- Tue, 2009-12-29 13:48
Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon recently released his fourth solo album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx....Pt.II. The follow up to his acclaimed debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...released in 1995, it went on to become one of the most celebrated, highly acclaimed hip hop releases of 2009.
A member of one of the most influential hip hop collectives of all time, Raekwon has been part-responsible for laying down a heavy load of blueprints for many current and future rappers, MCs and musicians.
Released via Dr. Dre's label Aftermath Entertainment, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx....Pt.II was produced by fellow Wu Tang member RZA, Busta Rhymes and Dre himself. I Like Music caught up with Raekwon to chat about working with Dre, his dreams, living in NYC and his future plans.
"I Like Music because…Music is the definition of life. Music is a passionate component that makes the man, woman and child understand what times are about. These times are here for us. It’s a vitamin. It’s a vitamin of life. It’s a vitamin of tranquillity. This is why I like music. This is Raekwon the chef. Peace.” Raekwon
ILM: How would you describe the vibe of Only Built For Cuban Linx Part II? What were your aims for the record?
Raekwon: For me it’s just basically a job, you know. It’s like being an athlete. We put our lives on the line so that we can make great music. I just wanted to come with something that was really from the heart and genuine, you know. When you’ve been through so much in your life like I’ve been through in my life, it’s nothing to sit down and write about life, write about reality. That was a reality that was once in my life before, so as a musician I want to make sure it makes sense, that it satisfies people’s minds and takes them where I want them to go. When you talking to somebody and they say something you was just about to say, you say ‘hey, you read my mind’ and that’s how I look at it with my music.
ILM: How would you describe your process of making music?
Raekwon: I don’t really like a crowded studio. I like to go in when it’s me and one other person, the engineer or sometimes just me. Sometimes I wanna see guys in the other room, so I can ask their opinion or whatever, but really I just like keeping it calm.
ILM: You’ve worked with a number of other artists, which have been some of your most memorable collaborations?
Raekwon: I worked with Dre which is a great experience for me, just to be in his presence. I feel like once you’re in the presence of greatness, you’re destined for even more greatness. So you know, we created a great vibe in the studio, everything was from the heart. When we got the opportunity to just start listening to some beats, what he was playing was where I wanted us to go. So we was really fishing for the right sound for me. That was a good experience for me right there, just to be around a cat that I had been a fan of for years before I even got on, you know?
ILM: When did you first fall in love with music? When did you realise it was what you wanted to pursue?
Raekwon: Probably around the time I became a teenager. I grew up around music, my family listened to a lot of soul music, this was their way of getting away from the present times and having to deal with the struggle of life. We was always into music like the O’Jay’s, Frankie Beverly even further back too. My family was always music orientated, as far as listening was concerned. Music is a way of defining life, defining things that go on inside each one of our lives. I didn’t start wanting to do it until I was a teenager, probably about fifteen. When I first heard Run DMC go in and do their thing. That’s when I wanted to be a star.
ILM: When you look back over your career so far, what are the biggest highlights for you?
Raekwon: I’m just a black child that became a man, you know what I mean? All I really tried to do was put my best foot forward and make the music that I know fits the moment. I don’t have rap books, I’m not really crazy involved on that level. I just look into the studio with a clear mind and go according to what we trying to make and come up with something great, you know. So when I get round great artists, the momentum is already there for us to go to the next level.
ILM: What would be your advice for anyone who wants to achieve the same dream?
Raekwon: I would tell em to keep your confidence up. Don’t give up on your dreams. If this is something you wanna do then you have to work hard, you know what I mean? This is not easy. Anything you want to achieve or get, it’s about hard work, it’s about belief, it’s about confidence. That would be my advice as well as, you know, you gotta be a good person too. You can’t be a lowlife, you can’t think that you’re going to get great blessings if you are. You gotta have some kind of goodness in you and keep dreaming. That’s always the plan for cats who never had shit. You gotta stay dreaming and believing that life ain’t over for us, life is beautiful.
ILM: You formed your musical career in New York. How does the vibe and atmosphere of the city affect you and your work?
Raekwon: New York is a place where there is a lot happening, you know. It’s a fast paced city, at any given time things change, we’re always subjected to things constantly conjested, people around, cops and all of this and that. It’s basically a society that advances you in knowing how important it is to make it somewhere. You got people of all different colours and they come to the city to see the bright lights and all that, but it’s really people walking by you that got a lot of things on their mind. It’s a place that doesn’t make you relax. You got to strive to be comfortable and you have to be a true survivor of the times out there. For me, I move around a lot. I may come back to New York for four or five months of the year. At the end of the day it is a refreshing place. It gives me the opportunity to feel cluttered again and feel like the person I really am.
ILM: What music have you been listening to recently?
Raekwon: I listen to all kinds of music. I don’t listen to rap music all day. We listen to slow music, we listen to RnB music, soul, you know. All this music has a lot to do with my craft too, you know, I’m listening to great music, whether it’s rap or not. I’m just a person that has to be comfortable and in love with what I hear. That makes me a stronger artist because I’m constantly thinking of great artists, in my earphones, in my place. I try to listen to everything. I like reggae, a little bit of reggae, I like the old reggae. I like soul, of course we love hip hop, we infatuated with that. But I would say I’m more a soulful individual, sitting there listening to the The O-Jay’s, The Temptations, Luther Vandross, Otis Reading, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye. Stuff like that, things that make you relax.
ILM: What are your future plans?
Raekwon: I definitely have to plan ahead, but the motto is to move day by day. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Life is short too. It’s both a double edged sword with that question. I’m definitely thinking ahead. I got dreams of being a movie producer. I definitely think I could make great movies, do things like that. I want to add on and put on more artists and more talented people too. I want to be a part of that foundation that helps so many people, more than just a few people, you know?