14 years ago, the Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon & Ghostface Killah set out to earn solo respect and wound up creating history, a lifestyle and one of the greatest musical compositions the world has ever witnessed. Can lightning strike twice or has the magic faded in the Chef’s kitchen? You be the judge as Raekwon goes into vivid detail of the strenuous recording process of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II as Ghostface adds the color commentary along the way.
One thing’s for sure, the duo are still striving for perfection.
TSS: It’s been a long time coming for this project. What’s the mood like?
Raekwon: You know I’m definitely excited. It feels like all the hard work we’ve been putting amongst this project is starting to payoff and I feel like it’s time the people get this record. People are able to recognize what I’m capable of as well.
TSS: To get where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been. What was your state of mind going into the original Cuban Linx as far as creating street mafia cinema?
Raekwon: I just wanted respect back then. I considered myself as one of the last Mohicans in the game. Being out there in the streets, struggling, selling drugs all my life, that was a part of me and I just wanted to represent. All I wanted to do was represent.
TSS: How does the new one transition from the first one?
Raekwon: All I did was really analyze the chase that was made then and apply it to my growth and development chamber now. I feel like an author of the street. When you think of the street life and all that, it’s something that’s always embedded into me and I’m not ever ever EVER going to forget where I came from especially when we’re talking about the struggle. I’m just in an author chamber right now. This is what y’all were looking forward to and I really had to put my mind in that zone to create that feel and I feel good though. But one thing people gotta remember is when you come from outta the streets and you’ve been out there for so long, you can never lose that. You can only lack it. And I’m very much grounded with where I came from.
TSS: The original Cuban Linx is revered as one of the greatest albums ever. Is Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II looking to compete with that?
Raekwon: Like I always tell the fans: the first one is the first one. When I came into the game, I felt like it was a classic within itself just off the strength it was so different from everybody else’s product. I just want everybody to take this as a continuation to the first one. I didn’t set out to try to be in comparision mode with it. You can revisit the OG and look at this one and it’ll give you that similar feeling.
Ghostface Killah: It would be nice to get the similar feedback from this one but the first one…the whole feel…it was just different know what I’m saying? Me and Rae was together everyday on that shit and everything just coincided with everything from the skits on down. So nah, we really wasn’t trying to compete with but just make phat shit. Get the beats make sure they official and say fly shit on it.
TSS: Getting Ghostface back on board was a no-brainer?
Raekwon: I wouldn’t say it was a no-brainer because we were going in different directions at the same time but he knew what it is and how important it was to be a part of this project. We both knew how we feel about Cuban Linx Pt. II and we had to go in and we took care of business. But it wasn’t easy. Ghost is still Ghost know what I’m saying?
Ghostface Killah: I mean Rae got so many fuckin’ songs, it’s incredible. And you know, I’m on the road so much doing a lot of shit; dropping a new album like every year. So he sent me the tracks that he needed me to get on and we made it happen.
TSS: You got Scram Jones, Dilla, Alchemist, Dre handling the production. What kind of soundscape did you try to create?
Raekwon: I mean we were just trying to create a robotic RZA ya know? Knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to do as much because he has his own lifestyle that he has to commit to, I just wanted to make sure he knew everything that was moving in every which way we were going because nobody could ever front on him being that he was one of the authors of the original Cuban Linx. We all paid our dues and we all see Hip-Hop as being something that’s real important to us. So just to be able to have his mindframe around here and there made me feel good because I knew in his heart he wanted me to win as well. He recognizes me as a general in the travels that I done touched and he knows I know what to do.
That’s how RZA is though. He takes a look at all his men and then he analyzes everybody’s work ethic and as well as where everybody is at mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And he starts giving calls like he’s been given a premonition. And he was telling me “You next on board Rae. Just keep your head focused and just move right.” But yeah, he contributed on a few songs on the album. He made the first single “New Wu.”
But honestly, I would do anything and everything to see my Clan on top. So I felt this was a job I had to take on in making this album. It was a must.
TSS: How hard was it to get everybody together and form like Voltron for the project?
Raekwon: I won’t even lie to you, it was really difficult. There was times when stress was eating me, I just started to get gray hairs in my beard out of nowhere. I guess it was all a part of making me aware that nothing came easy for something you really want. Just when I thought I was losing it, there was a spirit that came back through to me like “Nah, get up. You got this under control. Be patience.”
TSS: What’s the master plan? Do you think this can spark another Wu-Revolution?
