FEATURE: Raekwon, Top Chef
As one of the original members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon is a respected vet that has been putting in work for over 15 years. While he’s been out of the spotlight for a minute, the invigorated lyricist has been plotting a comeback on the low, recording countless guest appearances and mixtape joints in preparation for the long delayed sequel to his classic solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. XXLMag.com recently had the chance to chop it up with the Chef to speak about his highly anticipated disc, the failed Aftermath deal, his new situation at EMI as well as his friendship with Bobby Brown.
XXLMag.com: Why do you think it’s taking so long for the album to actually get released?
Raekwon: Well, number one, I never wanted to rush any project that I make at this capacity of anticipation. It’s like when you sit here and you think about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the first one, the formula was so crazy that I had to really make sure that we capture the same kind of elements that we had in the first one. Don’t get me wrong, you could never make something that you already made and duplicate it the same. All you can do is really just grow from the first one and add on to the next one. So that’s what I did and while I was chillin’ at the same token, you know I was doing a lot of touring, touring the world. I’m talking about not just in America but really just hitting up these cities and shit and at the same token, production was very important to me on this project.
Raekwon: So I didn’t wanna just rush it. You know Rza was being mad busy, you know a couple of the Clan dudes was running around doing what they was doing and at the same token I didn’t have a deal for like two years you know what I mean, cause I wanted to get off of, I wanted to get off of Motown because I feel like they wasn’t really pushing me the way I needed to. So time flew, I still was out there doing my one two but at the same token you know I just wanted to come with the correct formula and beats that I had, I wanted to be a little bit more upgraded. On top of that I had to find another situation that I was comfortable with as a new home. I feel like I been in the game a little bit too long to be just settling for anything. I knew that in my heart I wasn’t gonna do that cause I made a strong album. I felt like it’s an all-star cast on it and I think that any label that I was gonna approach at the time, they had to respect that and if they didn’t respect that my spider senses started tingling, and I started feeling like, “Yo, you know what, these niggas is full of shit.” I know my value, B, so at the end of the day, I just had to make sure that I was correct with what I wanted to be at and I had to really figure all that shit out cause I’m not a ringtone artist. You know the players changed in the game. A lot of people try to just sit there and talk bullshit to you and think that you supposed to just settle for anything. I never been that kind of dude.
XXL: Why did you actually decide to go with EMI in the long run?
Raekwon: I’m making more money on the back end and at the same time I get the control. I get to own my masters and me being in the game so long I feel like that should be due to me. I feel like as an artist you supposed to recognize your value and recognize your worth and take that for what it is, and that’s what I did. I didn’t want to come in and just actually give somebody the opportunity to own my shit and treat me like a new young rapper. You can’t jerk me like that, B. I already been through my processes of getting jerked before.
XXL: So what happened with Aftermath? Where you actually ever signed to Aftermath or were you guys were just in talks?
Raekwon: The Aftermath thing was definitely something that people wanted to go down, I wanted to go down as well. We never inked the situation and we was going back and forth. From what I knew is that Dre’s time wasn’t really going to be there for me to really get what I needed to get out of him. So right then and there I knew that it was going to be a problem and being that he had so much to do and then you know the terms of agreement wasn’t coming together as far as from his side. It wasn’t actually him that was really making that call. It was people above him that was really telling him like, “Yo you got to do this first.”
XXL: So you were able to get a couple of Dre beats for the album right?
Raekwon: Yeah, Yeah.
XXL: How were you able to hold on to the Dre Beats even though the situation didn’t work out? Was it because of the mutual respect you guys have for each other?
Raekwon: Absolutely and then on top of that, a nigga word is his word. Once you give a man your word, that’s all. We come from the streets, so if you say you gonna do something, do it or if you don’t do it you looking like a corny nigga because you gave your word, so at the end of the day that’s how I look at a man. So at the end of the day that’s how we was able to continue to still have that respect for one another and that’s where we kept it at right there. It’s like Dre was definitely excited to work with me. He was like ‘Yo, I’m a big fan of you guys, I’m a big fan of you Chef and it’s an honor to be on your record and if we don’t come across as being label partners or business men on that level I still want to be here to support your movement.” This came out his mouth. So at the end of the day, he’s a fan of me, I’m a fan of him, we both legends, we both did so much for the game so the feelings became mutual and that’s how we played.
XXL: Rumor has it that there was a studio session with you, Dre, and Rza. Dre was in one room and Rza was in studio B or whatever and they were both competing with each other. Is that true?
XXL: Did that happen? Cause that is one legendary day in hip-hop?
Raekwon: We was all in the studio together. We was definitely in the studio gettin’ it in, but I don’t know what the hell is going through the both of their minds because I’m sitting amongst greatness, so at the end of the day I just want shit to be right.
XXL: So that happened?
Raekwon: We definitely was in the studio, we came over to Dre’s studio in Hollywood, in LA. We was up in [there] gettin’ it in or whatever. Dre was working on a couple of things as well as working with us and you know Rza lives in LA so it was only right we all come to the table and at least test the waters with each other. But it was never a competition thing like Dre’s over gettin’ it in and RZA is over here gettin’ in, it wasn’t like that. I’m ain’t gonna even lie like that. It was more less an orientation production connection going on.
XXL: You guys didn’t bring the video cameras in the studio that day?
Raekwon: Nah my nigga. Sometimes that takes away from the element of work and I didn’t want to come in and be on that type of shit. I just wanted to come in and work. It was actually my first time actually sitting down with the brother Dre. When you first meet a nigga you don’t want to be too much overwhelmed with all the other shit. You just want to show the nigga you a genuine dude. I kinda felt that he was a genuine dude so much that we had linked up.
XXL: I know at the show you did with Alchemist, Bobby Brown showed up. What was that all about? We saw the pictures and we were dying in the office, we couldn’t believe it.
Raekwon: [Laughs] Yo, you stupid yo! That nigga Bobby was in my ear like “I don’t want to get on, I don’t want to get on;” next thing you know when his verse come on he start singing. We start dying laughing. We just had some fun, you know? Bobby is a good friend of mine; I met him out there in LA and he real genuine. I’m a big fan of his and he a big fan of mine so it was when it was time to [get to] the show I just called him and said “Yo my nigga, come through.” So he just really came though on the humble on some, “Yo, nigga I’m in the building.” That was funny to me right there, I had fun. – Jesse Gissen