raekwon-1_phixrEvery artist’s career is defined by his or her first album. From Nas’ Illmatic, to Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, all the way down to B.I.G.’s Ready To Die.

With that first initial listen, an artist can either gain lifelong fans, or eternal hardships in a game plagued with short-term memory.

As for the Wu-Tang Clan, their legacy was already cemented due in part to an album called Enter The 36 Chambers, but one of the clan’s henchmen in Raekown [Click to download Blood On Chef's Apron Mixtape] made a name for himself all his own by releasing a purpled-colored cassette tape during the summer of 1995 titled Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

With the debut away from his Shaolin brethren, the man born as Corey Woods carved his legend into Hip-Hop history with an album that still stands as a testament of genius to this day.

For years the urban myth was that a sequel would be on the horizon, and when Aftermath Records came into play, everything seemed to be in order. But their partnership soon dissolved, leaving everything up in the air once again until now.

With Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 set for an August release (which coincidently was the same month part one came out 14 years ago), The Chef invites those hungry for a brand meal back into his kitchen to serve you a couple of hors d’oeuvres before the main course…

Hopefully you brought your appetite…

iHipHop.com: Okay, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 is finally being released. Why did it take so long?

Raekwon: I was going through a couple of trials and tribulations, and I thought I would have been able to release it earlier, but things happen for a reason… I was trying to move to a different situation, and I had to make the decision of going indie, or signing as an artist to another label…

Then I came to the conclusion that I wanted to own my masters this time, and I did a deal with a distribution company. So now I’m doing my own thing…

iHipHop.com: What first gave you the idea to make a sequel to such a classic record?

Raekwon: This is a highly requested joint from the fans, you know? Literally right after we dropped the first one, people wanted the second one badly, and that sh*t haunted me for the last ten years… I got to respect what the fans want, and I really went in…

When we made that album, there were fans, not like now where the fans are like rappers… For me, making this album was like walking back down memory lane, and getting back into that vibe of not having a record deal, and where no rules applied… When it was just strictly straight-up Hip-Hop…

iHipHop.com: Who did you reach out to production-wise?

Raekwon: Definitely had to come back home, and deal with the RZA, that’s my brother right there… We went and got the late J Dilla, and this is my first time having him on any of my production… Dr. Dre is on it as well, Erick Sermon, Marley Marl, and DJ Scratch

I just wanted to deal with people who are REALLY-REALLY hands-on when it comes to Hip-Hop in general, and not just today’s Hip-Hop… Pete Rock is on there too… I know they had these beats on CD’s trying to sell to other people, but the ones I picked are going to make it a strong album; trust me…

iHipHop.com: Earlier you talked about having the opportunity to own your own maters, was that reason why the situation you had at Aftermath didn’t pan out in the end?

Raekwon: Nah, that didn’t have anything to do with that… The Aftermath situation didn’t work out because I guess Jimmy [Iovine] had [Dr.] Dre working on something else, and his time wouldn’t have been lucrative for me…

But we still kept our word as far as getting on each other’s product, and still representing the brand, you know what I mean? So we still made sure that [Dr.] Dre was able to have something on the album, because I wanted that to happen bad, and he wanted it to happen as well…

So we just stuck to the plan of getting that production from him… He came through… He was like, “I’m going to do that for you Chef, you have my word.” That’s what it’s all about to me—your word…

raekwon-pic-1iHipHop.com: During that time when you left Aftermath, and you were looking for new distribution, did you ever have doubts about Cuban [Linx] being released at all?

Raekwon: I knew I was going to release it; that was never a problem… Even if I had to just basically sell it on the road, people were going to get this album… At the end of the day, I worked hard on this project, so the people are definitely going to get it…

I’m not a new artist, and I’ve been in the game for a long time, so I feel that I deserve all the stripes just from working hard at what I do…

Making another classic on top of the classic I made is like a free sale for a distributor or a label, because this had something to do with creating a bunch of new artists…

iHipHop.com: So how did the deal with EMI come about?

Raekown: At first I was going to do a label situation, but then once I started feeling like a lot of these labels were full of sh*t, and they’re just looking for ring tone rappers, I figured I would just hold my masters…

Why would I give it to somebody who’s not going to appreciate it, and work it the way it needs to be worked? That’s why I decided to do my thing on Ice Water Records, and do a distribution deal with a company, and maximize my money…

iHipHop.com: Did you pretty much keep it in the same vein as the first one, or did you try different things?

Raekwon: When you look at the first one, you look at strong production, strong content, and lyrics from the streets, and street stories… My thing is to not try and smoke the first one, because you can’t smoke the first one, that was back in ’95 you know what I mean?

