If you ever had the golden opportunity to see Wu-Tang Clan perform live, then you probably saw Mathematics on the turntables behind them. Born Ronald Maurice Bean, the Queens, New York native serves as Wu-Tang’s official DJ and producer… also the brains behind Wu-Tang’s iconic logo.
Growing up, Mathematics was first introduced to Hip-Hop by his brother, who’d bring home recordings from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Treacherous Three and Cold Crush Brothers. In the late 80’s, Math began DJing block parties and local park functions, under the moniker Supreme Cut Master.
In 1990, Math eventually linked up with GZA, who was then on the Cold Chillin’ label. Math would then land a spot as the official DJ for The Cold Chillin Blizzard Tour, with an all-star lineup of Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G. Rap… and the rest was history.
Fast forward to today, Mathematics returns with his own short film series titled “100 miles From Home.” This time, he steps into the writer and producer role, as he blends the world of film and music into one cohesive storyline. To date, he’s recruited Method Man, Wire actor Hassan Johnson, Griselda rapper Rome Streetz, and actress Kamaria Sarai.
The Source went on Instagram live with Mathematics to discuss touring with Wu-Tang, going from DJ to producer, what Hip-Hop means to him, the impact of Wu-Tang, and more!
How have you been?
I’ve been good, just been moving around. Just came back from South America, we were out there rocking, the whole Clan. We stormed through from Bogota, Chile, Brazil, Argentina. It was poppin’. It was nice out there, people were good.
How is it touring now compared to touring back then?
Well now, for one, we’re way more professional. Take things a lot more seriously, as far as even soundcheck, being on time. Back in the day, we get there when we get there. [laughs] Get the soundcheck, just be having fun. Be cutting off, dudes come in and start rapping. Now, everything is professional. Everybody’s on point, making sure the sound is right. We also rocked with a live band on this one too, so it was a little different. But it was good.
How was that? That must have been beautiful.
Yeah, it is! It also shows the growth within us because originally, we wasn’t really into the live band. But now, we understand as far as enhancing your show, doing certain things. I can do what I do on the 1’s and 2’s, but if you got a band, you can extend songs and do all types of things. Going into different arrangements. It’s dope, especially being a producer too and understanding arrangements and measures.
Why weren’t you guys into the live bands before?
Because we were a hardcore hip hop group. We love the bands as far as music-making, because we grew up on it. Groups like Earth Wind & Fire, we were into that.
For people who might not know, how did you get into DJing?
I was a Hip-Hop head. I deal with all aspects of it from graffiti to breaking to emceeing. I’m from Southside Queens, so the person I give salutes to is GMV, GrandMaster Vic. I was at 40 Jam. I was young, riding my bike and got to the front. Got a chance to see a master at work. When I seen him, how great and how ill he was, yo that’s what I want to do. That’s how I started DJing.
Did you teach yourself?
Taught myself. I have friends that DJ, I’d go to different cats’ houses and we’d practice, but mainly I taught myself. Just being in the lab. I cut school to be home practicing, it was a passion.
What was the progression from DJing to producer?
It was fast because I started producing at the time I didn’t really know what production was. I started producing originally for GZA when he was on Cold Chillin. When that didn’t work, we did a couple of demos. I ended up going back to work becoming a carpenter. My father was a carpenter so by trade, I became a carpenter. I saved up some money, got some equipment. I got me an Akai S950 and a Alesis HR-16 to trigger it. I was just sampling joints.
Around the same time, RZA was starting his whole Wu-Tang thing. With the beats, he already knew what he was doing. I’m hearing the shit he’s doing and I’m listening to what I’m doing, I’m like what the fuck am I doing? So I took a backseat. I’m the DJ. I started producing when one night, we’re hanging out. We’re chillin’. RZA’s working on the Cuban Linx album. We went to the movies. When we came back, he started working on the “Ice Cream” beat. I remember falling out but kept waking up, because smoking, drinking 40’s and all that. We had a little spot out of Staten Island, I was knocking out. I seen RZA working on the beat.
It was 3am he’s doing it. By 7am, “Ice Cream” is blaring out the speakers. I hopped up like how the fuck did you do that? Not saying I’ve never seen or heard him make beats before, but this time for some reason it really keyed in on me. Took the time to start introducing me, he told me about the ASR-10. That’s what went to cop, right after that. That’s when I became a producer and started producing.
