Essay About Raekwon the Chef: Serving Musical Crack to All the Fiendy Childrens
Raekwon – The Best Rap Crack Money Can Buy
by Addi “Mindbender” Stewart
Today, history is officially made. “Only Built For Cuban Linx Part 2” is available to the world. It’s been 14 years in the making, a lifetime and a half in hip hop chronology. But the righteous ones live forever in music, and Shallah Raekwon is nothing short of an Older God and Grandmaster MC in these martial/language arts. Fuck the new jacks who don’t know the name brand or game plan. And while you’re at it, fuck all the bullshit that has accumulated in rap culture that people talk about, which essentially has nothing to do with the quality of words, thoughts and visions in an MC’s mind. All that matters is that which helps them manifest destiny’s masterpiece. Some will, some never will come close. Carrying on tradition is the ultimate immortality, and Louis Rich Diamonds is still the motherfucker not to fuck with (ask that former Def Jam rapper who shall remain nameless). Above and beyond all the motherfuckin’ ruckus in modern day rap, peace to everything else the eternally amazing Wu-Tang Clan collective has done, and will continue do. But let it be known: this particular CD is truly special beyond explanation. Considering the cinematic magic of the first ‘Cuban Linx’ album severely influenced more MCs, producers, crimies, drug dealers and bank robbers than almost any album in hip hop history, the fact that this one is now officially done, and ready for the world, and not another one of the infamously mythological unfinished rap fantasies of the Wu-Tang Clan, is nothing short of a miracle.
I have the purple tape. I was there in ’95 when Raekwon released the first album. I remember spending the summer playing it back and forth, from the “Can It Be That It Was All So Simple” remix on side A, to the “Heaven and Hell remix” at the end of side B. Over. And over. And over. (Whatchu know about flipping over cassettes? Auto-reverse? Sheeeit. Do the knowledge, God.) I remember them days. Like ODB said about the ’36 Chambers’ sessions, I don’t remember them very well, due to the all the drugs and alcohol ingested, but I remember them. And I’m glad I’m alive to see one of the most anticipated album sequels of all time finally be released to the world. Motherfuckers today need to understand the levels, the chambers, the dimensions and the depths of this artform, and stop fucking around too much. But if they don’t get it, like Raekwon says: fuck ‘em. Your enormous loss, fool. Go play that ringtone hipster rap bullshit and pretend it’s classic material. In two years, when that trend is played the fuck out, you might be ready for this hellafied real and creative martial arts Mafioso rap Shaolin Island genius shit. But if not, it’s okay, Raekwon already knows it’s not for all of you. This sequel was only built for Cuban Linx niggas.
Quick fast, we reflect like the sky be blue, true: Wu-Tang saga continue.
Pop in that purple disc, and enjoy this meeting of the minds.
Mindbender: I saw that thing you did for Caribana weekend, just bigging up the City of Toronto, a lot of people don’t know but some do. What have you seen over the years as you have come here?
Raekwon: I definitely see a community that is like out to grow. People is out here really trying to get their life together and make moves and maneuver for better, you know what I mean? It reminds me of home. One thing I learned about out here, is that you can go to many different parts of Canada and not realize how big it is. But everywhere you go, you got a different place that looks like where I’m from, which is New York. You got spots that look like Chicago out here, that look like L.A. out here. Different places, so that’s what I see out here. The environment is almost identical.
Mindbender: Some cats gotta realize that. Cause they don’t know how good they got it here.
Raekwon: You know, at the end of the day, people is just oblivious to where they have never been. So when you think of Canada, you think of a real strict, strict strict place that may be hard for everybody to get in, depending if you got a criminal record or whatever. But at the end of the day, it’s the same world. The same poverty life, the same strive for perfection, everything.
Mindbender: Hey, do you know if Ghostface will ever be able to make it here? I heard he had a warrant and it breaks my heart, but I know they fuck with Wu trying to get in.
Raekwon: Yeah, I did hear the same thing that he did have a warrant. But you know, at the end of the day he gonna find a way how to get in here and make it happen, so all we can do is just hope they let him in. Sometimes, it depends who you meet up here. But they will let him in eventually, word. I believe they will let him in.
