Raekwon: The Food

With fans and rappers alike complaining about how New York has lost its stronghold over the game, it seems like there’s no better time to drop a follow-up to a classic that helped define an era long-gone. Raekwon is about take it there going full circle to create Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 and is fully aware of what’s riding on this decision. Due for a spring release, Rae says it’s 97% done—with 103% to put on top of it—and will help re-vamp the Wu-Tang Movement.

While the jury’s still out as to whether Dr. Dre or Ghostface will contribute, Rae has his reasons for maintaining secrets. Raekwon tells AllHipHop.com about the album-in-the-making, as well as his reaction to the last two, ill received works. Raekwon may be a man without rhyme books, but he’s got lots of thoughts.You were warned the first time around that the Chef would be cooking up all types of marvelous things …

AllHipHop.com: Where’d you get the idea to come out with [Only Built 4 Cuban Linx as] a purple tape? I thought it was a defect when I got mine.

Raekwon: Only because being that we from the block, we was finagling in certain situations where the things that you was dealing with had to be separated from what everybody else was dealing with. I always ran with that as one of my traits in anything I do to separate myself from others. Back when we used to sling and do what we do, we would have certain color caps [to viles]. Certain color caps resembled certain people that were doing s**t different than everybody else. It’s like, “Yo, this is our color. Anybody step on this color, you got an issue at that time.” So I decided with my music, this is my world—this is my thing and I wanna put a color on it just so everybody will know. That’s how the purple tape even came in existence. I think I had wanted a red one at first and then I thought how somebody else had did it already. I made it like that specifically….

AllHipHop.com: I don’t think tapes are still made now so are you going to do something similar with Cuban Linx 2, even though it’s probably going to only be on CD?

Raekwon: We definitely want to keep it in the same formula, the same brand-style of it, because people respected that. But now, like you said, nobody don’t really handle tapes—I don’t even think they make tapes no more. So, trust me—if they made tapes, we would do it again. But I’m really shooting for the CD to be purple because this is a traditional thing.

AllHipHop.com: There was something of a storyline in Linx, especially in the beginning with you and Ghost trying to get out of the game after one last run. Is there going to be anything like that this time?

Raekwon: When we had did that, we did that only according to how we were rhyming at that time. A storyline just came in like that because we like to talk on our albums, we like to make people laugh. It was just showing you some hustling n***as with big dreams but they just ain’t got no money yet. This one would definitely fit that criterion to a degree, but at the same time, now we on. The album is definitely gonna have that feeling and that talk that everybody like to hear.

AllHipHop.com: Yeah, the Wu interludes are infamous.

Raekwon: When you listen to Wu albums, we always gotta have some kind of funny s**t on there because to me that makes an album. See, one thing people gotta remember too is that we make albums. We don’t just put ten songs together—we try to make you throw the CD in and don’t touch that motherf**er for the next hour and a half.

AllHipHop.com: There’s been speculation as to whether Ghost is going to be on the album like how he was before?

Raekwon: That right there, I wanna surprise people. We’re not gonna rewrite the whole me and Ghost theory. But Ghost will be on the project, though. He already put his word, and he takes it very seriously. We don’t know what’s going to happen right now. I ain’t gonna sit here and say yeah he’s gonna be all over it. And I ain’t gonna say that he’s not gonna be on it. I know what it is, but I want y’all to still be in suspense. It’s like going to the movies; you can’t tell everybody everything.

AllHipHop.com: non-Wu guests?

Raekwon: I may have one special guest, or if not one, I’ll say two and we outta there. On the last one it was just Nas on it, so on this one it may be somebody else that we all really love and respect like that. And it might be somebody that you would never think, either. He might not even be from New York. All I’m saying is that I can’t bite off but too much on this album.

AllHipHop.com: It’s also good timing because people in New York are hungering for the spot back in Hip-Hop.

Raekwon: This is the season for the hard s**t. Hip-Hop seems like it’s going back in that direction—at least New York Hip-Hop. New York is the backbone of Hip-Hop. We the rough edge, the underworld of the conceptual ideas and things that go on in Hip-Hop.

AllHipHop.com: So, people have been waiting for this like you said, but now what about the pressure that comes with trying to do a Part 2 to such a classic album?

Raekwon: I mean, to me, it’s nothing. I just look at it like this: “Rae, you at your best with your rhyming game, you got a good ear for music, for beats and all that, so just knit it as if you was a sewer and you was sewing. The bottom line is to just tear it up.” I got a lot of fans that believe in me and know what I do, so I really try not to sit there and worry about if it’s gonna be better or if it’s gonna be worse [than Cuban Linx].

