka Killandra Bea, is taking us on a nostalgic trip back to the Shaolin (insert Raekwon voice). The newly inducted, unofficial Wu member will take the stage at (le) poisson rouge in NYC with jazz composer Kris Bowers to drop liquid swords. The duo will represent the original Shaolin lyrical swordsmen using humor, Wu-sims and jazz interpretations to remix classics like “C.R.E.A.M,” “Rainy Days,” and “All I Need.”
Kris and Amanda took some time to milk the cow with Mass Appeal about Mo’ Betta Wu and their plans for the future.
Mass Appeal: How did the concept for this project come about?
Amanda: It came about in a very non-impressive way. [Laughs] It literally was just me…I don’t even know what sparked me to just be singing Wu-Tang songs in a jazz style by myself in my apartment on a random evening, but that’s what happened. I posted it on Instagram and people were very responsive in saying that they would really love to hear this. I was like, ‘You know maybe I should do something with it.’ I mentioned it out candidly to … actually I was talking to Michaela Angela Davis and she was like, ‘You need to do that as a show!’ So recently I was thinking about doing it recording wise she was like, ‘No you need to do that as a show, you need to do that as a show!’ And these are not name dropping, these are just really people who pushed the button for me to take the next step.
MA: How did you and Kris Bowers connect?
A: I mentioned it to Q-Tip and he was like, ‘Yo you need to work with Kris Bowers, he’s like the man.’ I reached out to Kris on Twitter and he replied. He set up time to meet and then we just hit it off immediately. It just went from there and we started working on it, and bit by bit it came together.
MA: Was Mo’ Betta Wu inspired by the movie “Mo’ Better Blues” or its soundtrack?
A: Actually not at all. We really just wanted to find a title that could really encompass what we were doing on a couple of levels and you know “Mo’ Betta Blues” is a film that is iconic and its jazz especially in the ’90s. The Wu came about in the ’90s, so it’s like in one reference it manages to encapsulate all these different elements that come together to make this show the unique show it is. So we threw around some other ideas like Kind of Wu and Lady Sings the Wu, but we’re working with Blue and Silver Creative Group and Thomas, one of the guys in the group, was like, ‘Yeah what about Mo’ Betta Wu?’ And we were like yeah, that’s a mo betta good idea and we ran with that.
MA: How do you think something like Mo’ Betta Wu will change perceptions of what jazz music is to hip hop for this generation?
Kris: I think it’s kind of demonstrating, first of all, the content that was already existing in a lot of jazz in that era and hip hop in that era. Also, actual jazz works with a lot of hip hop and I think what we did is we took a lot of the samples straight from the record, so we didn’t really change nothing much when it came to the music of it. We really just extracted samples and created entire compositions out of those little snippets of samples. What I think it does is just really highlights how these other hip hop musicians loved jazz or had at least an ear for jazz. As far as the more classic sound of jazz, I think it might just get people more interested. A lot of people find, you know discover jazz through hip hop samples. They hear something like, ‘What is that sample?’ and the next thing you know they are listening to some of the classic iconic jazz albums.
MA: Can we look forward to more shows like this?
A: Well I think it would be fun, because I created this character named Killandra Bea. Get it? Like Killa Bea and the band is called the Shinobi. So I created this character and I explain in the show why she does Wu-Tang jazz, and I think it would be really interesting to grow that idea with other music, with other marriages of jazz and hip hop. I know this is the anniversary of Illmatic so it would be dope to do something like that and have it sponsored by Mass Appeal or you know whatever whatever [Laughs]. You know just ideas, just throwing some ideas out. Or Kris had mentioned Tribe and they have used like so many jazz samples it would just be criminal not to do something with Tribe. I’m from the south and I would just love to do something like this with Cash Money. Let me tell you that would be the turn up!
MA: I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina so I would definitely check it out.
A: Like North Cac would be in the house! Word like “Fuck Dem Other Niggas” over a jazz beat [Laughs] I see it. But it’s also like a jazz show but also a funny show. My work is very rooted in comedy and I keep that as a part of everything I do. So it’s a very integral part of the show to make people alive and laughing and in tuned with the music.
MA: What can we expect from you musically in the future?
A: I mean I hate the music business with a deep deep passion. But I love music, and what shows like this allow me to do is create music in a space that isn’t so toxic. You know?
A: And so this is really where I am living musically right now. I mean, I would not be opposed to doing a project but it would literally have to be something I am doing just to do just for kicks. But as far as where I am at right now I’m just so rooted in comedy. I did the one woman show for the past two years and this will make three years. This would be my third run with this show and it’s important to me to just stick with that.
MA: Is there anything that you guys want to add about the project?
A: I just really find myself not as excited about hip hop these days, and I feel like doing this has definitely reinvigorated my love for this classic record and for hip hop as a genre. I feel like with what we’re doing here, it’s almost like we give a new life to work at this genre. Like giving it an extra timeline to live on and I feel really proud of that.
If you’re in the 212 and want to attend Mo’ Betta Wu live at NYC’s (le) poisson rouge on Thursday, April 10th at 7pm. Grab your tickets here.
*The 20th anniversary of the album was on November 9, 2013.