Raekwon: Stakes Is High

posted May 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM CDT | 61 comments

Weve had to wait roughly four years for it, so whats another three months (until August 11th) to have to eagerly anticipate one of the most hyped Hip Hop releases in recent memory? Hopefully, when Raekwons Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II does finally hit store shelves it will actually live up to the lofty expectations fans understandably have for an album being billed as the sequel to an original so cherished amongst Hip Hop heads worldwide that it is almost always referred to not by its title, but by the unique color cassette Raes classic debut was delivered to the masses via.

But by the time OB4CLII drops this summer it will have been almost exactly 14 years since anyone copped the purple tape. And since hardly anyone under the age of 25 can even claim they actually purchased the defining solo project from any member of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan upon its release in 1995, there is little doubt that II cannot be accurately compared to the impact its predecessor had on Hip Hop back when both Biggie and Pac were still with us.

And as Rae revealed last week to HipHopDX, thats just fine by him. "Lex Diamonds" made clear in his discussion with DX that he doesnt want anyone to conduct a comparative analysis of his seminal work to its forthcoming part dos, explaining that his only agenda in assigning his fourth solo effort its nostalgic title was to revive a vibe seemingly absent from mainstream Hip Hop in 09.

In addition to explaining the reasoning behind his new albums billing, Rae revealed exclusive OB4CLII details (including track titles and concepts previously unknown to the public), as well as what each of the legendary producers involved contributed to the long-awaited project (including Dr. Dre and RZA) that has expectations running high for a Raekwon renaissance.

HipHopDX: You know I gotta set this thing off by asking you if the sequel is as good as the original?
Of course. Thats an understatement, fam. Im from the real golden era of Hip Hop, where we take pride in our art. So I would never try to [come with that title for] this album and dont give it the same energy that I gave the first. This is very important not only to the fans, but to myself I feel real confident in this one as being a classic. Not so much [in] trying to outdo the first one, cause you cant outdo a classic. If its a classic, let it be a classic and continue [on] to make another classic.

DX: Well Im really diggin the joints I heard so far, New Wu [click to watch], Flashback Memories with The Game [click to listen], but I gotta be honest with you and say I wasnt really feeling Criminology 2 [click to listen]. It just didnt hit me as hard as the original.
Alright, well you know everything aint gonna always satisfy everybody. As many people that did love it, Im glad you was honest and say you didnt. Thats your opinion. My thing was, it was something to just give you a memorable moment. But see thats the shit Im talking about right there. And dont get me wrong, I respect your opinion, but its not so much about trying to outdo [the first album], fam. My thing [was] to sit there and take you back into that energy, that vibe, that aura of Hip Hop. It wasnt to say, yo, which one is better? Because of course the first one is the first one we made. Now if Ida made this one first, then you probably woulda been like I love it! And thats the type of shit that in a way its like Im not cool with. I respect your opinion. Im not trying to flip it on you. But thats my thing, you cant please everybody, fam. What we tried to do was basically give you a remembrance of something that came from a time where we was really street rhymin [And] a lot of people liked it. You probably might be the first person I heard that say they really didnt like it. You gotta just let the music be the music, the energy, man. We make our music off the energy, fam. Believe that.

DX: Well I will say that when you spit rhymin is a color [on the track], that shit was ill.
Rhymin is a color, to me. Probably a lot of niggas aint even know what I meant when I said that though I think Im at a level to where I know that I still got it. And I dont wanna be judged based off of something I did and then somebody trying to compare it word for word, or something from something. Yo if its hot, its hot. Cmon. Shit, the lyrics sound like 95 again, with that same energy. That street energy. That hood energy. Thats [where] we come from with it. Thats more important to me than trying to sit there and outdo the first one. I cant outdo anything that Ive done before. All I can do is complement it. And that was the purpose of doing that song was to complement [the original].

Thanks for your opinion though, man. But I just wanna let [everybody] know that thats where I think that a lot of people gotta really start opening [their minds and] stop comparing. You can have your favorite, but dont stop a mans success just cause he trying to do something another way. Its always time for growth and development. I wasnt coming to kill this album [the same way as] the first one. You cant, that was 95. I was another age then. Now Im older and wiser. So now I gotta try new things, because the old things is in the past.

DX: Well lets expand a little bit and give the HipHopDX readers a preview of the whole album. First, if you dont mind, tell the people about House of Flying Daggers.
I mean, I dont really wanna get into all of that. I just want you to know that yo, I worked real hard on this album. And dont think for a minute that Im burnt off of what you said. Im not gonna sit here and break down every track like that. All Ima do is tell you that yo, as me being an emcee I made a classic again, fam. These beats that you gonna hear, you aint gonna hear em on any niggas tracks or whatever, whatever. That House of Flying Daggers right there, that was a track produced by J Dilla, who [before he passed in 2006] basically came in and gave niggas something compatible to the Wu dynasty of music that we make. Thats definitely a hard track. It aint really too much I can say. All it is is beats and rhymes, b.

