TRU caught up with Raekwon during his Shaolin vs Wu-Tang world tour for an exclusive interview where he talked about creative freedom, working with Justin Bieber and the ethics of making art.
TRU: Your last two albums have been critically acclaimed and were both released independently on your own label Ice H2O. Has this granted you a lot more creative freedom than being on a major label could?
I think I’m in a way better shape than I’ve been in, a way better position and a way better shape than I was in before my last two albums came out. Yes, being independent gave me a lot more influential business tactics to practise. I’ve been very business-minded with these last two albums. I defintely had the opportunity to revisit my past by being around the right set of people that are just gonna keepit real with me and not look at me to change or be somebody different. Yeah, it’s been a drastic change but for the better though. It got me in a great space, and like I said, these next two albums that I got and the last two albums are gonna determine how I really get down so I feel good.
TRU: A while back you did an interview where you answered some questions about your collaboration with Kanye and Justin Bieber. They quoted you as saying he was your “favourite lesbian artist“.
Favourite lesbian artist? Why would I call another man a lesbian?
TRU: I don’t know, it’s how they quoted you.
Number one, I would never call another man a lesbian so I think they’ve misconstrued my words. Nah, I never called him a lesbian artist, I said my favourite number 1 artist. I like Justin Bieber a lot and I think he’s a sensation for his age and what he’s doing for his generation. There was nothing derogatory said towards that kid, I think he’s a hot artist. For us to work together, on the strength of Kanye West putting that together, I think it was ill for us to come together and make something classic. So defintely, we’re gonna fix that little rumor and let ‘em know that, no, Rae never called him a lesbian artist. If anything Rae called him a respectful artist, know what I mean? That’s my little brother, I got his back.
TRU: Some people took the comment as relating to a perceived stance from you on homosexual artists in hiphop or pop music.
I wouldn’t even want to deal with anything with that type of conversation attached to it. We’re not degrading anybody, you are who you are. I’m just here for the people, just to represent real hip-hop music. I don’t judge anybody when it comes to music. Because you have so many different people that make great music that everybody adapts to, so who am i to place judgement on anybody? If you’re gay, that’s ya business. I’m not gay but if that’s something that you choose to be that’s your business. But for me, I just represent this hip-hop music to the fullest.
TRU: That’s some grown man shit right there. There might be people in hip-hop that need to adapt a similar attitude.
It’s just the truth man. It’s about respecting each and everyone’s preference. If that’s what you choose to do with your life then so be it, as long as you’re happy. You are what you are.
TRU: There was some surprise that Nas already used the verse he spit on ‘Rich & Black‘ on your last album, were you aware of that?
Nah, I wasn’t even aware of that. But at the end of the day people respected the fact that there was a lot of love being brought to the table from Nas’ point of view, you know? It’s not that serious, if that’s what it was then that’s what it was. It did pretty good for what we wanted it to do and everybody loves the record so that’s all that counts.
TRU: For the first generation of Wu solo albums Rza used to have the storyline to a movie in mind when producing the beats for the album. It seems like your last two albums have a narrative arc as well, did you have any specific stories or movies in mind for these two albums?
I was basically just making myself say, yo, I wanna go back to that sound that everybody’s been waiting for as far as the fans, the real die-hard Wu-Tang fans go. I had to practise and pay attention to the tapes we made back then to be able to make this type of album. This album’s been carved for the Wu-Tang fans, the die-hard fans this time. We just wanted to make these two be really classic and let y’all know that we could do ‘em, especially for myself. I work so hard, to make sure that the fans are happy with the product they’re receiving. And so far we’ve been getting nothing but great responses.
TRU: Rightfully so, I think those comments are certainly justified. So now that you’ve reclaimed your status where are you going to take it?
I just wanna continue to make good music, know what I mean? Every album don’t always have to necessarily be about taking back to that sound, i just wanna make quality music. I think right now I’m in that space where I’ll be able to continue to make quality music for y’all. I think I’ve replenished my name, back on the map again, you know? ‘Cause there’s a new generation of hip-hop kids out here and they don’t really understand the ethics of making art, an artistic album. They only look at what they see on TV, who got the most money, the fastest car, the biggest jewelry. It’s about making good music and being able to go all over the world and sing these songs. That’s what it’s all about, we’re gonna continue to create good music for y’all.
Raekwon is currently touring europe. The excellent ‘Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang‘ is in stores now.