As one of the most influential hip-hop acts of all time, Wu Tang Clan laid down vicious tracks courtesy of Rza and supreme vocal abilities spouted by name such as; Method man, Ghost Face Killah, Inspectah Deck and of course Raekwon.
Staten Island’s, Raekwon one of the best lyrical assassins period in a group who made textured layered raps all the rage for young aspiring rappers. His style epitomised the struggle of being a young black male in the ‘ghetto’ without glamorising the life of; guns, drugs and hustling-he was straight as an arrow in terms of his innate ability to tell a graphic story of reality or more simply display his lyrical skills with on point ostentatious methaphors.
Only Built For Cuban Linx (1995) as his debut solo album (produced by the Rza) featured collaborative lyrical legends in the shape of Wu member Ghost Face Killah and Nas (widely regarded as one of the best emcees period). It was an amazing body of work and remains one of the best solo projects by any Wu Tang member-it in effect shone the light with purpose on Rae.
He’s been quiet for a bit but this year he dropped his latest album FILA which he states categorically is the; ‘best of Rae twenty years later’. In a nice face to face, Rae talks about longevity and his plans for a future as a forty five year old rap legend.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linxs was a seminal album for you.
Damn it was and this is the 20th Anniversary of my album Only Built For Cuban Links so 2015 marked the 20 years of that album being respected. We decided to do a documentary about that but it is being shot more like a film and it is more organics-it’s shot from my eyes. We could have gone to a company to do everything but I wanted to do it as if I was doing an album and keep it real. I did not want to have people telling me what I can’t do or say, this is my shit and it is a documentary about me so I am the best person to do ‘me’.
How far are you into completing the documentary?
We are about thirty five percent into the documentary. I also have a crowd funding project that is helping make this film. It really is about letting the fans invest in this project and so I would rather they participate in it more and kind of direct the documentary. Most important is they feel that they are part of this whole thing.
Was it an easy transition to go to from rapper to producing a visual body of work?
For me yes-with Wu I am always hands on when it comes to the videos. When it comes to the visual look I am very involved because I care about how people look at us. I make stories on my album so making films is something that requires similar skills and a similar discipline so I really enjoy it. I have always been a fan of great films and one day I do envisage myself as a fully-fledged film maker.
How important was Built For Cuban Links to you emotionally and in terms of your growth?
That album gave me the strength to be on a certain level and where I was looked on as the best. I did not play around at all when it came to that, that was my solo album and I was like ‘yo how am I going to make a global impact’. I came from nothing so my thought was if I don’t do this to the best of my ability I will probably be back on the street-it was my break out from that system. That album being praised as one of the greatest rap albums ever made-I am immortalised damn time is no barrier.
Longevity is notoriously difficult music industry; how have you managed to stay relevant?
I think it is all about surrounding yourself with winners, staying humble, perfecting your craft and of course being passionate and confident about what you do. For me the confidence came when I made my classic album Built For Cuban Links.
So the latest album FILA builds on elements of Cuban Links?
You are getting the best of Rae twenty years later with this album. I am still in the zone and I still feel good about it. I feel I paid my dues I feel that I am getting sharper about the business and that I am growing with the times, I don’t want to get stuck in the 90’s. I still respect that time and I feel that the 90’s was a golden era but I feel that at the same token all those years that passed me have made me a better emcee. It’s like being in a job and then rising through the ranks eventually you can sit like a ‘g’ and be like what the f8ck you talking about I’ve been here for twenty years shit?!
You spoke about the 90’s as a golden era is hip-hop now too money focused?
This shit ain’t always about money in fact artist before me didn’t care about the money it was all just about rocking your art. F’#k the sales it’s all about quality music that comes from the soul. Even with my music a chill has to run through my body for me to know that the music I make is hot.
Lastly your label IceH20 Records-what’s new with it right now?
The label is going ok but we have been having a little trouble building the right artists. If you want to get into this business you have to do the ground work. We have had guys saying they ready to do things but when the work starts they get lazy. I am a hard working motherf@##ker and I tell ni@##s in a minute ‘if you ain’t working harder than me then you don’t want this’-I will be like that till the day I die!