(AllHipHop Features) There are tons of adjectives to describe Raekwon, but there would likely be little resistance to the native New Yorker being labeled a Hip Hop legend. As a member of the iconic Wu-Tang Clan and the creator of the certified classic album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Rae has stamped his name among the greatest emcees to ever touch a microphone.
However, The Chef is not done. Next month Raekwon returns with his 7th solo studio LP The Wild. The 16-track project is short on Wu member contributions, but Lil Wayne, CeeLo Green, Andra Day, G-Eazy, and P.U.R.E. offer featured appearances.
Raekwon recently ignited the rollout for The Wild with the G-Eazy assisted “Purple Brick Road” as well as the cut “This Is What It Comes Too.” Last week, I caught up with the ICEH20 Records head for a discussion about his new album and more. Here’s part 1 of our conversation.
[ALSO READ: A Conversation With Angie Martinez On The 2Pac Biopic, The State Of Hip Hop Media & Her Own Legacy]
AllHipHop: I wanted to start with the title The Wild. What does that title represent for you?
Raekwon: The title, The Wild, represents the times that were in and the vibe I’m getting from what I’m seeing going on in the world. And it’s me expressing my energy from the wild side. When you look at the title, it’s kind of self-explanatory.
I look at today’s industry as being a jungle. There are different rules. Me being out in the wild for so long and looking at what it is today, it’s just different. All that I’m doing is expressing myself in the greatest way to let people know that I still get busy on the mic, I can still swing around this jungle and still be the king at what I do.
I really observe the characters that play a role in this music and how they’re so funny, weird and having their own way of judging things. It’s also looking at society with this guy as our president and all the foolishness that’s going on.
Just know, that’s how I’m perceiving the world to be at this moment. It’s wild times. So I felt this title fit the criteria of what’s going on today. It wasn’t like I called it The Wild before I made the album. I called it The Wild after I made the album.
I think I did a freestyle on [Funkmaster] Flex a few years ago over Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?” beat. I think I said at that time that my next album might be called The Wild. It’s just so ironic that the next album is called The Wild.
As you can see on the cover, it’s the whole New York. It’s Time Square which we changed to Crime Square. I’m bigger than a lot of the people on there. I’m coming through as a giant, as a king. I’m coming to see what’s going on with the industry today. As you look down, you see all these different characters at the bottom. This is how I sometimes perceive what’s going on in the world today.
You see the alligator with the smile on his face. People portray that they’re good people, but in all reality, it’s a crocodile smile. The rat pointing the gun at the mole, he thinks he’s tough. But you’re not really tough because you’re not designed for the repercussions that can come, and then you fold under the pressure.
A lot of sh-t that’s going on is happening in that picture. That’s why I say it’s so many subliminals in that picture. When I sat down with the artist named Dan Lish from out of London, he asked me, “Where do you want to go?” So we had to build this whole vibe from scratch. It came out perfect. It came out exactly what I wanted it to be. That’s why I felt the title was perfect for this album.
AllHipHop: I was going to ask about the cover art. As you were talking, I was thinking about how the image perfectly depicts what you were saying about your attitude on the industry and the world.
Raekwon: And New York City not really having an identity. New York City is going through an identity crisis, not really knowing our music that created everything. Now we just seem a little back-in-time with what we want to do because we don’t really know ourselves anymore at that level.
I’m not saying there are a lot of ignorant dudes out there. You still got guys being successful, but there’s really no citizenship where it’s respected no more. It’s like each man for himself. That’s why we had New York looking kind of old and washed [on the cover art] because that’s how it looks a little bit to me today.
AllHipHop: You’ve embraced some of the younger acts that came out of New York. Like you’ve done songs with A$AP Rocky and Troy Ave. Do you feel like it’s starting to shift in a different direction or are you still concerned about where the state of New York Hip Hop is in particular?
Raekwon: Those are my young homies. They’re good friends of mine. The bottom line is that I support everybody that’s just made it from one place to another. If you can get out the ghetto and be successful, God bless you.
I just look at it as it’s all about getting in where you fit in with what’s going on today. There are some things I respect. Then there are some things that I don’t respect. I guess the thing I don’t respect is that a lot of artists are being driven off just some one hit wonder sh-t and not really making music that’s going to be timeless or be around for the next twenty years.
I was blessed to have that type of career, and it’s still going. I just want to see more artists be authentic. It ain’t just about being one-sided. Make a full body of work. Show the people you want to be here twenty years later and you want to be seen as the true artist that you are live out its course.
That’s where things become a little difficult when I look at what’s going on today from an East Coast side of things. I’m sure all over the world, everybody has their flaws. Nobody is perfect. I never said I was perfect, but I just think when you’re an artist you’re supposed to be the best at it. I guess that comes in due time when people go through their situations like anybody else.
