Raekwon Critiques Every Album In His Catalog, Noting The Good & The Bad (Video)
Six weeks ago, Raekwon released his seventh solo album The Wild. The independent LP made its way to the charts and signaled a new sound for the Wu-Tang Clan lyrical swordsman, alongside the likes of Lil Wayne, G-Eazy, and CeeLo Green.
In promoting the album, Chef stopped by HipHopDX offices where he sat before a table with artwork to all of his projects. These included the seven solo titles, some Ghostface Killah LPs that featured heavy support from Rae’, and the Wu-Massacre trio project of Chef, G.F.K., and Method Man.
At times, the discussion appears to be based around ranking the projects from least to most favorite as editor-in-chief Trent Clark removes covers after discussion. However, stressing his close ties to the work, Raekwon dismisses that at 21:00 “Oh, I can’t rate ’em! All I can do is just give you the moments of those. All these are different [times]; these are my seeds, you know?” However, the discussion elicits some rare insight about both the classics, and those albums that may have been passed over. Along the way, Raekwon sprinkles jewels into just why some albums were great, and why others, well, may not have been.
Trent starts the video by directly asking Rae’ which LP of the bunch is his least favorite (1:44): “That’s crazy, because, like, every time I make ’em, it’s just a moment, it’s just a movement that happened at that time. Like a different season. But, probably, it would be…I would say Immobilarity, bein’ that this was the album that I made after [Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…] I would say this one was a little bit, probably, not people’s favorite, as far as where I went with it. But the science behind this is that we just came from living that life right here [points to O.B.4.C.L], so this one, I wanted to be like more in a politician’s frame of mind. Like, ‘Nah, nigga, we ain’t sellin’ drugs no more. We don’t do that no more. We get our bank on this kinda way.’ People didn’t really catch the full transition of that.” Also references the fact that people “got offended by” the omission of a couple of his “Wu brothers.”
Just after 8:00, following a chat about Ghost’s 1996 debut Ironman, they get back to the catalog. There, Rae’ defends an album that marked his first time out of the Top 10, but the lowest-charting album of his career. “The Lex Diamond Story, that shit was mean right there. It was another chamber, you know. It was like, you know, [inspired by mobster] Bugsy Siegel, just really talkin’ that tough talk. And, ya know, given y’all paintings of street life shit. Another concept album with a great storyline.” This initiates a discussion about all of the rapper’s nicknames.
At 10:00, Raekwon revisits the album he made following his critical 2009 comeback stride, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang. “This was an album that, you know what I’m sayin’, we had hit a rocky road with one of our Wu albums that people wasn’t really respecting the production at the time [following 2007’s 8 Diagrams]. Me and RZA, we has havin’ our little wars about production and at that time, I felt like Shaolin was against Wu-Tang at that time. Shaolin for us had always been the home front. Wu-Tang is the school outside the home front. So I kinda, like, went back to the home front like, you know, I just cut out. Ran away from home real quick, and came with that album. My brother got on these records and, you know, we started to get that spirit back that we was lookin’ for. It was fun makin’ it.” Rae’ adds that in hindsight RZA loved the album (despite no involvement) and congratulated him.
Around 14:00, Raekwon addresses an oft-forgotten major label side project, despite a #12 debut in 2010. “Wu-Massacre was something that we put together…a lot of times if you go back and listen to our songs, me, Meth’, and Ghost’ is always next to each other,” he says of the impetus, and Rae’s only Def Jam piece. “We always complement in so many different ways when we’re next to each other on the track…That was a hard album, right there, a lot of joints on there.” However, Raekwon goes on to explain why the LP is easily overlooked. “We didn’t promote it. We didn’t go out on the road. There was a lot goin’ on. Sometimes when we do things, we want to ride ’til the wheels fall off, but sometimes it’s [best to] get it done, boom, and continue to do what you do, and we just have more product on the streets. We didn’t market that one, we didn’t do no videos, but at the end of the day, it was just about the music, givin’ people new shit.”
Next up, Raekwon moves into the album that changed the path of his career, 2009’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II. “The one of the most illest comebacks since The Godfather…Sequels ain’t no motherfuckin’ walk in the park. We gon’ be real, we gotta call it what it is. And I knew automatically that I could not top [the original] because that time when we did that album, that was that fuckin’ time, man! That was that time. Trying to go back in time? No, it don’t work like that. But what you could do is go back and reminisce. So what I did was I went back and reminisced heavy on the production, really talkin’ to RZA, and [discussing what is best]. It was really time consuming, man.” That LP matched the #4 peak of its gold-selling first volume. With beats by RZA, Dr. Dre, J Dilla, Pete Rock and others, Shallah made a statement and redefined his legacy.
Raekwon details his 2015 LP, Fly International Luxurious Art. Viewed as a shift in sounds, the MC deems it, “One of my favorite pieces, man! A lot of rhymes on this shit!…This album was mean. This album was sonically ill. I’m talking about crisp, sharp rhymes! Production that you want to hear your boy get on. I was just going everywhere.” The artist also adds that the album, using “F.I.L.A.” as an acronym was the cause of a business offer from the shoemaker. However, Rae’ (who’s worked with Diadora) opted to keep it in-house.
Approaching the original Purple Tape, Raekwon gets an unusual question: of the 17 tracks, which is his least favorite song? “I know what it is too, it’s probably ‘Spot Rusherz.’ It was definitely the one that I rarely done out there in the world, singin’ on stage and shit. That one never got shine though,” admits the Staten Island MC. Of the complete body of work, he says, “Everything else was just straight up gunfire. Just loaded up, sprayin’ and shit…This is always gonna be a collector’s [item]. ‘Cause this chamber right there that we went through at this time here opened up the door for so many dudes today in the Rap game: style, wearing jewelry, that whole lifestyle, that whole get-money thing, that shit inspired so many people. So that is one of those grandfather clock pieces right there…This album gave hustlers hope to change their life around…we don’t sell coke no more, we sell raps.”
The discussion closes with Raekwon details surrounding The Wild. As fans digest the Ice H20/Empire release, its place in the annals of the Shaolin discography will be proven with time.
Additional Reporting by Bandini.