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AllHipHop.com: Where do you get ideas of rhymes? Are you in the booth coming up with stuff or are you all the time just writing down…

Raekwon: No. See, one thing about me, the kind of MC that I am, I’m more or less an MC who vibes off of feeling and music. I’m not the type of MC that just be sitting around writing all day and having stacks of books. Raekwon the Chef never ever owned a [rhyme] book! If anything I owned a bunch of papers or folders, but I’ll write on anything—paper cups, plastic plates, pizza boxes—anything just to get it out real quick. I never owned a book, so I think that was one my gifts. Just to do it like that.

AllHipHop.com: There is a whole specific language, a hierarchy, and a movement to the Wu-Tang Clan. That seems similar to what the Diplomats are doing. However, you guys seemed grounded on the 5 Percent knowledge…

Raekwon: Everybody in the game got a piece of something that we said or that we did, and that’s respect. I got a lot of respect for a lot of teams that play the field, ‘cause it came from the field. By us having the 5% knowledge that we have, people should have took more of that into consideration. When we come across positive or come across emotional in our rhymes, it’s not because we tried to go somewhere else; it’s just because this is what our duty is supposed to be. You listen to a lot of dudes, and all they talk about is guns and coke and your kids is listening to that. At least out of the Wu, you could get that—cause we know that, we been there and done that—but at the same time, we could give you more. I think a lot of people weren’t ready to accept somebody constantly telling them, “I’m teaching you.”

AllHipHop.com: The Internet and bloggers play a major role in criticism and reacting to albums. What’s your opinion on the advancement?

Raekwon: The internet is a killer, too. If you sit there and let that control you… oh, man—it’ll f**k you over. When I did my album, Immobilarity, that was the first time I had the heart to do an album alone. I never did an album before; I was always team-playing and being a soldier and standing in line. So when I did that, I felt good about the album, I felt like as a real dude and as a consumer and a critic, I don’t feel I let anybody down. I was rhyming on there. The beats wasn’t all RZA, but that don’t mean that the beat wasn’t sounding good. When you deal with certain dudes in the business, [it ’s only natural] you look for more growth out of them. Like in my hood, n***as say they dion’t really like Nas’ [Street’s Disciple], but they like Nas. So they could respect it, but they didn’t necessarily have to like it. I have dudes come up to me like, “Yo, they slept on Lex Diamond, [because it] ain’t get no marketing.” And it’s cool, but it makes you think about where Hip-Hop is headed.

AllHipHop.com: Where is that?

Raekwon: I think it will come around and be a time where everybody start looking at each individual for what it is. It’s just about having the right people really understanding what the verse is about. You got a younger generation that don’t know nothing about what you did. All you know is you keep hearing a bunch of people talking about Cuban Linx this and next thing you know, they wanna be biased of whatever else you may have to offer.

AllHipHop.com: Did you take the criticism to heart, that you received on Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story?

Raekwon: I ain’t gonna front - I was a little discouraged at the fact that nobody didn’t understand the fact that Rae did it on his own this time. But on the same note, you can never please everybody. I get a lot of love in the street. I try to keep a balance in my own head. But what does hurt me is when people say, “Yo, I never heard it.” How you ain’t hear it? If you a big fan of me… All you can do is look at that individual for what he’s done and give him the gratification he deserves, when it’s time to give it to him.

AllHipHop.com: That moment is projected to arrive with Cuban Linx 2. How do you feel about the potential impact?

Raekwon: I feel like it’s gonna bring dudes to a turning level of their careers. I think sometimes when we do get together and we work on something that’s such a high velocity of what people want, it kind of makes us stronger, better to knock it out. But when we do it, we do it with ease; it’s nothing to it, it’s just really more or less about that production. When you playing with a person like RZA, you gotta know everything about RZA before you even try to act like you accept what he’s doing, or don’t accept it. You gotta know the kind of producer he is; he’s not your Kanye, he’s not your Premier, he’s RZA. He’s really the Abbott. We named him the Abbott for a reason because his style—his s**t is so much advanced on music and just sound period, [and that] one of his mentors is Marley Marl.

AllHipHop.com: So Marley influenced RZA. Who would you say influenced you?

Raekwon: I grew up in the 80s listening to all that and you had cats like Rakim, Slick Rick and Kane…Biz, G Rap, even Kurtis Blow to a degree with some of the things he was saying and doing back then.