My opinion is make money, do the right thing, but also be creative, be a little bit more true to yourself and know that at the end of the day, it takes more than just a little record or two to make you be the big guy. It’s all about that legacy. You want to put yourself in the legendary box one day. I feel like a lot of the music today is not aimed at those principles no more.
AllHipHop: I’m sure there are a lot of people that agree with you that a lot of the music now is disposable. You put in the work to create an album that’s considered a classic and people still talk about it twenty years later. You’ve done a lot in the business. What keeps driving you even though you’ve already achieved all these accomplishments? What keeps motivating you to put out music?
Raekwon: What keeps motivating me is the people. It’s just the good and the bad that comes with being an artist. People putting you on a plateau where they feel like, “Yo, you’ve done excellent work in the business. You lasted this long.”
Then there’s the other side. People think because you’ve been in the game so long you’re old, you don’t got it no more or whatever. All these things – I put in one bag and it makes me stronger, just knowing the good and the bad that’s inside that bag. It’s the challenge of thinking that some guys just get old and lose it.
But here it is. You got me that’s getting older, but still getting iller. I still feel fresh. It’s like seeing a n-gga just get home from jail and that n-gga still looks good – that mentality of feeling good about yourself.
You’re eating right, getting good rest, and doing whatever you have to do to take care of yourself. That’s the same mental picture I draw in my mind when I’m writing and being a great artist. I feel good today.
I feel like the production is up to par. It’s not me trying to be something I’m not. It’s not me jumping around and being confused on what people expect from me. It’s all about the growth. I feel like my growth span is really showing off right now in the greatest way.
AllHipHop: Going back to the album, I noticed you didn’t have as many features as your last work. Ghostface [Killah] is not even on it. Why did you decide to keep the features at a minimum this time?
Raekwon: I decided to do that because I felt like my last album, Fly International Luxurious Art, had a lot of successful people on it. It had more features than I ever had in my career on one record. So I just wanted to do something different.
Every time I give you guys an album, I want every album to be a different movie, not always the same players or the same typical joints. I wanted to really reverse that whole psychology and just go back to being an emcee. I put a few names up there that I never worked with that I felt fit the bar of what it is I’m trying to give you.
So I put Lil Wayne on a record. I put CeeLo Green on a record. I have a new artist. His name is P.U.R.E. I know he’s going to be a great guy in the business. I just wanted to go light, but I wanted to do my thing and let people know that I don’t have to lean so much on doing features.
Not having any of my Wu brothers on there was because the time that I’m in at the moment it just happened to be like that. It ain’t the fact that I didn’t want them. It’s the fact that we’ve heard a lot of records of me with my brothers on it, so I don’t feel like every record got to be with Wu members.
AllHipHop: I know you and Wayne had a song together with Q-Tip. Had you ever worked together prior to that?
Raekwon: We were on records with other people that meshed us together. But me and him never had an opportunity to work with each other like, “This is going to be a record for me and you.” I remember Wayne calling me and wanted me to be on a record.
So automatically, this is how real friends do. We trade favors. So when I got on his record, he felt like it was only right for him to get on something for me. We never worked together through the years, and I respect Wayne a lot.
He’s clever. He always pays homage. He’s a legend in my eyes. I just wanted to call him and just say, “I need you to get on this. I found something that I think you would rip. I think the world is going to be like, ‘Wow. The Chef and Wayne?’”
It sounds almost impossible to create, but that’s only to the eyes of those who don’t understand. But to me it was like, “Yo, it’s time. I just gotta give him something he would really appreciate.” The record I gave him – he went in on it. He smashed it like I knew he would.
[ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: D.R.A.M. On Pushing Positive Vibes & Unity Through His Art]
Raekwon’s The Wild is scheduled for release on March 24.
Purchase Raekwon’s music on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.
Follow Raekwon on Twitter @Raekwon and Instagram @raekwon.
Check out the tracklist for The Wild below.
1.) “The Wild” (Intro)
2.) “This Is What It Comes Too”
4.) “Skit” (Bang Head Right)
5.) “Marvin” featuring Cee-Lo Green
6.) “Can’t You See”
7.) “My Corner” featuring Lil Wayne
8.) “Skit” (F-ck You Up Card)
9.) “M & N” featuring P.U.R.E.
10.) “Visiting Hour” featuring Andra Day
11.) “Skit” (Bang Fall Down)
12.) “The Reign”
13.) “Crown Of Thorns”
14.) “Purple Brick Road” featuring G-Eazy
15.) “You Hear Me”
16.) “Bang Outro”