Mindbender: So, let’s talk about the album, cause I have a purple cassette. I been riding with the Wu most of my life. It means a lot for me to see the day where the sequel to Cuban Linx is finally coming true. This is a major event in hip hop history, forget these new school kids who don’t know how big this moment is. The creation process… you put out mixtapes, you been doing nuff songs. How did you choose the album?
Raekwon: Well, you know, first and foremost, I had a lot of stuff that I was holding on to, nah mean. Where I wasn’t really allowed to touch them things cause I knew them was for particular reasons. But I made sure I kept the powerful shit over here and keep the semi-shit over there you know. One thing about me is, with the album, I wanted to come with a powerful beat selection. That’s my thing, I’m the type of MCs that really looks at beats as something important to help the people understand where I want to go with it. and we wanted this shit to just be super hard. So I made sure of that, that we kept it in the street. Made sure we gave y’all the signature storytelling that everybody really love me for, and its just production, man. When you’re sitting around a whole team of producers that want you to win and you know what direction you want to go in as far as taking it back to make a person reminisce and still move forward, it was almost like a gift and a curse situation. Me wanting to go back, but still trying to move forward and give you some kind of production that is different from a lot of cats tho, so. I really think we did a good job and met that criteria right there.
Mindbender: I like how you said that at the concert: fuck the first week sales. Fuck that bullshit. Back in 95, nobody gave a fuck about the first week sales.
Raekwon: Yeah. Yeah.
Mindbender: It was ‘Does your shit last forever, or not?’
Mindbender: Nowadays, even a legend like you, nobody can get around it. Soundscan, is it getting played here or there… what is your strategy in not giving a fuck, but still having to deal with first week sales, and new kids not understanding the importance of Wu and shit?
Raekwon: I mean, you know, this album is more or less for the cats that really know where it came from, and less for the new jacks. Like I said, for me, when I think of me making an album, everybody from ‘95 is the same people from 2009 that’s fiending for it, so this album is carved out for them. Hopefully the young G’s or whatever will be able to catch on sooner or later and say “yo, you know this is something authentic”, but this is straight for my dudes. Like how we name any of our albums, when we named that album, we felt like it was particularly built for a few! When we say that, we mean that. Cause really, honestly, I rhyme to the drug dealer niggas, I rhyme to the street niggas that make moves, hustle, trying to get their life together, escaping from here to there without a cut, without bruises. So, everybody ain’t gonna be able to understand the lingo. So you know, at the end of the day, we gonna keep doing what we do though, cause we trendsetters, and trendsetters they have they own cult that recognizes them for what they do, so that’s what this album is. It’s for the people that are looking for this shit they haven’t been getting in a long time. You heard all the other MCs do they thing, but it’s been a while since dudes heard me. So I’m just coming with a whole new flavor kit again.
Mindbender: So if you don’t mind, let’s talk a bit about the family. Shit’s been going on since 8 diagrams, whatever but… even if it takes 2, 5, 10 years, there is another Wu family album in the heart chamber, right? A family album?
Raekwon: It’s gonna happen, but we gotta take our time, cause there’s a lot of things that gotta get dealt with respectfully and businesswise. Before, we was young, so we were vulnerable to be able to do all kinds of stuff, but now? Cats is really more hands on with the business side of it. and like I said, when we fall, then we form back together, we may be taking pay cuts because we’re trying to keep what we started together. But it’s hard for a man to do that when he know that he got his own life and gotta provide for him. To come together to do that, it would be real hard. But at the same token, we do it for the fans, cause that’s what y’all want. You know what I mean, so you know. Maybe it’ll happen next year, maybe it’ll happen… a couple of months from now. We never know. At the end of the day, we still gotta sacrifice for y’all, but we still gotta do what we gotta do for each other, as a man.
Mindbender: I wanted to tell y’all that I think Wu-Tang is the only crew in hip hop that will have multiple dynasties. Most crew have one good season in the sun.
Mindbender: Bad Boy, Death Row, Ruff Ryders, I respect them all. But I think Wu-Tang is the only crew that had a rise, has gone through some turmoil, but can have another rise and remain leaders like before. Y’all are very different than most other crews, fundamentally.
Raekwon: People pay attention to the outstanding ones in the game, and they know that everything we did allowed us to still be here today. It’s all about how you respond to the people when you see them. Wu-Tang has never been the ones to really be out there and be at every party or whatever whatever, but you know, we still here though. Cause people were still able to see brothers, and get that energy. It’s young kids all over that’s just familiar with dudes and want to get next to cats. So we gonna make it our business to still go out there and tour the world. For me, I never really did a major world tour though. So we look forward to doing that for Cuban Linx 2, word.