I’m sure you ain’t doing the same sh*t now that you were doing in ’95, so my thing was that I couldn’t try to outshine what I did, all I could do was add onto it, and come with a stronger element by adding other elements to it… You have to put classics in certain chambers and certain boxes, and let them be…

Cuban Linx is already in its own box, now there’s just a 2009 edition picking up where we left off at… So we captured everything, like Ghost [Face] going in, but we just did it 2009 style… When I look at the first one, I think about the beats that were being made, and the production was just flawless… So I wanted to get the same type of beats on that level…

iHipHop.com: With the last on being so big, did you put any added pressure on yourself for this one to be as equal or even more successful?

Raekwon: At the end of the day, anybody who knows me knows I’m from the struggle, and that I represent the REAL golden era of Hip-Hop… I’m not one of these new cats that just came in two years ago, and think that they’re a hot MC… I really paid my dues, so there ain’t no pressure for me because I’m used to this, I’m used to pressure…

I’m used to making albums that don’t get a lot of commercial success, and that only gets street respect… So I’m just going to stay in my lane, and whatever the numbers do, it’s all good… But at least I know as an artist that nobody can’t ever front on my sword and say, “Yo, the kid don’t make good music.”

It’s going to be some hard sh*t, and it’s only built for Cuban linx n*ggas just like we say… If you can’t catch, I got to go back to the fans that can catch it; you know what I mean?

raekwoniHipHop.com: Speaking of not being a new cat that just came out, after all these years in the game, what keeps you motivated?

Raekwon:
The passion… The fact that I just came from real Hip-Hop, and so I want to keep doing it, and keep making it…

I’m not an artist that’s just doing it for the money, I’m already right, I’m comfortable, and my family is comfortable, and they’re good…

I do it for the prestigious ness, and I do it for the art… We make music that people have to come and get, because they don’t make music like this anymore…

The fans are the most important thing to me because they helped my life; they got me out the streets, and stopped me from selling drugs and doing the things that I did at one point…

I’m a real MC, I’m not a dude looking to be on TV everyday, that’s not my thing… I’m here to make raw Hip-Hop music for the people who are looking for it…

iHipHop.com: Staying on the subject of just that raw Hip-Hop, how do you feel about lyricism nowadays? Do you feel as if that part of the game has been pushed to the back?

Raekwon: Yeah, I think so… I don’t think people look for cats to really get it in no more… I think people are under the impression that every artist who touches a mic knows how to spit just because he got a record on TV…

Where I’m from, no that’s not what it is B… We look for strong content, and lyrics… You ain’t got to be the most lyrical dude, but at the same time you have to create something that’s authentic… Just try to create your own sh*t man, there’s too many people sounding like each other and it’s getting tiring…

That’s why people are downloading instead of buying… I want people to have the same feeling they had when they heard my first sh*t. I want them to say, “Yo, rewind that sh*t,” or “Play that sh*t again, let me hear the whole sh*t.” I want the people to know that there are still artists out there working hard on making strong albums…

iHipHop.com I remember a couple years back when you put out the Polluted Water project, were you happy on how it was received?

Raekwon: A lot of people didn’t touch that album, and I’m glad you spoke on that… That was an album I did with my n*ggas in the street called Ice Water… I built the crew up from the streets of Staten Island, and I called them Ice Water, and that’s their first album…

The album got a little overlooked, but that album is crushing a lot of n*gga’s albums right now… They’ve been in the game no longer than a year, on some off the radar underground sh*t…

iHipHop.com: Why do you think they [Ice Water] got overlooked?

Raekown: Number one: With the Ice Water project we didn’t have enough time to promote it, and we were dealing with a young company that really didn’t know how to handle sh*t like that… So that ended up in it getting overlooked… You can match that up with anything that’s out today, but I just think a lot of people just didn’t know it came…

raekwon-2iHipHop.com: Why didn’t you put out your own stuff in between that time?

Raekown: Because I was basically touring, doing shows, and getting y’all prepared for this new plate of food I’m about to give y’all… But I did drop some mixtapes that y’all could taste, and to let you know a brother is still out there doing is thing…

iHipHop.com: At any point, did it was it hard to get the creative juices flowing again?

Raekown: Nah, I had the juices flowing… People are going to look at the new sh*t and be like, “Yo, that n*gga is ill!” I’m getting y’all ready for the big plate of food…

iHipHop.com: What’s the one thing that bothers you about modern day Hip-Hop?

Raekown: Just the way all these labels be dictating sh*t, like they really know Hip-Hop… It’s like; yo stop it!

Hip-Hop came from out of the streets, and whatever you think you knew, you had to get it from out of the streets… I think mothaf*ckas be bamboozling n*ggas just to let them think that they know sh*t, when they don’t know sh*t…

Everyone thinks the radio makes you that dude; the radio is just a utensil in order to get you heard… But it shouldn’t be used as a utensil to make you feel like you got the hottest thing out… You can’t say that, you have to let the people decide…