Even with the deep bass, high organs and west coast gangsta bravado of the early 90s captivating a nation of heads looking to ride with Tha Row, a group of grimy MCs from Staten Island or Shaolin as it was dubbed by the seminal crew embarked on a mission to prove that rap music didnt begin and end with hittin switches and making the rear view rattle. Asian influences, razor tight and versatile production coupled with a gritty and rugged raw style had listeners immersed in a living, breathing comic book with a twist of reality. The Wu-Tang Clan quickly resurrected the east coast and became the creative crew to keep an eye on.
Arguably the groups most versatile and descriptive rhyme spitting story-teller was Raekwon The Chef. Ten years and five mics later, The Chef is back with a recipe that blends a little of the old with a little of the new. The sums of the effort is The Lex Diamond Story. Read on to find out what the blunt and blunted Rae has to say about the state of Hip-Hop, Ol Dirty, the reality of another Wu album, and . . . Randy Spelling? Yep!
AllHipHop.com: In 94 you asked a rhetorical question about Heaven and Hell. More than 10 years into the game, are you still livin in the same Hell you described on Cuban Linx?
Raekwon: Hell yeah, sh*t. Strugglin is Hell. Its what you make it thats Heaven. You gonna always go through that. Its the good and the bad.
AllHipHop: Youve always balanced describing your big swingin d**k lifestyle with the grimiest tales of your struggle, described in rugged raw and vivid detail. Whats your gameplan when it comes to crafting an album with such broad themes?
Rae: I stay vivid and I stay talkin about reality. You have to deal with the real world, and Im gonna be that dude thats always gonna be conscious of what Im talkin about and basically give you me. This is what everybody chose when they chose me. At the end of the day, anything I do is gonna fall on that level. I make movies. I call these albums volumes because it aint just one or two songs I slap up there. I try to give you a vibe, a movement and that puts me in another category because I represent strong rap. Im not mainstream. Im from the gutter with it.
AllHipHop: Not every head can ride to your lyrics and music in todays environment of overtly flossin lyrics with little substance, do you feel your words are going to fall on deaf ears or at least those with a short attention span?
Rae: Sh*t, if real niggas know real music then they know Rae keepin it where its supposed to be. Right now Hip-Hop is sad because its so categorized to be so glamorous all the time and real Hip-Hop is real sh*t. I wanted to go back to that form of rhymin because I never left that form of rhymin. Basically anything I do is to be more conscious of what Im talkin about and give mutha fu**ers some knowledge. See, people dont wanna hear the truth, they wanna party all the time and I understand that but at the same time for every Heaven theres a Hell and the Hell is dealin with all the fake sh*t. The Heaven is where we tryin to get to and give it the purity that it needs to be given. And me being an artist Im tryin to deliver all worlds. Im that type of MC. I can get grimy and talk about the ways of the world, but at the same time I can party too. And I dont feel everything is balanced. People wanted this right here and I feel this is a great album. I dont care what any magazine writes, they can eat a dick if they dont believe its a good record. For me its a beautiful record and its me basically not movin from where I came from. Its real raps. This is Raekwon. Food for thought, the kid, the Chef. The words symbolize me and I think Im doin a pretty good job of that. I tend not to worry or see if they dont accept it or reject it because theres a lot of people that think like me, too.
AHH: Whats your favorite record on the album?
Rae: The Hood is one of my favorites. Its basically me droppin jewels and talkin real grown. If people dont respect the positivity in the music then how much does that person know music? Ive been getting a lot of bad write-ups about The Hood and its just so sad to me that people wont take time to listen to it and say hes comin with a message. What? That makes me soft because Im tryin to be smarter? Some people are feelin it, but some arent. Im talkin about the place where Im from and I describe the place as a person. Anybody that came from my struggle and dealin with the poverty and sellin crack and being in that atmosphere should know that its Raekwon the man and hes just tryin to big it up. Im just bein myself and people dont get it that easy.
AllHipHop: Describe how your style has evolved over the years, and not just since when we last heard you, but from the early days of the Wu as well.
Rae: I definitely changed as an artist because I got better and I know how to put words in better perspective and I wrote over 100 rhymes. I never lost it and I dont plan on losin it. Its always gonna be on my brain and overall Im skilled out. I am literally one of the best alive right now. Nobody can take me out lyrically and givin lyrics is like givin bread to orphans and I got loaves of bread. When you run across real rappers we are the ones that make generations become what they are.
AllHipHop: What other cats in the game do you ride to and respect?
Rae: I like more of the conscious cats. I like Mobb Deep, CNN, Fat Joe people that talk about stuff and go through phases. Dudes that can really rhyme, I really look up to the guys who make it different every time for you.