Mindbender: So there’s two albums, I want to know about two albums. There’s a rumor about an album between you, Ghost and Meth. What’s the word on that?
Raekwon: Yeah yeah, there’s a rumor about that, but there’s still more to talk and discuss cause you know, distribution is everything. The way I’m moving right now is, I’ve created my own situation that allows me to own my masters to what I do, so we’ll see how Def Jam play. You got Ghost and Meth over there. Really, it’s about to be right, it can’t be lopsided. It’s gotta be where I know it will help the family as well.
Mindbender: And the ‘Shaolin vs Wu-Tang’ album. That’s one of the powerful rumors out there. What up with that?
Mindbender: I saw RZA on his 40th birthday when he was out here for Rock the Bells. I love the brother to death.
Mindbender: I’ma tell you how real it gets: my twin brother in my group put out a dis song to me two days ago.
Mindbender: So I tell motherfuckers, I learn from Wu. They may fight, but they family. It’s brothers.
Raekwon: Yeah, you gotta let ‘em be who they are. You gonna have your brothers every now and then, but you gotta let ‘em know that they your brothers.
Mindbender: Word. So is the ‘Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang’ album, you think you might put together that album?
Raekwon: Yeah it’s coming. you know, but it’s not on the front burner. At that time, we was speaking on it cause we all felt a certain kinda way. But like I said, I could be mad at my brother, but I can’t be mad at him forever.
Mindbender: Of course.
Raekwon: It’s not my thing. I’m not caught up in no shit like no broad. We can still sit down and really kick it and go do lunch and talk about moving forward, you know what I mean? That’s the most important thing. You don’t have too many groups that stick together for 14 or 15 years. We going on 16 years, nah mean? You think everything is going to be fucking sweet? Ha ha. It’s not gonna happen. We get the best energy sometimes when we away from each other, and then come back together to do whatever we do, because it gives us a form of missing each other. You know, I could be mad at nigga, but once I aint seen him in so long, once I see him it’s like, that’s my nigga I miss you, you know what I mean? Like I said man we just keep it real with ourselves and brothers may be going thru a lot within they own lives, nah mean? Like I said, cats grew up in this shit. When I came in this shit, I had no kids. I got three kids now. So a lot of things changed in my life, and I understand how important it is to go out there and be the best you can be and not put yourself in situations where it aint gonna help you, so everyone out here just trying to get they weight up. But you see Cuban Linx 2, you see the cover of that album right there? That cover describes the lifestyle of where we going with this shit, man. You see that shit on my face? That’s coke on my face. That’s the bag in my hand and all that shit. Shit’s splashed on it.
Mindbender: Who’s the other cat layin? That’s not Ghostface is it?
Mindbender: I kinda thought that was like that picture of god reaching down to that artist reaching his hand up, the Michaelangelo one.
Raekwon: you talkin about the famous one?
Raekwon: That look like two fucking biscuits pointed at each other!
Mindbender: I saw that part. Ha, yeah. I thought that was the Wu-Tang take on it.
(weed carrier): I thought it was what he said, right away.
Raekwon: Oh, Michaelangelo shit.
Mindbender: Is that the official cover?
Raekwon: That’s just one of the covers to put you in that zone. Crazy. Just with the Roman Numeral II on it.
Mindbender: Yo, there’s one of the things you said yesterday that blew my mind. You said “RZA built Wu-Tang, but ODB built RZA.” Can you expand on that?
Raekwon: It’s the truth. One thing about RZA is that all his life, he was a shy dude. He was mad shy, he would come outside, he wouldn’t hang with the drug dealers, he would prefer to do something else. He would rather study lessons. He didn’t want to be out on the block, nah mean? But at the same time, also, he was a DJ, and he loved to cut. I remember being in they spot when these dudes would be just fucking with the turntables all the time. Like, Dirty had helped make beats. Dirty helped make Brooklyn Zoo and all that. A lotta people don’t know that though. He was definitely a producer too. But he gave RZA wings. He gave RZA the ability to feel that, “Yo, this shit is dope.” Don’t matter what nobody tell you, your shit is dope to me. At the same time, Dirty was doing his own thing at the time. He was like a threat to RZA in his own little way, but that was his cousin, so RZA was smart enough to pull him in and let him create what Dirty wanted. Whether he felt, yo I’m trying to make a beat like this or whatever, RZA would listen to what he felt. So at the end of the day, he was RZA’s battery, like I told you.
