The American man Raekwon, right, is one of the members of the very brilliant and occasionally quite scary American hip-hop bunch of people called the Wu-Tang Clan who released albums like Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (in 1993) and Wu-Tang Forever (in 1997). Here is one of their least scary and therefore most commercially successful songs, Gravel Pit, from their 2000 album The W.
Good, we thing you’ll agree.
Along with Ghostface Killah and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (RIP), and indeed Method Man, RZA and GZA, Raekwon has had one of the most successful careers of all the Wu-Tangers. This is because he is excellent at making hip hop music, and he raps in a very slow and deep voice that is relaxing and terrifying at exactly the same time. Confusing, yet comforting. Here is a Raekwon song called House of Flying Daggers which is on his bloody excellent album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II.
Good, we thing you’ll agree.
For all of these reasons, we thought it might be nice to interview Raekwon, and then we did. Here’s what happened:
"Peace peace, what’s good?"
Um, dunno. How does this album, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, compare to your last few solo albums?
“If anyone was with us [the Wu-Tang Clan] through the early 90s, you know, they’ll love the Wu-Tang sound we take. It has a dark cinematic sound to it as well which people loved us for back then, but by the same token it does have a new and improved sound.”
Do you think people unfairly refer to all your music as being “dark”?
“It depends, you know. I definitely switch it up every now and then but I can understand why people feel like that because sometimes we want to come with a record that’s hardcore so I keep it hardcore. But I wouldn’t necessarily call this album dark. I’d call it somewhere in between dark and not dark.”
Have you ever run out of things to say in your music?
“I wouldn’t say I’ve ever run out of things to say. I always just vibe off the production. If I’ve got great production it keeps me motivated. My thing is to always just follow the beat.”
Why is it important to you that your music is hardcore? Would you ever go in a Kanye West kind of direction?
“Well I’m always versatile and if I felt that the production was taking me in that direction I’d be willing to try it, but I’m not just going to jump on it. I’m not one of those artists that just feels like, “Yo, I gotta get on that because that’s gonna take me there”. I just try to make great music and keep an open ear for new types of production.”
And you’re about to feature on a Justin Bieber remix album right?
"Yeah, I did a Justin Bieber remix couple of months ago. It all started from Twitter, and Kanye talking to Justin. They were about to do some things and Kanye told him that he’d get some Raekwon on the track and one thing led to another. I felt like it would probably be interesting and before you know it I’m getting a call from Kanye and he’s like, “Yo what’s up? I wanna do this”, and I’m a big fan of both those guys so I agreed to do it and at the end of the day I knew it would be hot. It sparked a lot of controversy but I think everybody was cool with it because we didn’t get any bad reviews or anything."
Did you give Justin Bieber any advice?
"Nah I didn’t give him any advice. He’s running around as much as me so we really just got down to business and made the record."
Is Justin Bieber a Wu-Tang Clan fan?
"Yeah I’m sure he is, you know. I’m sure him and his people are familiar with what we did back in the early 90s."
Do you like the idea of Justin Bieber sitting in his room listening to the Wu-Tang Clan before he goes and records songs like Baby?
How old were you when you joined the Wu-Tang Clan?
"It was pretty um, I was probably ummmm… you trying to get my age out of me?"
Ha, no [Raekwon is 41, it says so on Wikipedia], I was just wondering about it because Justin Bieber is so young and it’s difficult to be that famous that young. Take Michael Jackson. You need good people around you so you don’t go funny.
"When you’re young and you’ve got talent you don’t tend to think about how old you are at the time, you just see it as people seeing something in you and you’ve got to get to the next level, you know? It’s good you said Michael Jackson because he’d probably been in the game since he was seven years old. I didn’t have that kind of launch but I’ve been in the business for 18 years already so I just feel that if you’ve got talent and you’re able to be familiarised with music that’s hot out there, then you can create and work and be involved with it."
What UK hip-hop do you like?
"There’s a couple of kids out there I like. I like Dizzee at the mo. I think he has a great sound, you know what I mean, a nice flow. You’ve got so many new cats doing it now I don’t really know all their names but I just feel like everybody is getting better. Every time I come to the UK I’m always looking at MTV, I’m always listening. There are so many cats out there doing their thing. I definitely feel like everybody is improving their skills and making great music."
Raekwon's new album, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, is out now and looks like this: