It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than a decade since the release of his highly-acclaimed solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Despite having dropped two other solo albums since – 1999’s Immobilarity and 2003’s The Lex Diamond Story – the streets have been fiending for more of Raekwon the Chef’s grimy street appeal that first caught their attention back in ’95. The streets asked for it, and the Chef responded.
This summer, Wu Tang Clan’s best storyteller will drop Only Built for Cuban Linx II. On one of many mini-tours to promote it, the Chef sat down with MVRemix to talk about the album, being an icon and a teddy bear, and hip-hop as a tall bitch with big feet.
MVRemix: So how long you been on tour, like late March to mid-April?
Raekwon: Yeah, something like that. A two-and-a-half week thing.
MVRemix: Is that just on the west coast?
Raekwon: Nah, that’s international right now, you know, all the different countries, just letting people know to get ready for the album. Not too many artists that take it all across the world. I like to just travel the world, let the word be known, so I can be like, ‘Yeah y’all.’ At least the places I won’t be able to always to be at, at least I can show them some honor, you know.
MVRemix: The obligatory shit: You got a release date for [Only Built 4] Cuban Linx II yet?
Raekwon: It’s gonna be in the summer, you know. It’s not really no date solidified yet, because things can happen and change, you know. We’re gonna be shooting for, like, June or July, you know. It’s probably looking like a 70/30 probability.
MVRemix: I know you don’t want to give away too many details about the album. You’re very secretive about it—
Raekwon: Very much.
MVRemix: But Busta’s executive producing?
Raekwon: No doubt.
MVRemix: And mostly RZA beats?
Raekwon: Mhmm. [Nods]
MVRemix: Some Dr. Dre, some Erick Sermon, some Alchemist?
Raekwon: It’s possible, it’s possible. I mean, you doing all the answering! Saying everything that’s correct! You know, I don’t really want to give too much information, because it kind of takes the fun out of it. And, you know, my whole thing, at the end of the day, this album is just me with a street mentality. I’m not really worried about any press or any commercial radio, you know what I mean? I couldn’t make Cuban Linx [II] with that frame of mind because that wasn’t my frame of mind when I made the first one. So basically I just zoned out and just really got on some strong production shit, you know, compliments of Dre, RZA, Scram Jones, you know, J. Dilla, God bless him, he’s a maniac on the beats. Couple of things that are already going to make it classic, so I feel good right now.
MVRemix: Yes or no: the whole Clan, minus the late ODB, is confirmed to appear on the album.
MVRemix: The tracks you and Ghostface did together were done via e-mail. How do you feel about the chemistry between the two of you when it’s done that way as opposed to in the studio together?
Raekwon: One thing about me and Ghost, we both extremists. We like powerful production and we know we got our hands on some big production. To me, it’s just natural, because when we get in a room together, the chemistry just falls in place. It’s like being around somebody that’s an athlete, and you an athlete, and when y’all talk the same talk and move the same way, things start to play out better towards the future of whatever you’re doing. It’s about that confidence, you know what I mean?
MVRemix: You’ve said repeatedly that this album is going to be what the fans want, what they asked for. For example, you told MTV.com: “Nobody’s ever satisfied. At the end of the day, this album is gonna be the album dudes want. It ain’t gonna be the album Rae felt he should have given. This is gonna be what y’all wanted.” What is the album you felt you should have given?
Raekwon: One thing about me, you know I like to be versatile, and not just go into a certain kind of world where— this world, which is basically the cocaine era. This is a movie right here, you know what I mean? This is a movie of my life and where I had been before I even became the successful Raekwon. So for people to want that, that’s cool for me, but when you look at my name chef, I have many different dishes that I like to serve, you know. For this fortunate album here, that I’m able to make, I love the passion of this album right here, because it takes it back to the hunger of hip-hop. It’s needed right now. I understand that I may be the last man on the totem pole that can pull of such an album with this kind of sound. You know, it’s about the production as well the gangsta lifestyle, you know what I mean? It was more or less about, we street, like all the way. You didn’t have to look at Wu Tang on any commercial level, or how big our fanbase got. We always had the slang, the talk, the style, the different kind of music, the beats. The formula was just totally upscale. Now, you just get a bunch of whatever. You don’t get art at its best no more.
MVRemix: Real quick: Any updates on the [Wu] reunion tour?
Raekwon: I can’t comment on that. [Smile] I can’t. I’m sorry.
MVRemix: Ghost was saying he was a little disappointed with the last couple [Wu Tang] albums [The W and Iron Flag]. What are your thoughts on that?
Raekwon: Ghost can say all that shit, but at the end of the day, it’s like, one thing people gotta realize about Wu Tang: we make good albums, man. We might not be the best single-pickin’ dudes, but I know as far as making good albums, you compare any Wu artist to anybody’s album and they can’t fuck with us when it’s more than one song. You may have one or two good videos, but— sometimes Ghost be exaggerating, you know what I mean, with his mind frame of thinking that the albums be wack. I know anything I do, I don’t never make nothing wack. Any of my songs, we might not have as much focus as we wanted to, but we don’t make wack shit, so I’m not going for that. You can go get anybody’s album, put our shit next to it, lyrics, beats, whatever you want to do, it’s self-explanatory how we really get down. That’s what people look at us for; they look at us for album. Wu is a whole different family. People gotta remember that. We can talk about tennis balls today and talk about big, heavy pieces of ice tomorrow. It’s about the creativity that lives inside of us. We’re unpredictable. You gotta remember that, you know what I mean? For me, it’s like, I learn from every album. It’s just a vibe. Everything is not made to be the same, so that’s just him talking that bullshit. I ain’t going for that. He might have not liked it, but that’s cool. To me, I think we overkill ourselves sometimes with just being our worst critics. Sometimes we don’t get a chance to promote our albums either, so they won’t get the proper loving they get, because there’s no promotion on it. We’re not moving it like that.
MVRemix: What did you get your first big pay check from and what did you do with it?
Raekwon: Robbin’ and stealin’! [Smiles] Nah. Um, I don’t even remember, actually. I think I bought me a car. Bought me a Lex, or Acura or some shit. Got up out the hood, you know what I mean? Gave my mom some money, my family some money, then kept it moving. I wanted to get out of the neighborhood. I went and bought me a house.