DX: Did I read correct though that you used a beat [Last Donut of the Night, that also appeared on] Donuts
for the track?
Donuts, Donuts, I never even heard of that.

DX: Dillas like last proper album.
Right, right, alright yeah, alright I heard something like that though. And I could sit here and quote 100 dudes that got tracks that slipped through other niggas hands, and came through this hand and came through that hand. Dillas a talented producer. God bless his soul. And I think that any track that you hear Wu-Tang touch, its gonna get complemented in the right format where its gonna stick. Now I dont know which one is Donuts, because Im just really gettin up on Dilla. I havent really heard too many east coast cats blazin his jumpoff. [When] I actually started hearing what the west side is doing and all the shit that they do, thats when Dilla came to my life. And I believe that it could be a couple of [Dilla] tracks [I recorded to] that somebody might have heard [already]. But its about who rips em right.

DX: And you got like half the Clan on that, right?
Yeah, half the Clan on it. And I love that track a lot, cause that track remind me of something carved out for Wu-Tang brothers to kill. You couldnt hear a normal emcee on that kind of track that Dilla made. For me that track was like a perfect slide-on shoe feel for them Wu cats.

DX: You got a few legendary beatmakers providing heat for OB4CLII, one of whom is Erick Sermon. I know you said you really dont wanna get into too many details, but can you give for the readers sake a little hint on what the Green Eyed Bandit gave you?
Yeah, the "Green Eyed Bandit" [click to read] he definitely came in and he put his element down. Me and him got a song called Baggin Crack, where it basically sounds like a razor is constantly hitting the plate, with a nice little simple plain beat on it that basically enhances my story vision. I really gave a nice intimate story of a street hustler getting his bag on. This album is just hoodies and jeans and Timbs. Its not nothing really glorifying about [selling drugs], its just me going back to not really caring about the consumer and more or less caring about the art I just took it back to the basement, man, to the lobby. Where its about street raps and strong lyric content.

DX: Now you said this is hoodies and Timbs music, but I understand youre rockin with some southern royalty on the album. What does Rae and Bun B on a track together sound like?
You gonna hear it. [Laughs] Thats how I get down. Im always gonna relate to niggas that I could relate to, and that could relate to me I identify with all real niggas all over the world. Bun [click to read] is a real nigga to me. And the stories that we talk about on the album, its a perfect fit. So dont think you gonna hear me going into some south shit. Because I can kill some south shit if its hard enough, but Bun stepped in my chamber. And me and Bun is almost the same kinda nigga. We got the same kind of life stories. So it makes sense [for us to collaborate]. I know what youre thinking, but dont think like that. [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs] Nah, nah, some of your classic tracks Skew It On The Bar-B, Royal Flush You and OutKast need to do like a whole joint together.
Yeah. But I just know what you saying, cause a lot of cats be feeling like dudes be running to they sound to make big records with. I didnt run to nobodys sound to make a big record. I feel like he a cuban link nigga within hisself, and he talk that talk. And at the same time Ima big, big fan of Bun B. So you gonna see something special that we created Its called Never Used To Matter. Its an intimate tale of all the shit that we look at in the game when you dealing with loyalty and you dealing with real niggas. Niggas that forget loyalty is everything.

DX: Is that track with Jadakiss on the album the Gutterman Music joint from the new mixtape with DJ Absolut [click to listen]?
Nah, unless somebody stole it. I didnt throw out nothing with me and [Jadakiss] [click to read] on it [from OB4CLII] yet. Because I been keeping a clamp on the album. So anything you hear outside [of] New Wu is like me just basically freestyling and giving yall new mixtape shit just to know Im around.

DX: Im loving that Resolution joint [click to listen]. Is that gonna be on the album, or was that just for the Staten Go Hard mixtape?
Yeah, thats just for the Staten Go Hard mixtape. A lot of that shit is the shit that you just hearing me feed the streets because thats what its all about. Id rather let yall know I have a lot of music that yall didnt hear to know that yall always can hear something exclusive, and dont keep hearing the same old shit from Rae.

DX: Thats crazy, Resolution is a mixtape joint, damn. That sound like some album shit.
Anything on [Blood On Chefs Apron or Staten Go Hard] is some mixtape shit. And I knew that when I was giving it up.

DX: Switching gears here, I understand that Busta Rhymes was a main cook in the kitchen for OB4CLII, correct?
Nah, Busta [click to read] just came through as a good friend, man. Bustas a friend of mine first and foremost. He didnt come through as no businessman [like], "Yo, we got a contract, or we got a deal." Its just friends, man When I needed an ear, or a piece of motivation, he was a shoulder there for me. I think he admires me so much that he had to tell me that in order for me to understand what I can do on my own. Because he telling me like, yo, its so much that I showed him. I kept his sword sharp or whatever. And [so] he was just being good friends. And anything that he was able to do to help me, he would do it at any given second. And he showed that, as far as the introducing me to the Dr. Dre, the going outside his way to get me involved with a Dillas world. Some of that stuff I was just totally new to. But, he was the man that basically walked me into them situations and said, Yo, my peoples is your peoples. And thats what its about.

