Caught Up In The Game
In late 2006, Wu-Tang Clan founding member Raekwon reportedly signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, adding to the anticipation for his long-delayed fourth solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. With the good doctor at the helm, The Chef’s sequel appeared to be on the right path to living up to his 1995 classic debut. Word of RZA and the late great J Dilla contributing beats as well added to the buzz. But almost a year later, there’s still no sign of the album, which some have said has been complete for months. After two disappointing LPs—1999’s Immobilarity and 2003’s The Lex Diamond Story—the success of his next project could play a major role in Rae’s career.
Before Cuban Linx II hits stores, Rae will work with his Wu-Tang brother once again on Wu’s next reunion LP, The 8 Diagrams, which is slotted for a November release. XXLMag.com caught up with Lex Diamonds during the West Coast leg of the Rock the Bells tour to get the lowdown on what’s been holding up the next purple tape, the science behind The 8 Diagrams and his relationship with Ghostface.
What’s the current status of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II?
I’m just leanin’ right now. I gotta feel comfortable with whatever distribution place I’m gonna put it out on. I gotta feel that [my] house is a home, and not feel like I’m just giving it to some muthafuckas who really don’t understand it. I really worked hard on it and I wanna have the best push that I can have. It’s like, right now, these companies tryin’ to puppet a nigga to make a nigga believe or do what they feel is real. I know, in all reality, this right here is a different level of respect. When you think of this record, you think of Scarface 2. Therefore, it has to get treated with that kinda power. You just can’t take my record and say, “Yo, we’re going to throw it out in three months,” and nobody knows it’s coming. I’m not allowing that on such a classic project. I’m not selling myself short for nothin’. I ain’t asking to get my dick sucked. I’m asking a nigga to just treat me accordingly and respect what I’m dealing with. If you coming up with all these excuses and acting like it’s a new day and all this shit, and I gotta suck dick? Nah, my mouth is too little to suck dick, pa.
So Aftermath/Interscope Records isn’t giving you creative control?
Like I said, we ain’t them type of rappers where a nigga can control what we’re dealing with. We gonna work as a team, but I don’t got no bosses that’s gon’ tell me how this record needs to be made. Before I give this shit to a sucker ass label, I’ll throw this shit out on the Internet and tell niggas, “Yo, that’s yours, man.” If I feel like niggas is playing me, I’ll throw that shit out on my own, man. This one is for the people. It ain’t for no bullshit, Hollywood purposes. I’m not sucking my own dick. I’m just recognizing the power that I got on this record.
If the product is so dope, what’s the problem in getting it out on the streets?
I don’t even get caught up in it like that. It ain’t nobody’s problem. I guess it ain’t pop off at the moment ’cause [Dr.] Dre is busy. And then I look [at] the reality of that [and] it’s like, if a nigga is too busy to stop and see what I’m dealing [with], how much does it really mean to a nigga? I don’t give a fuck how busy you is. If we gon’ work on something that people lookin’ at as a classic, we gotta respect each other’s movements. I’m a big fan of Dre, but sometimes I may get spooked ’cause it’s like, yo, you doin’ a lot of shit my nigga. So that’s why that ain’t really kick off at the moment we wanted it to. At the end of the day, I’m a big Dre fan, Dre is a big Rae fan, [but] we both have to feel comfortable. We don’t wanna fuck our friendship up [by] doing wack business. It’s about communication.
Do you regret signing with Aftermath, then?
Nah, I don’t regret [it]. I never got to the point… a lot of shit was based on hype. We was working the paperwork out, but I never signed nothin’ because I gotta feel real good about what we’re dealing with. It was feeling good for a second, but it gotta feel real good for me to sign it, baby.
What if you guys can’t resolve this issue? Is there a breaking point where you’ll just put it out on your own?
My breaking point is definitely [next] summer. I was going to do it last year, but the timing wasn’t right. We had to get a lot of shit cleared and all that. [But] I don’t ever wanna rush something and just deal with it ’cause people is rushing me. That’s like somebody is rushing you to run out there and give somebody some crack, and the next thing you know, it’s hot outside and you get bagged. Like, yo, I gotta feel comfortable but at the same time, serve the people. Nigga been in the game too long to let a muthafucka talk him out of what he knows is real. When I came in this shit, I was dictating what I knew. Now you trying to dictate it for me? And you talkin’ some other shit? It don’t add up, baby. I’m a G for real. That G stands for general. I’m not no fuckin’ goofball. [So] it’s gonna strike in the summertime [of ’08] by hook or by crook. If it’s on a label, it’s on a label. If it comes out through the Internet, you’re gonna have it. So I ain’t even worried about it.
Let’s talk about the new Wu-Tang Clan album, The 8 Diagrams. You guys have been playing some of the new tracks during your European tour, specifically the ODB tribute. Was it real emotional for you all to record that song?
In my eyes, we should have been put [that song] out around the time we was mourning. But RZA, he decided to put it on the [album]. It’s a renaissance record. It ain’t necessarily trying to be on a sad note. This is more like a real memorial tribute to him. Brothers speaking they mind, saying, “[We] miss you Russell.” ’Cause now it’s about who he really is. Before all of that other shit, his old earth birthed him as Russell. So you might have a brother like Inspectah Deck say something in a rhyme like, “I miss you Russell/Hope you forgive me, Dirty.” Just speaking from the heart, man. It’s well written. The record is going to be on the Wu album as a bonus cut. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be doing it this long like this. He had a lot to do with our success. I don’t give a fuck how wild he was. I don’t even wanna get all crazy over this shit right now. Fuck around and have me start tearing out this bitch. Overall, the record is something that we wanted to let the world know how we felt about him. The beat is crazy and it’s something that’s going to make you vibe, open your mind up and remember him.
The diehard fans were worried that Ghostface wasn’t going to be heavily involved in the Wu album. Do you think people blew that out of proportion?
People make it bigger than what it is. Ghost already knows what he gotta do because that’s his backbone. Sometimes shit probably doesn’t get the chance to pan out ’cause everybody got different things they dealing with. But it’s never intentional not to get on a Wu record. Come on, I could be mad busy with other shit, but to just act like I’m not getting on a Wu-Tang album, that’s just pure dumb shit to me. So I think a lot of people misunderstood the perception of whatever was going on at the time when Ghost wasn’t available. But he knows better. He knows what he gotta do. We all recognize that with whatever we do collectively, it’s for the strength of the people.
Is it frustrating that the fans always see you and Ghost as one unit and expect you two to constantly collaborate?
Yeah, [’cause] when we came into this business, we told you we all had something different to offer. So as far as people loving what they love, hey, it’s all real. We respect that, but at the end of the day, he’s a grown man [and] I’m a grown man. When it’s time to do other things outside of doing work with one another, that’s just what it is. People gotta get it through their head and know that this is what niggas already said from the door it was going to be. I love the fact of rhyming with my brother, but hey, if it don’t happen, it don’t happen. The show still goes on, man. We wanna be able to get a lil’ bit of Rae and Ghost together. Then, get a lil’ bit of Rae, then a lil’ bit of Ghost. That’s three fucking pieces of meals right there. So why not eat it? You ain’t always gotta eat marble cake. Eat a fuckin’ lemon cake or a pineapple cake and cool out. But that’s to the diehards that really don’t get it. All you doing is getting different elements. Take it for what it is. We don’t wanna bore y’all niggas out. So if you’re a real fan, don’t deal with favoritism, just deal with the reality of it.