Interviewer: Alex Fruchter
Hip Hop changed forever in 1993. The emergence of the Wu-Tang Clan brought a new style of music that Hip Hop fans around the country embraced. The gritty production and diverse rhyme styles of the Wu-Tang Clan made them stand out among the Hip Hop scene. The Staten Island crew also brought attention back East, as West Coast Hip Hop was dominating radio stations at the time. Their debut album, Enter the 36 Chambers, showcased the talent of the Wu-Tang Clan collectively, and also opened the door for each member to achieve solo success. Raekwon, known as the Chef, seized the opportunity and turned out what is considered a Hip Hop classic.
Respected for his impressive lyrical ability, and creative rhyme schemes, Rakewon released his debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, in 1995. The album created a huge buzz and went gold in only 3 days. Ten years later, and a few albums in between, Raekwon is ready to release the sequel, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx part II.
SoundSlam.com had the chance to speak with The Chef about the new album. And while he’s not divulging much, he promises this will be another classic. It’s not hard to believe him after hearing that his verbal skills will be complimented by the productions of Busta Rhymes, Rza, and Dr. Dre.
Read along as the Chef talks about his latest album, his feelings about The Lex Diamond Story, as well as how his own style has evolved over the years.
SoundSlam: This sequel has been in the works for quite a bit of time what are fans going to expect from it?
Raekwon: Well, you know you can expect a lot. You can expect mad heat. We’re bringing back to the streets, keeping it straight hood, gully.
SoundSlam: How does the Raekwon that I’m talking to right now compare to the Raekwon that made the first one or 36 Chambers when you guys were starting out?
Raekwon: Back then we was hungry. We’re coming in the game, we’re doing everything on our won. We’re getting our own support. It’s a difference between now and then. Right now I got money or whatever, but I’m just still keeping it hood. I’m always in the hood. Nothing changed about me. That’s the only difference. The money just got a little larger. Other than that, I’m still in the hood showing love to the kids. And that’s what it’s about right now.
SoundSlam: What was it like working with Busta Rhymes as a producer?
Raekwon: Well you know Busta, this ain’t our first time working with him. We worked with him for a while back. He did a song with us for the Wu album. We did another joint for some mixtapes. We’ve been messing with Busta for a minute. It’s just me and Busta just been closer now. We’ve been doing shows together. Ever since we’ve been overseas doing shows we just connected, staying in touch with one another. We’re just helping each other out right now. But it’s real good to have Busta on our side. You know he’s down with Aftermath and Dr. Dre. He plugged us in with Dr. Dre, so we got some joints with Dr. Dre on the album. It’s all good.
SoundSlam: What are some themes that you’re exploring on the album, where are you going to take people with this?
Raekwon: I’m taking it every which way I need to go with it. It’s going to be dancing, you know what I mean. But mostly, honestly, I’m just bringing it back to Cuban Linx. Nothing’s going to top Cuban Linx one, but it’s going to be similar. You’re going to get fed the same way, all classics. And that’s basically really it. We’re going to do it the same way but it’s just going to be more up to date. I got people supporting me on this go around. So everything is good. We’re going to have a lot of work. We’re going to see, I don’t want to say too much right now cause we’re still in the making. I’m like 65% done with the album right now. So I don’t want to give too much out. Basically we could do another interview again in like a month and a half, two months or whatever. By then I’ll have everything full fed. But basically I’m excited. This is the most anticipated album right here, Cuban Linx 2. I’m just waiting for everybody to look forward for it.
SoundSlam: We’re you happy with how the Lex Diamond Story was received?
Raekwon: Nah. I’m not mad at it. Every album’s not always gonna sound the same. I can appreciate everybody, give everybody something different. I’m just that dude. The same thing over and over, it gets tired after a while. I just like to explore, try to do different things. I know what the people want from Raekwon. They want the hood stuff and all of that. Everything ain’t just about the hood. It’s just about the kids and all that. I just tried to make music for the last album for the kids. But now it’s like I’m doing it for the kids and for the adults, and for my old fans back in the 90’s.
SoundSlam: You’re often referred to as one of the best lyricist and most creative Hip Hop artists but you haven’t experienced the same success in terms of selling records and stardom. Does that frustrate you at all?
Raekwon: Nah, it never frustrates me. Because I’m always going to sell records regardless if it go double platinum or whatever. I’m always going to have respect in the hood for who I am, Raekwon as a lyricist. I’ll battle anybody, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about making good music and letting the fans hear what they want to hear. Right now it’s like everybody’s saying the same thing over and over. I did it all. We done did it all, the whole Wu. Everything everybody’s talking about now, we done did. Me and Ghost done brought out the Wallies and the Cristal and all of the that. Everybody’s just adapting to that right now. That really don’t bother me. I’m going to sell records regardless, and I’ll have respect always. That’s my main thing, the respect. Everything ain’t always about the money to me.
SoundSlam: How do you approach music differently when you might be writing as part of Wu-Tang versus your own stuff? Do you feel as a solo artist you have more freedom to discuss things you want to discuss?
Raekwon: Not really, I can’t really say that because if I’m around my guys I’m going to feel the same type of way. When you’re around your guys you always feel-your pen game always writes different, but you got your guys around you too. So you know you try to do everything where it fits everybody, as far as our rhymes. When I’m by myself I just go on my own zone. Whatever I feel like I want to come up with, I come up with. It depends on the beat. I try to just flow with the beat.
SoundSlam: You were talking about being a part of Wu-Tang and you and Ghostface doing so much, how does it feel to be a part of something like that, where kids coming up right now will list Raekwon as one of their influences? Could you imagine that when you started out?
Raekwon: Naww, I ain’t even imagine being the game. When we was growing up we didn’t have it as easy as kids have it right now. You might come outside, you might see a ten year old, an eleven year old outside like 9:30 at night with his moms or somebody, or his pops. Back in the day it wasn’t like that for us. We had to be in the crib before it get dark. So, you know, everything is just new. This is 2005 right now going into 2006, so the millennium changed, a lot of things changed. Basically I done grew on a lot of things and I’m just catching on a lot of things still, but it’s like at the end of the day I got to do what I got to do. Now I know everybody wants Raekwon from back in the 90’s so that’s what I’m bringing right now. I gotta bring it back from the 90’s again.
SoundSlam: How accurate is that song on the Nas album when he talks about you as well?
Raekwon: With the Biggie situation?...That wasn’t nothing. To me that was a compliment. It wasn’t bad or nothing like that. Only the real people knew what time it was as far as with the Biggie situation. And all that was, was a miscommunication but Nas just did a song to set it out, just to say how he felt. I ain’t mad like that…Nas is my homeboy. We grew up the same era. I knew he wouldn’t say nothing to try to play me out or anything. He just say what he felt at the time. Like I said, it depends on the beat. It’s how the beat roll. If that’s how he got to write it, that’s how he got to write it. When you hear this album, Cuban Linx 2, I’ma say some things, everybody’s going to be like, ‘wow.’ That’s just how it is, that’s how the game is right now. I’m not mad at all.
© 2004 Soundslam.com