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.

XXL: Right.

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?

Raekwon: [Laughs]

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

  • Pierzy

    Rae is that dude. Cuban Linx is amazing. Ice Water? Not so much.

    • EReal

      Truth!

  • http://pimpinpens.blogspot.com enzo

    Shallah Raekwon is a legend true indeed. Ice Water is a little suspect.

  • Azhar

    cant wait for the CBL part 2…i gotta good feeling…roll up

  • RL

    This interview is very vague and it seems that the obstacles Rae encountered while trying to complete this album were massive. I am looking forward to hearing this album. Is there a projected release date?

    • BigDan!

      August 11 in the States.

      May have to import a copy if they are sluggish with it in Aus.

  • latino heat

    this isn’t a big surprise. he said in a interview with XXL.com back in 2006 that he was never officially signed to Aftermath so this isn’t really news. i also remember from that interview that he said that if OB4CL2 wasn’t out by the following summer that he was gonna put it out on the internet for free. anybody else remember that?

    • DV8

      lol, yeah I remember but that was before the recession kicked in full strength. Dude gotta get paid especially since he isnt a top selling artist. Every penny counts.

  • http://www.myspace.com/fastlifearchitects miles archer

    I wish he’d call this album something else… anybody who knows anything knows “Ironman” is the real sequel to “Cuban Linx”…

    Wu-Tang Forever

    Miles Archer

    • $ykotic

      You just scored 100 points Miles.

      I actually put Ironman before Cuban Linx.

      Let’s go because I have the day off. DEBATE…

  • JAy

    peace to Rae but my dude jus doesnt have it anymore.. listen to that ill criminology off the original and listen 2 damn near every fuckin song he came out wit recently.. its like that weird ass accent eminem uses… rae raps like he layin down sleep and shyt.. tha lyrics are definately there but DAMN no energy or passion what so ever like the old rae.. i cant bear to hear him next to ghost anymore.. its like ghost has super energy/passion and this nigga rae is sleep rappin.. i kno i aint the only one who noticed that…

  • BeerGangsta

    Do your thing Rae! 1 thing i like about LA. No telling who you see that day. I can’t wait until I move out there. RZA and Dre beat battling. I believe that shit really happen. Dre don’t make his own beats. So RZA probably came close of winning. Dre probably took him on out. Love LA! Go and get the Lakers shirts,hats or anything else. 15 Championship!

    • BeerGangsta

      The reason they did not bring the Cameras to the Studio. They did not won’t nobody see that beat battle between RZA and Dre. One lost One won. If one of them get mad they bring that shit up.

      • $ykotic

        I never heard of that. No hatred but show and prove that.

  • Worley

    “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.”

    For real though. I would prefer Rae let the sh*t season and drop another classic. You, RZA and Ghost put the BS to the side. That first Cuban Linx held me down damn near 15 years at this point. Another year or two won’t hurt. Just make sure y’all get it right.

  • anutha_level

    gawt damn OG bobby b! i could see that dude bein REAL cool and down to earth, rae too.

  • Sleepy Wonder

    This Interview Made My Day. It’s Good To Know That He Really Put His Time And Effort Into This Project, And As A Long Time Fan I Appreciate That. So Far “The New Wu” And “The G-Hide” Have Been Constantly Getting Play On My iPod, Shit Is Knockin. He Should Release It In Purple Jewel Cases.

    OB4CL2: August 11, 2009

  • SuvioBlue

    Rae is my fav out the Wu, ill agree ironman was a better album but, thass bcuz it had a classic to model itself after, also Cappadonna came along and back then that nigga Cap was a top spitter!

  • ALMIGHTYCVL

    NIGGAS GIVE AND WU TANG TOO MUCH CREDIT. ONCE YOU LEAVE THE EAST COAST WU DON’T GET THAT MUCH AIRPLAY EXEPT FOR CREAM. RAE BE SAYING ANYTHING SOMETIME JUST TO RHYME AND I KNOW ABOUT THE 5% NATION SO THAT’S NOT WHAT IM TALKIN ABOUT

    • Arcey

      but then again the world keeps playin’ some Wu-Tang!
      Their movement is way bigger than the U.S.A. – something that lots of other cats can’t accomplish.
      THEY DESERVE ALL THE CREDIT THEY GET.
      YOU already know bout 5% teaching? well good for you but somebody else might not be aware of it so they might reach these people.
      Wu-Tang ain’t as big as they used to be but these niggas always showed love to all parts of America – N.E.W.S. & the rest of the world back when NY niggas were all about the tri-state area.

      BTW: I feel that Wu-Tang, as a group, lost their edge since ODB passed. I feel like he was kinda like the heart & soul of the group even before the RZA

  • ALMIGHTYCVL

    I MADE SOME TYPOS BUT YALL GET MY POINT….ALLSWELL

  • BGZ

    Fuck a Dr. Dre…

  • bigtek_LBC

    Wu-tang til my hearts stops son I aint even from da east coast iam from long beach dude but I always, since I could remember back in da day when we all rocked timbos with da baggy jeans with da fly wu hoddies banging 36 chambers remember those times cause I do better then this new swagga shit u guys be rocking now days. REAL HIP HOP JUNKIES know what I mean much luv rea keep doing what u do best stay above it all on some fly shit. WU-TANG forever homie no if or butts WHAT!!!! #1 FAN BIGTEK LBC

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