My Secret Life: RZA, Musician & Actor, 38

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The Independent Online

The home I grew up in... was a one bedroom-apartment in the impoverished projects of Brownsville, Brooklyn, shared with my mother and 10 siblings.

When I was a child I wanted to be... a rapper. I first heard hip-hop at a block party on Staten Island when I was eight and since then, I just wanted to be the best rapper in the world.

The moment that changed me for ever... was aged 11 and I heard about the maths of living, the path of enlightenment. First, you look and observe, then wisdom comes with the emancipation of knowledge. It's the sun, the moon and the stars.

My greatest inspiration... The GZA and Ol' Dirty Bastard [founding members of Wu-Tang Clan], Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, Quincy Jones; then it's Donny Hathaway for the arrangement of music and Willie Mitchell for being the finest producer of our time.

My real-life villain... is the devil. It's a constant personal challenge, the struggle between good and evil; that's my life, right there.

If I could change one thing about myself... it would be the ageing process. I don't like grey hair – but I do like white hair, like in the kung-fu movies.

At night I dream of... living in big castles and that, dreams of being some kind of prince – I don't know where it comes from; and then there are the lurve dreams...

What I see when I look in the mirror... is a physical representation of myself, and I am 85 per cent proud of it. There have been a few blemishes in my life – and when I see my reflection, I wonder how I let that happen.

My style icon... has got to be Sly Stallone, he's one cool motherfucker.

My favourite item of clothing... is Timberland boots, I have more of those than any other item of clothes. I got 50 or 60 pairs.

I wish I'd never worn... a few pieces, which were maybe too extra corny, but generally I'm not shy to try different styles.

It's not fashionable but I like... turbans. It may not be fashionable, but if I wore one I'd make it fashionable.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... playing the piano. I'm also a good gambler, a real good gambler, be it almost any game – blackjack, poker... I'm a card wizard.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... basketball, surprisingly. I may be tall and skinny but I'm not that good at playing ball.

All my money goes on... my family. I came from a big family, and a poor one, so I take care of a lot of people. Personally, my money goes on electronics; some people like Bentleys, I like studios.

If I have time to myself... I pick up my acoustic guitar and strum along, I find it a quick way to get music out of my system. I'm addicted to music, I need it all day.

I drive... a Hummer, of course; and of course I got a couple of Porsches. And trucks. I got a lot of Suburbans and Chevys and all that.

My house is... which one? Now I'm in the Cally [California] house. It's about 4,200 square feet, with an acre of land, which in California is rare. There's a 1,800 square foot guest house and a pool with a waterfall. A $4m crib ain't bad for a guy from ghetto.

My favourite building... The Metropolitan Hotel in London, not architecturally, but because of the size of the rooms and the view and with the Nobu restaurant downstairs – and the bar for late-night partying. It's a lot of fun.

Movie heaven... The Godfather – I and II, and the Star Wars films. Yeah, Star Wars.

A book that changed me... my top three: the Bible, the Koran, and the Lotus Sutra. Within those there is the spirit of the mind and of the body, captured.

My favourite work of art... I've been to a lot of museums and galleries, and I've seen a lot, but none of it really stands out.

The last album I bought... Kanye West's latest album [Graduation], and Snoop Dogg's new record [Ego Trippin].

The person who really makes me laugh... Richard Pryor – the man was just ridiculous.

The shop I can't walk past... is any guitar centre, I can't resist that kind of thing.

The best invention ever... the computer. In the old days, we carried around these big-ass wheels, now all albums are on a hard-drive. Wait, hold on; what about the fucking movie camera? Damn.

In 10 years time, I hope to be... an established film director and a positive world figure. I have an honest love for humanity and I want people to look back at my life and say: "That's what being a man is about."

My greatest regret... is a weird one, but having children with different women. I have three in different US states and one in Trinidad. Though I provide for them, financially, they don't get the father-time that they could use.

My life in seven words... knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, equality and love.

A life in brief

Born Robert Diggs on 5 July 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, RZA (which stands for Ruler Zig-Zag-Zig Allah) is a music producer, rapper and sometime actor. He is one of the most successful hip-hop artists of all time, both individually and as de-facto leader of Wu-Tang Clan; his solo album Bobby Digital in Stereo went platinum in the US and he has appeared in Hollywood films including Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. He has four children and lives with his fiancé and their son between California, New Jersey and Ohio. RZA will perform on 1 May at the opening of Futuresonic Festival of Music, Art and Ideas in Manchester (