The 3-minute interview with Adisa Banjoko

The Bay Area hip-hop journalist and founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation likened the organization’s first annual Chess Kings Invitational, held recently in San Francisco, to “the Rumble in the Jungle of chess.” The tournament — which brought members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Dilated Peoples, chess legend/martial artist Josh Waitzkin and about 500 chess players from around the globe — came down to a finale between Wu-Tang founder RZA and Wu-Tang family member Monk, with the RZA prevailing.

What is the hope of the tournament and the federation? The hope is that through a fusion of chess, martial arts and music, we can actuate nonviolence as a positive trend. Teach kids not only in urban areas but in every city that there is an alternative.

How was the tournament? It was beyond words. The GZA [a Wu original member] and the RZA just started disemboweling people on the chess board. For the final, the GZA actually began coaching the RZA. And at first Monk went straight after the RZA. I thought, man, [the RZA’s] going to get killed out there. But just as I turned my head, the RZA finished him off. Monk’s face looked like it was hit by lightning.

Did you play at all? I was like the Don King of the tournament. I couldn’t set this all up, promote it and play as well.

Is playing chess at the highest level similar to a hip-hop artist flowing lyrically on the stage? Absolutely, on a spiritual, physical and intellectual level, it’s very similar.

Are you working on a book right now? A third installation of my Lyrical Swords series [a collection of essays from top music artists]. It’s going to focus on the political and philosophical side of hip-hop.


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