Even with the deep bass, high organs and west coast gangsta bravado of the early ‘90’s 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 didn’t 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 group’s 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. It’s what you make it that’s Heaven. You gonna always go through that. It’s the good and the bad.
AllHipHop: You’ve always balanced describing your big swingin’ d**k lifestyle with the grimiest tales of your struggle, described in rugged raw and vivid detail. What’s 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 I’m gonna be that dude that’s always gonna be conscious of what I’m 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 ain’t 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. I’m not mainstream. I’m from the gutter with it.
AllHipHop: Not every head can ride to your lyrics and music – in today’s 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 n##### know real music then they know Rae keepin’ it where it’s supposed to be. Right now Hip-Hop is sad because it’s 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 I’m talkin’ about and give m#### fu**ers some knowledge. See, people don’t wanna hear the truth, they wanna party all the time and I understand that – but at the same time for every Heaven there’s 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 I’m tryin’ to deliver all worlds. I’m 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 don’t feel everything is balanced. People wanted this right here and I feel this is a great album. I don’t care what any magazine writes, they can e######### if they don’t believe it’s a good record. For me it’s a beautiful record and it’s me basically not movin’ from where I came from. It’s real raps. This is Raekwon. Food for thought, the kid, the Chef. The words symbolize me and I think I’m doin’ a pretty good job of that. I tend not to worry or see if they don’t accept it or reject it because there’s a lot of people that think like me, too.
AHH: What’s your favorite record on the album?
Rae: The Hood is one of my favorites. It’s basically me droppin’ jewels and talkin’ real grown. If people don’t respect the positivity in the music then how much does that person know music? I’ve been getting a lot of bad write-ups about “The Hood” and it’s just so sad to me that people won’t take time to listen to it and say “he’s comin’ with a message”. What? That makes me soft because I’m tryin’ to be smarter? Some people are feelin’ it, but some aren’t. I’m talkin’ about the place where I’m 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 it’s Raekwon the man and he’s just tryin’ to big it up. I’m just bein’ myself and people don’t 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 don’t plan on losin’ it. It’s always gonna be on my brain and overall I’m 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.