I think of all the DJs and producers, whether it’s Pete Rock, Premiere, Large Professor, Dr. Dre, Lord Finesse, the list goes on. A lot of dope producers know how to DJ at one time or another. It’s an easy transition.
This year celebrates 50 years of Hip-Hop. What does Hip-Hop mean to you?
That’s life. I’ve been living Hip-Hop all my life. For the first time I seen B-boying and popping, and didn’t know what it was. I seen it at the community center, through Rodney McClain who’s a real cool dude doing it. What the hell is that? I was attracted to it. Seeing the graffiti on the train, on the walls, it’s more than just music for me. Hip-Hop is a way of life.
For me, it came at a time Ronald Reagan was President. He took all the music programs out of the school. It helped us and gave us the voice. You hear songs like “The Message,” Melle Mel was killing even in Beat Street. He was dropping jewels in there. We got to tell our story. East coast told the story first, New York, then the story would keep going. As it got to the West Coast, we got to see how they live. When I heard N.W.A, I was in high school like yo, it was crazy.
Even Common ,when I heard “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” the way he described the whole element of Hip-Hop and made it sound like a female, that was beautiful to me. Hip-Hop is the way life. It’s beautiful, because I recall a time when they said Hip-Hop would not last. They said it’s not music, it’s a phase. It’s gon’ fade out, it won’t last. Look 50 years later, it’s the #1 genre in music
Your homie said Wu-Tang has the biggest impact when it comes to Hip-Hop groups of all time.
I agree. Not just because I’m down with the crew, but because prior to Wu-Tang, dudes wasn’t able to sign as a group and then go solo. Record labels wasn’t working together. That was done by design. If you watch American Saga, you see they came up with power and RZA to get the logo. That was a big impact for Hip-Hop, it’s still impactful because people still do to this day. At one point, they called it a Wu-Tang deal. “Let me get a Wu-Tang deal.” But now, it’s normal. People may not even know where it first started, it started with Wu-Tang.
Wu-Tang impacted in so many ways, as far as so many lyrical assassins. Even beats. A lot of my beats in the beginning, you can say sporadic. It took me a while to go study music theory. We did as we felt, whether it was right or wrong. James Brown when I seen his movie, I understood it completely because “wait hold on, you can’t do that.” Because music theory will tell you, you can’t do that. James Brown said “well does it feel good? Does it sound good? Whichever it is, we gon’ do it.“
That’s what Wu-Tang did, there was a lot of freedom that Wu-Tang had in a mixture of the karate flicks. Even the mixture of black movies, old blaxploitation movies. Also the names: Method Man, aka Johnny Blaze. Raekwon, aka Lex Diamond. It wasn’t no aka’s until Wu-Tang, so the biggest impact all the way around the board.
Is this a good time to talk about 100 Miles From Home? Meaning behind the title?
100 Miles From Home means you can beat around the corner and get caught up into some shit, seeing you so far from home. I remember almost getting robbed, down the block from my mother’s house. The dudes jumped out on me, pulled out a gun on me. Had me pinned. I was getting ready to give them everything, but they came with a certain aggression and tried to manhandle me. When it got to that, wait hold on. A tussle happened. The dude with the gun is laughing. Yo, they playing with my life right now.
There’s a dog in the yard, he’s barking. He’s going crazy. The dog is a rottweiler. I break free, get over the fence. I take off, past the dog. The dog’s still barking, but it slowed them down. I had to jump the fence, and I hear shots go over my head. I had to dip around the block, cut through the yard to get back to my mom’s crib. It felt like I was so far from home. That’s 100 Miles From Home, you could be down the block and still feel a million miles away because of your situation.
I wrote it. There’s 3 acts to it, they all connect. I have different actors in it. I wrote the majority of it, it’s beautiful. Writing is a passion I have now, so I’m writing scripts. You can write scripts all day, but the best thing to do was to show your work. When I make beats, I have to manifest to put it into existence the same way with my scripts. I gotta bank on myself, I’ma do it. Nobody else is gonna do it for me.