Raekwon: I think so, of course. I just think that we have to understand that we all have that passion and that desire to win. I always feel like cats is winners even if we’re losing because all that’s a part of being a winner. But yeah I think it’s overdue for a new Wu-Revolution.
Ghostface Killah: I never looked at it like that but come to think of it, that may be in the cards. You know me I stay busy; I stay doing the do. All this shit just happened to collide at the same time. Rae dropping his joint, I got my album [Wizard Of Poetry] and me, him and Method Man are supposed to hurry up and record something real quick so Def Jam can have a December/January release on it. So we’ll see what happens.
TSS: And what about as far as even Hip-Hop? Do you think Cuban Linx Pt. II could bring back integrity to albums?
Ghostface Killah: Back then, Hip-Hop was in there air; you could smell that shit. We lived that. Nowadays, I don’t even know what it is. It was more realer back then. It’ll take a lot of work but if we can do our part, I’m all for it.
Raekwon: Definitely. It’s just right now everybody has their own focus and goals that they want to achieve at the moment. When it comes down to it, we are going to give y’all another Wu album. It’s just politics and everything have to be straightened out correctly. Brothers is older now and brothers are more adamant about their business. So once the dots are aligned and all that, we gonna be ready to go in and do what we do.
But I’m definitely going to be one of the chairman that really coordinate the project. I’m here for the fans and whatever they want, we have to proceed to do. Everybody in the Clan has dropped their albums and it’s like I’m the last man standing. So now it’s time to bring it back to where it started and do it over.
TSS: Looking through Cuban Linx Pt. II, you have a few single choices. I understand you shot a clip for “Have Mercy?”
Raekwon: Yeah and it’s funny you mentioned that joint because it’s one of my favorite on the album. Hearing that record reminds me of when me and Nas made “Verbal Intercourse.” It’s just a record I feel the fans are really going to love. Nas is a real good friend of mine and he called me up and like “Yo, I’m coming to get on something” and I got the same feeling that I had then when [Beanie] Sigel came through to get on the joint. I’m just hoping people really respect the fact that…I love to hear a nigga get on something of mine and make it into something special. You know Beans, he’s really underrated so when you get that track, all I recommend you play it loud (Laughs).
TSS: Funny that you mentioned Nas because you were just quoted on how he didn’t make getting on the album a priority of mine. Did you feel slighted?
Raekwon: Nah man, you know it ain’t nothing. Timing is everything and at the time he wasn’t able to connect and make it happen. It’s cool though there’s no disrespect. It was really for the fans. 90% is for the fans and the other 10% is for me. Me and him we shared classic moments throughout our careers. We talked about doing albums together and tours and all I can do is see where he’s out right now.
TSS: I’m sure the Kelis situation had something to do it with.
Raekwon: Yeah they have to work that out. It’s bigger than the both of them now. The seed needs that energy for the love.
TSS: Lastly, a faceoff between what is considered to be both of your signature masterpieces. Which one is better : Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… or Supreme Clientele?
Raekwon: Man that’s a fan decision. I would compare Cuban Linx with Ironman because they’re closer in time frame.
Ghostface Killah: Mmmm…they kinda different…but…they…I can’t even (Laughs.) It’s like we gave birth to both of them shits and it’s like saying which you like better. But Supreme…was more entert…I can’t even say it was more entertaining but we had the “Woodrow the Basehead” and “Who Would You Fuck?” skits so it made it a little more crazier. But on Cuban…we had the blue & cream shit…it was serious! And the “Shark Biterz,” y’all niggas sound like Nas and shit, it was like we were just coming in on some gangsta shit. But as far as the darts, as far as the rhymes…Cuban’s rhymes might have been more deadly and serious. On Supreme…I was experimenting like on “Nutmeg” & “One” with a different style. Like I would just say words and I’ma rhyme them, and they don’t even mean nothing. People would say they couldn’t really understand it but it wasn’t for you to understand. Words was just free. You’d listen to it like “Oh shit! It sound fly but what the fuck is going on?” But the vibe I put into and the beats I picked on their was a nice selection…but I still don’t know B.
But when you hear this new shit me and Rae cooked up for y’all muthafuckas, you’ll know we went in.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II, the austere sequel to the original classic is in stores TODAY. Show your support and follow the Chef’s every move on Twitter at Twitter.com/RaekwonIcewater and his official Myspace at www.myspace.com/RAEKWON.