Mindbender: That’s amazing. Cause I talk to [the mother of ODB’s fourth child] and [ODB’s son] Ason Unique, they’re around.
Raekwon: He looks just like his pops. He with RZA right now, though. RZA’s holding him down. That’s a good thing you know. They first cousins. I feel like he should be keeping with him. Let him live with him. Just hold him down, cause he’s growing up by himself. He got brothers and sisters, but they are young. That kid move just like Dirty. It be scaring me, to be honest with you. It be scaring me when he be moving like that. Cause he wants to emulate his pops so much. But I always come back and tell him like yo, your pops is an entertainer. All this shit is just part of entertainment, but don’t fall into that situation that you think you can do something crazy and your uncles aint gonna say nothing, nah mean. We’re constantly on him, and we’re letting him know, I ain’t always gonna be here to make you smile, nigga. I might make you cry. Like you outta character. We don’t smoke weed together, we don’t drink together. It’s like cmere, what are you doing. We be constantly thinking about his pops. His pops is aiight. He’d want to see us make it happen. So you know, just me knowing that, that allows me to still go out there and rep Wu to the fullest, nah mean? Cause he died for this shit right now, the way I feel. And the crazy shit is that he ain’t have to die. It’s almost like some Michael Jackson shit, you know what I mean? That was his way of getting away from his pain, was take medication. But when he went away into the G-building, it was like… he came back fuckin’ twisted, like shaking… he wasn’t the same dude. You know, you take medication for that, the shit will add on to your shit, nah mean?
Mindbender: Word. Thanks man. I was wondering, would you mind tell a story about Dirty?
Raekwon: He’s definitely an entertainer, but he’s a person who moves off his own actions. You know, his thing is that, he’s one of the cats that always want to win. Even when he’s not subjected to win, he has to win in his mind. Whether he makes a statement, whether he says something, whether he’s got his boys behind him, or whatever, he never has a problem facing the offence, cause he been an unpriviledged child all his life, so when he actually had an opportunity to get something, he ran with it. he loved the limelight, he loved to get on stage and make y’all laugh, he loved to get on stage and tell jokes, and tell you he’s the best. All that had a lot to with dudes being who they are today, cause he repped us like we were the MIGHTY Wu, more than just the group the Wu-Tang Clan. The father took him first cause he seen all the shit we was dealing with one another, so… but he aiight tho. All I remember is that when that shit happened and I went down there to see him, it’s like he had that face like he was ready to go to heaven. I’ll never forget that face. That face was like, like ‘I gotta go’, you know what I mean? That’s gonna stick with me for a long time. Cause I remember that face. You know how they say the dead leave a smile on they face to let you know how they was feeling, you know what I mean? Like another one of my mans got killed and he had that face like he was mad, like “I slipped. The fuck I did?” So you know, everybody got a different face to things, but he’s here with me… he helped me build this great album, Only Built for Cuban Linx Part 2, The Purple Tape. Get ready, the album is fire! You know what im’ saying, you got a long strong songs on there. If you a real hip hop head, you know what it is. You know that we gonna come with nothing but raw hip hop.
Raekwon: You got Blue Raspberry on there, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, Beanie Sigel, you got Lyfe Jennings up there for a cut with me and Dre, my brother Busta Rhymes helped me do so much this year, it’s like, he helped me on the project, so I wanted to make sure he gets blessed tho. But for the most part, it’s here it’s done, you’re gonna get it in a few weeks. And you can listen to it and blast it and learn the rhymes and you gonna be good. You gonna see me in a minute, come out here and do that shit.
Mindbender: Come get that house in Toronto, brother! We’d love to have you here, man.
Raekwon: Don’t worry, don’t worry, I’m trying to get all my immigration shit and all that good shit, and all that good shit. Make it happen. If it happen I’m bringing the rest of mine out here though. Get ready though. Chef love you like cooked food, real talk. September 8th though, Cuban Linx 2. Peace!