This summer was full of flourishes for us at U of Taste Mag. Checkout our biggest interview to date with Wu-Tang’s very own, Raekwon the Chef.
Earlier this week, UofTaste, and other media outlets, met at Frank’s Chop Shop on the lower east side for a special chance to interview Shaolin’s very own, Raekwon the Chef, for the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Checkout our interview below:
How did you get involved with the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival?
I received a call from some people. I guess they knew that I’m originally from Brooklyn and this is where stars are born at. I never had an opportunity to do the Brooklyn show, so I just received that call, you know? I was in the studio that night and I got the call. I was like “Oh shit, they want me to come out to Brooklyn.” I barely ever do shows in Brooklyn. I was just overwhelmed with the opportunity to be on it.
Did Brooklyn Bodega reach out directly?
They reached out. They said ” Yo, they want The Chef.” So, I’m like “I’ll take it! What I gotta do jump on the train to get there?” You know, I’m excited though. It’s an honor to do anything in New York City that represents where we come from. Brooklyn is a little bit special to me because that’s my home front. I’m still a Shaolin dude , don’t get it wrong. But BK is where my mom brought me out into the world. Kings County kid, you know?
Are there any surprises your fans can expect of your upcoming performance in July?
Absolutely. I can’t give all the goods out ,but you’re going to see something happen in a minute. Just get ready. [Laughs]
Also performing at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival is Brooklyn collective , Pro Era. How important is it for you to see the younger generation of collectives step up to the plate?
I love it. I love it. I had the opportunity to chill out with these guys. [Brooklyn] That’s their city and to me it’s like a youngster getting an opportunity to live out his dreams and, you get to do it in the greatest way. I tell anybody, if we [Wu- Tang] couldn’t wake up Staten Island , Shaolin , then we couldn’t go nowhere.
So, I know they feel the same way about what they’re doing. Brooklyn is important to them because that’s their home. Once you got your home behind you , everybody else is going to support you even bigger because they see your home front is supporting you. I think that’s important. It’s definitely a step up too, as far as being in this business. “You from Brooklyn? Oh yeah? We here. That’s our neck of the woods. We rocked out there too. We did it big.” It’s someplace where everyone is going to be paying attention and that’s going to give hope to all the cats in Brooklyn that get it in. It’s like “Yo, I have to do this. I have to do this type of show to better my legacy down the line.” That’s important.
You’re a legend in hip-hop. You’ve been in the game for over 20 years, how do you feel about the direction of hip-hop nowadays?
I think the direction is everybody is just making great music in their own little way. Of course, there’s different styles of music being made. If you’re making music that soothes the minds of people , who want to listen to it, it don’t matter what “kind” of hip-hop it is. Especially if it attracts to the people that love music. The music is being made.
Now, is it being made organically or authentically? I can question that because alot of things do sound the same. But, i still respect the work part. If cats are out there working hard, then it ain’t about authenticity to them. It about entertainment to that person or group. At the end of the day, I still respect it. I like where hip-hop is at today.
F.I.L.A. , which stands for Fly International Luxurious Art, is your 6th studio album. Can you tell us more about it and how it will differ from your previous albums?
Yeah, this is definitely my 6th solo album, Fly International Luxurious Art, everybody knows it as F.I.L.A. All I can say is, this is a great piece of work. It’s a great body of work. I would say that, I’m giving you “Rae” ,but I’m giving you more of a… A “growing Rae”, somebody that’s been in the business for so long and can still keep it sharp and flexible when it comes to creating music.
I feel good about this body of work. I can call it a classic. And you know from me? When I call something a classic, it’s because of the blood, sweat, and tears that was put in the project. The creativity, the composure factor, and just trying to make it still be today’s music , but still be what people know me as. I think I did a great job on that. I passed that test pretty well and it’s a fly album.
What makes it different is that your’re going to get more opportunities to see me intertwine with alot of rappers in the game that i never really had an opportunity to. It’s one thing to always get a “Raekwon album” ,but it’s another thing to see Rae with some of the guys that’s doing it today. You know what I mean? You’re going to get a whole ice cream cone with sprinkles and everything on it on a hot day and you needed that cone and you feel good about it. No doubt.[Laughs]
How do you measure your success?
I just try to stay humble. I’m still learning, I’m still trying to better my craft. I’m still passionate which is the most important thing for me. I guess it gets better, according to the work you put in. I think , for me, alot of shit that I’ve been doing, I feel the growing factor. I still love to do it. You can give up if you want too. I f you feel like that , but I don’t feel like that. I feel like I still have a couple more albums in me that the world needs to see. Only having 6 solo albums is…not really a great thing for me at 20 years in the game. But, I respect it because those were six albums that came when they came. For me, I can’t stop until I hit 30.
In past interviews, you’ve spoken about your love for Clarks , the shoes, and your upcoming album is named F.I.L.A …
I’ll drink to that. [Laughs]
So, is there going to be a Raekwon shoe line coming soon? Or do you plan on stepping into the fashion world anytime soon?
You know what? There’s been alot things that I want to do, that I haven’t actually I had the time to do. I love to cook. I love dressing. I’m an interior decorator. I do alot of things and it”s all about me having the time to really get into it. I’m never the person to brag about something that I want to do and I ain’t start on it yet. Right now, my direction is basically film. I have alot of things that I want to show the world and that’s going to come in due time. But, the main thing is to produce great albums and let people know that there’s a new Rae in town. It’s not an old Rae, it’s a new Rae that understands the business and he’s going to let his talent speak for himself.
What advice do you have from independent artists making a name for themselves?
Learn the business and continue to make music that makes sense. Make music that you feel is today’s climate of music. If you can blend in , do what you do. Also, be able to understand the business and know that there’s sacrifices that come with it.
I see alot of guys out here who may have one or two records, but create that album. Everybody don’t believe in making classic albums anymore. I get it, it’s a digital world and everybody’s buying what they like. But, I think it should go back to ” I wanna get this album. This album is dope.” You get to break it open, read the credits, and see the stuff that was important to us making it. Because we took our time and make something we feel the world needs to see. I would just want to see dudes making more “body of work” albums, if that makes any sense.
Who are you listening to these days?
I listen to the radio. I don’t listen to nobody in particular in the car or by myself because I try not to indulge in it too much. I just respect it. If I like something, I like it. I get with it. But, when I’m listening to my own music, I might be listening to slow music. I’m a big R&B guy. That’s why y’all always see me come out with R&B/Rap songs. It’s certain shit that I love because it keeps me calm. It keeps me calm. My mind is fresh. I can think. But, when it comes to listening to everybody else, I just go to my gem of work. Period.
What was the defining moment in your life that made you say “Rapping is not a hobby. This is what I do. This is what I was meant to do?”
I think that with hip-hop, I grew up in it. I was born into it. It’s a culture, for real. I can sit here and say that , but… I think it’s all about being creative when it’s time to be creative and respect what hip-hop has taught us.It taught us how to stand up. It taught us how to learn things and be more into business. So, for me , I take it as , this is what I love to do. This is what I was chose to do. It’s one thing for somebody to get in, and not enjoy it. But, I love it. I have to listen to what’s going on. I have to pay attention to the readers and the writers, and the artists and the business. I want to add on to it as well. It accepted me so, I’ve gotta make sure that I keep the legacy still lit.
If you were to leave today, what would be your legacy?
My legacy would for everybody to listen to my music forever. Just keep me around, keep me in your mind. Remember me through my music. Word up. All praises due.