The Chef. Lex Diamonds. Whatever you address him as, no one should ever make the mistake of calling Raekwon scared. In this candid interview Rae fearlessly tells HipHopDX whatâ€™s really going on with the delayed release of his long-awaited Cuban Linx II album. He also frankly addresses rumors that the Wu-Tang Clanâ€™s 8 Diagrams may never see the light of day, and that a certain former Team member is actually a Ghost writer. And before Rae can jet back to the kitchen to cook up some more heat, he lets us all know why we should cop his extended fam Icewaterâ€™s Polluted Water on August 28th, and why he is now officially a Lilâ€™ Wayne fan.
HHDX: Is the Wu album really gonna drop this year? That URB article seemed to suggest the whole project may be falling apart.
Raekwon: Yeah, itâ€™s gonna drop. We like 90% done with it. Itâ€™s a couple more things that we gotta add to the situation with it. Itâ€™s a classic in my eyes, as far as production and just what you would normally expect from Wu-Tang. Itâ€™s a good project and itâ€™s definitely gonna be out this year.
HHDX: At the end of that same article, RZA is quoted as saying, with regards to 8 Diagrams, â€œIf itâ€™s not coming this year, it ainâ€™t coming at allâ€¦If it doesnâ€™t come this year, it donâ€™t mean nothing no more.â€ Do you agree with his statement?
Raekwon: Yeah, I agree with that. We never wanted to put out a project with not everybody on it. So I respect that [statement]. People wanna see the whole Clan on the album. We all do our own personal shit, so everybody had to sacrifice the time to appear on the record. If that wasnâ€™t gonna happen, then it wouldnâ€™t have been worth doing.
HHDX: And that segues perfectly into my next question. Again in that same article RZA said Ghostface hadnâ€™t recorded at all for the album. Is that still true?
Raekwon: Nah, Ghost is on the record. He did a couple of things on it. I guess at the time Ghost had a lot of things he had to do. Before Wu-Tang attained legendary status, we all came in as a family. But at the end of the day, we all got individual obligations that we gotta fulfill. So it gets rough sometimes. But itâ€™s about sacrificing. And we all came to that agreement, that the fans love us when we do our thing together so we gonna give â€˜em that. We knew how important doing this record was and so it got done.
HHDX: What was your manager talking about when he told the writer of the URB piece, in reference to your involvement in 8 Diagrams, â€œIf the business is not taken care of [then] there will be no album or tourâ€?
Raekwon: Business is important. When you dealing with a team everything gotta be correct. Managers gotta make sure that they know what their artist is getting into, as far as everything that come with doing a record. You could never try to get something done if it ainâ€™t organized. Thatâ€™s one of the things that we all stessinâ€™ on this go-round, that everybody is able to provide the quality time thatâ€™s needed for this record. We had to come to some kind of agreement before we could actually say this record was gonna come to life.
HHDX: In an interview you did with ThaFormula.com back in April you said, with regards to your new album, â€œI will not give you this Cuban Linx II album until I feel everything is right with me and my businessâ€¦â€
Raekwon: Thatâ€™s definitely important to me, because when you dealing with a classic record, the return of something classic, I want everything to be right. I wanna be at a house that actually believes in whatever Iâ€™m dealing with. And if I gotta feel kinda skeptical and doubtful about whoâ€™s gonna help me move this record the way it needs to be moved, I wouldnâ€™t put it out. Iâ€™m not gonna sabotage myself. First and foremost, I got an all-star cast on it. Everybody did they thing. I did my thing. And I refuse to throw it out there and it donâ€™t get the proper legwork that it needs.
HHDX: Is that a concern youâ€™ve had with Aftermath, or Interscope?
Raekwon: We going back and forth. Itâ€™s definitely a tight situation, but itâ€™s all about being comfortable and being secure with a strong team behind you. But everything is still just basically being litigated.
HHDX: So when are we gonna get that purple CD?
Raekwon: Itâ€™s damn near 200% done. I wanna drop it on a major, but youâ€™re definitely gonna get it by the summer of next year. By hook or crook. If I gotta do it independent, I gotta release it. I did a lot of hard work on this record and I refuse to throw it out and people be like, Yo Rae, I ainâ€™t know your shit was out. Nah, I canâ€™t afford for that to happen no more. That happened to me on The Lex Diamond Story. That happened to me on Immobilarity. Iâ€™m not going for it on this one. Iâ€™m not letting the industry control my destiny on this record. People been wanting this record for the last 10 years, so I gotta make sure that this shit is bulletproof.
HHDX: While weâ€™re clearing up old quotes, is there any truth to the old rumor made new again via Tony Yayoâ€™s recent comments in Spin claiming Superb, of your pre-Icewater crew American Cream Team, wrote all of Supreme Clientele for Ghostface?
Raekwon: He know damn well he ainâ€™t write that fuckinâ€™ album. I donâ€™t even wanna get into shit like that, because it just makes me upset that muthafuckas be running they mouth all kinda ways. But at the end of the day, I think Ghost gonna have to really say what he gotta say.
HHDX: Yeah, the only reason I asked you about this is â€˜cause Superb came out of your crew.
Raekwon: Yeah, thatâ€™s my son. Thatâ€™s my son, and trust me he ainâ€™t write nobodyâ€™s fuckinâ€™ album.
HHDX: Now that we got that out the way regarding your old crewmember, letâ€™s talk about your new crew, Icewater, and their new album, Polluted Water.
Raekwon: I been training them, getting them niggas right. This is not no overnight project right here. Anything with my name on it, I canâ€™t let it go out any kinda way. I feel like they reached the level of respect that I want from them, and so Iâ€™m able to go out and support it the way itâ€™s supposed to be. This is definitely a beautiful look for them. Itâ€™s a come-up thing for Staten Island. You havenâ€™t really heard too many niggas come from outta Staten Island. These are the real goons and gorillas of Staten Island. This is not no commercial team right here. This is some niggas that really lived it.
HHDX: I need to go back to 8 Diagrams and for the fans sake find out if you can reveal what the first official singleâ€™s gonna be?
Raekwon: I canâ€™t even comment on the first single, because we gotta actually feel good about the record, as far as which direction we gonna go. We not really them radio dudes. But for the most part we wanna make sure that we hit the people with something very strong. And I didnâ€™t get a chance to huddle up with the crew and call that shot yet. So you just gotta keep your eyes and ears open.
HHDX: Are there any details though that you can give the hungry-for-info fans about 8 Diagrams?
Raekwon: Like I said, everybodyâ€™s on the record. Thereâ€™s a lot of authentic music on there. Itâ€™s RZA going to the next level with his production. Itâ€™s brothers rhyming they ass off, like we normally do. You got the young generation now that probably ainâ€™t even up on our chemistry. But we hoping that the fans that already know what we do will respect what we dealing with and take it for what it is. If you donâ€™t feel it, hey, you canâ€™t get everybody.
HHDX: So far the rumors about the album sound dope. Itâ€™s like Q-Tip, Easy Mo Bee, a real old school vibe to it. Can you confirm that vibe is gonna be there?
Raekwon : They definitely gonna be involved with the project. When you think of them guys right there you think of legends in they own belt class. Easy Mo Bee had a lot to do with B.I.G. â€“ God bless the dead. Q-Tip, he made classics with A Tribe Called Quest. These are dudes that we look up to in the game that donâ€™t necessarily have to be on the forefront, but they know how to deliver. I think thatâ€™s so important because people get caught up in todayâ€™s music and not art music. We make art. We donâ€™t make commercial music that just pop overnight and then it disappears. Nah, our shit is classic. We ainâ€™t never been dudes to go outside of our character and be something that weâ€™re not. Wu-Tang, we always had our own different sound. We had our own style. We a concept clique. You gotta be prepared for all of that. If you not prepared for all of that then how much of a Wu fan is you really? If you looking for a nigga to come out sounding like Puffy and all that shit then you got the wrong dudes. Puffy is Puffy. Wu-Tang is Wu-Tang.
HHDX: I guess it may be too early to get any details about Cuban Linx II?
Raekwon : Nah, it ainâ€™t never too early. Thatâ€™s my baby right there. I feel 900% good about it. What I donâ€™t feel good about is just dealing with the drama of these bullshit-ass fuckinâ€™ record companies. Iâ€™m dealing with a classic record that I know everybody wants. But I canâ€™t go up to the labels and be frontinâ€™ with them, and I donâ€™t feel secure about the company that Iâ€™m around.
HHDX: And what is thatâ€¦ Itâ€™s like, Iâ€™m not trying to put you in a bad spotâ€¦
Raekwon : Nah, keep it a 100.
HHDX: Is it Aftermath or is it Interscope? Is it Dre or is it Jimmy?
Raekwon : Itâ€™s not Dre. And actually I never had a conversation with Jimmy [Iovine]. Itâ€™s just more about whoâ€™s gonna appreciate it. Whoâ€™s gonna sit here and say, Yo, we believe in you Chef. You already know Dre believes in me. Dre ainâ€™t the type of nigga to be fucking with something if it ainâ€™t worth it. So I canâ€™t say anything bad about Dre. Itâ€™s just, I understand Dre is a very busy dude, but I need quality time too. And if you canâ€™t give the kid that dealing with a classic, then we gonna have some problems. But other than that I respect Dreâ€™s integrity. I respect his work ethic. Jimmy is looking at it on a business level. And when everything pan out correct, itâ€™ll pan out correct. So Iâ€™m not gonna step on nobody and be on bad terms. Itâ€™s just that politics is a muthafucka.
HHDX: The final question I have for you is on a more positive note. I just have to ask how it feels to hear Lilâ€™ Wayne on the new Ja Rule song, â€œUh Oh,â€ paying homage when he spits, â€œCall me young Raekwon, Iâ€™m a chef in hellâ€™s kitchenâ€?
Raekwon : Yo, thatâ€™s good money right there. Iâ€™m glad he feel like that. That means that heâ€™s recognizing my mustache. He respects my mustache, and I respect his for even saying that. I feel like when these young dudes pay homage they track record becomes more respected, because you respect dudes that already did it. So I canâ€™t do nothing but take my hat off to the kid and just say, yo, I admire that. Thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about, real detecting real. I appreciate that.