DX: Now you mentioned Dre, you know I gotta ask, its mandatory, are all the joints you did with
Dre on the album?
Me and Dre, we had an oath that we made when we even started kickin it with one another. We both said yo, straight up and down, outside of us being label partners or whatever, if it dont work out we not gonna let that sour our friendship and our respect for one another And I agreed with that fully because whether Im over there at Aftermath or whether Im not, the object is to come in and do your thing on the record. And he came in and he did his thing, so thats all I go off of, man. Where I come from, your word is like loyalty. And I think thats what he did We completed that side of it, which was the main purpose of getting this man on this album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. He did his thing, man. It coulda been one track, it coulda been two or three [tracks we did together put on the album]. It depends on what I feel is gonna work for the situation. And also work for my pocket. [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs] So you dont know which joints that he did are like confirmed, like for sure are gonna be on the album?
I know now what I want, but at that time [we were working together] we was just floating. We was just throwing shit in the air. But now I know what I want, and what I can afford. I dont want a nigga to ever think he gotta give me something for free, because he work hard for it. Ima keep it real with you, we in [negotiations] for two [tracks to be placed on the album]. I got three [tracks done with Dre, and] we in for two - two that Im in love with. I wanna be in love with something more or less than just getting on it and just saying, "Okay [its a keeper cause its Dre]." Cause the Dre tracks aint the only tracks thats gonna amaze people. Thats just something to add on to make people be like, "Okay, yo, thats hot, he got Dre west coast giant. Okay, he blazed on an east coast giant album."

DX: Can we give the names of those two joints to the fans?
No, we cant give them out. They gotta wait. [Laughs]

DX: Damn, damn, okay, thats too exciting I guess man, I dont wanna stay stuck on the Dre shit but its like, first it was Rakim, and then it was Raekwon, and I just know the fans are confused as to why he cant seem to commit to seeing these projects with legendary emcees all the way through. Can you give any like insight into that?
I think its the fact that he probably got a lot of things on his plate at the time [these projects were coming together]. When you dealing with certain dudes, you gotta understand that you know, everybody want the time that they can get from [the] man, and if they cant get it its kinda like it aint fair. My thing was, if youre not gonna be on top of this project the way Ima be on top of it, then what good is trying to be a [business] partner to you? If anything Id rather come in and just get a heatrock from you and keep it moving. I think thats probably the problem [others had]. It aint nothing to shit on Dre about, but a lot of dudes have said that hes been very difficult to catch because he got so much work. And when you think of a 300-400 million dollar nigga, you gotta respect that thats how it be sometimes. Its all good. Maybe the time [wasnt] right for that. It may happen in the future.

DX: Now you said other track-masters have got heat equal to Dre on this album. I gotta believe one is RZA. How many tracks did he do for the album? Like, how involved was RZA at the end of the day?
Raekwon: RZA
[click to read] was definitely involved all the way to the T. But RZA got his own life, man. RZA got his own thing to do. I cant put my arms and my hands in RZAs life forever. He been obligated to me for 14 years. I been obligated to him. But now, it comes to a time where Raes a general right now. Ima make sure that all the elements and the formula is correct. And he may oversee it, but he dont have to do everything no more. Thats not my thing to lean on a man trying to do his own thing and make his sacrifices worth it for him and his family. I cant take a nigga out his element. So I gotta put my thinking cap on. And thats what I did. I went out there and made sure that I got more than one classic producer on the album. We went and got the classics. We went and got The Temptations and the Marvin Gayes, and all them kinda niggas right now. Its like I ran over to Motown from back in the days and got Smokey [Robinson] and all of those muthafuckas. So if a fan dont respect that, I dont know what to tell you. RZA is RZA. He definitely put his two cent in and made his elements, and thats what its about. But I cant allow one man to lead my destiny no more.

DX: Can you give me like a state of the Clan 09 update? Yall seem as together as yall ever been in that New Wu video So is that RZA-less, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang album that you spoke of officially dead? Are you past wanting to do that?
Nah, thats still coming out. Thats still one to add to the catalog. I can be like that. One day I can feel like Im Wu-Tang, and one day I can feel like Im from the streets of Shaolin. So thats what it is. We make movies, man. This is entertainment. Im not trying to assassinate my brother, but I can feel like that. As long as I warn them, and he know what Im up to, he would never look at me like Im deceiving him because he know [what] Im thinking. I can sit down and eat food with his family and be at peace, and we know, yo, all it is is entertainment. This is rap, man. This is about making good music and not carrying it personal. My shit aint personal towards him. His shit aint personal towards me. Men gonna have disputes. Men gonna argue. Some may even fight. But at the end of the day, the love dont go nowhere.

DX: And Wu-Tang is forever.
All the time. You already know my G.

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