Raekwon Discusses His New Album & Wu-Tang Clan’s Complicated History With Ice-T (Audio)
In his recent Final Level Podcast episode (#34) Ice-T (joined by co-host Mick Benzo) welcomes Raekwon to the show. The Wu-Tang Clan co-founder previously made an appearance in Ice’s touted Hip-Hop documentary Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap. The podcast begins with small-talk, as the three discuss their favorite sports teams, favorite television series, and recently watched movies, while sharing a few jokes amongst each other in between segments.
As the podcast progresses, an engaging interview with Raekwon gets underway, as he shares details on his new album. (39:00) The same week as the release of F.I.L.A (Fly International Luxurious Art), Raekwon makes it quite clear that this is nothing like his previous work. He describes the album to Ice and Mick as “colorful and bright—no storytelling type shit.” While discussing Rae’s documentary The Purple Tape Files , he compares his newly released album to his time-honored Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…. He elaborates on how F.I.L.A has “no concept” and that third person storytelling would be too easy for the Chef. This point is interesting, given that Rae’s mic brother, Ghostface Killah employed a storytelling album on late 2014’s 36 Seasons. As “Shallah Raekwon” explains, he simply wanted to share with the world that he feels like a fly person. After Rae makes it abundantly clear that he’s still “got it” after 20 years, he tells the two hosts “If this was the Olympics, I already won my medals” and continues by saying “I still got to be around the sport, because I live in it.”
(43:00) Following the discussion of his new album, Ice-T asks Rae about the early 1990s development of the Wu-Tang Clan. Notably, Rae’ allocates almost all credit in this interview to RZA. The Chef makes it clear that the Wu would be non existent without The Abbott’s eye, ear, and touch. Rae recalls RZA’s focus on the members who he felt had “potential to be dope MCs.” The Staten Island, New Yorker adds that Bobby Digital knew the members could maintain respect, but were not fond of each other in the earliest days. Due to the groups respect for the founding member, the Clan managed to put their differences aside, come together, and begin their work as a whole. Rae confirms that RZA is also the originator of the Wu-Tang Clan’s name.
(51:00) Raekwon really elaborates about the inner-turmoil in those earlier years. Shallah reflects on a lesser-publicized rift between himself and fellow Clan member Method Man. He recalled an incident, sometime before 1994’s “Meth vs. Chef,” where Method Man accused Rae of having plans to “get some niggas on him,” referring to his Staten Island neighbor and band-mate. At the time, Rae’, presumably upset at the accusation, was wondering why Meth got “caught up in his feelings” and brought it up at a time when things were good. However, the Ice H20 MC admittedly couldn’t argue that Method Man “seen that side” of him back in the day. As time passed, the group was able to put their disagreements aside. In hindsight, Rae’ says he understands why Mef’ was justified to bring up the past. He expresses the group has developed a brotherhood but still carries some tension amongst each other to this day. Notably, Rae, Meth and Ghostface Killah partnered in 2010’s Wu-Massacre Def Jam collaboration. That’s a long way from those gritty days in Shaolin.
With this chatter, Raekwon also reflects on The Clan arriving to the West Coast and being shocked with Los Angeles, California gangs going to war over colors. Ice reflects on his affiliation with the Crips and Bloods but managed to be a middle-man, and instead of representing a certain gang he represented the City of Angels.
(1:00:00) Ice-T asks Rae’ about Wu-Tang’s ability to balance solo albums with group work. Rae’ elaborates that not only is it part of the 20-year plan, but that it allows the members to remain amicable. Ice then dives into his adoration for each member of The Clan and their style, but the member that he favored was the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Raekwon reflects on his closeness with O.D.B and how he was “the life, the heart and the spirit” of the group, uplifting them and being what the group needed to maintain their musical bond.
(1:09:00) Raekwon discusses his active work with his fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah and his upcoming 20-year anniversary for the album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… , along with their preparation for a U.S tour beginning in July and thereafter overseas. Additionally, they discuss Rae’s verse in The Wu-Tang’s timeless classic “C.R.E.A.M.” The Chef shares how he managed to claim his place opening the group’s most prominent song.
(1:30:00) Ice-T then gets philosophical, discussing how “fame has its costs and a tax.” The two iconic MCs emphasize the pitfalls of fame and the negative that can follow from it. With passion, Rae’ recalls a few times in his past where he told himself, “Damn, I was happier being broke!”
(1:36:00) The podcast closes out with a popular segment: “I’m Not A Hater, But I Hate Shit.” Ice-T asks Rae’ what his pet peeve is. “I hate niggas that front to try to be something they not,” says the MC know for confrontational lyrics. Ice follows by touching on his hate for people creating fake appearances and personas for themselves.
As an interesting note, Ice-T opens the podcast discussing his partnership with manager “Mickey” and John Reese (co-founder of the Mayhem Tour) for the development of the Art Of Rap Festival.
Ice stresses that he (and Mick) are fans of the performers, first and foremost. Although Raekwon and/or the Wu-Tang Clan may not be on their current L.A. lineup, it is mentioned they may appear on a later date in a different city. Ice did say that Heads can look out for performances by an esteemed pack, including Game, Cold Crush Brothers, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Afrika Baambaataa, Doug E. Fresh, and Tha Alkaholiks, among others. Stay tuned for more information on that.