Raekwon Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs

Raekwon the Chef has cooked up some marvelous shit during his illustrious rap career. Since he went to “war with the melting pot” on Wu-Tang Clan‘s first single “Protect Ya Neck” in ’92, Shallah put out a string of memorable solo albums (including the classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… series), made outstanding co-starring appearances on countless stellar Wu releases (most notably with his Co-D Ghostface Killah), and spit darts on tracks with everyone from the late Big Pun to teen twitter-throb Justin Bieber.

Yesterday he released yet another solo album, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, which sounds like some of his best work to date. So we felt it was the right time to go chop it up with the Chef to break down what we feel are the 25 most essential songs in his never ending catalog of crack. And you know Louis Rich Diamonds is always down to connect, politic, ditto. Put your shoes on.

As told to Daniel Isenberg (@stanipcus).

Wu-Tang Clan “Protect Ya Neck” (1992)

Produced by: RZA

Raekwon: “That one right there is definitely a classic song. It’s one of my favorites. That’s really my first time of hearing eight cats on one record, number one. That’s the introduction of our careers right there. That record definitely made the biggest statement for us. That record was put together crazy. When we got in the studio it’s like we were rhymin’ to another beat. That’s how RZA works. He may think of something right after he makes the beat and go back and re-tweak the beat though. I didn’t rhyme to that part of the beat when I was rhymin’. It was just a different bounce, but at the end of the day it was definitely just one of the illest songs ever made in my eyes.

Probably the only one that was there with him helping [RZA] co-produce at the time was Dirty. Dirty had a lot to do with the production back then off the first album.

“It wasn’t no order. When you hear us say we witty and unpredictable it’s for reasons like that. Only because, we understand RZA’s a beat maker, but at the same time RZA is a composer, so he was just playing with things and trying different things. So that was really scrambled together as a record. Like, probably the only one that was there with him helping him co-produce at the time was Dirty if I’m not mistaken, ’cause Dirty had a lot to do with the production back then off the first album.

“Number one, being from Staten Island, the forgotten borough, this is what gets us excited. This is what makes us feel like we underestimated or underrated, so it was definitely about smashing anything and everything that come in our way, but we definitely wanted to be heard the right way.”

Wu-Tang Clan “C.R.E.A.M.” (1993)

Produced by: RZA

Raekwon: “’C.R.E.A.M.’ did a lot for my career personally. It gave me an opportunity to revisit the times where that cream meant that much to us. So, yeah, when I think of this record it just automatically puts me back into ’87/’88 where we were standing in front of the building. It’s cold outside. We didn’t care. We’re out there, all black on trying to make dollars. Just trying to make some money and trying to eat. Survive.

Meth came up with the hook but our dude named Raider Ruckus, this was like Meth’s homeboy back then, he came up with the phrase ‘Cash rules everything around me.’

”This song, I remember writing to the beat a long time ago before we actually came out. That beat is old. That was probably like a ’89 beat. RZA had it that long because he had a bunch of breaks. He had all kind of things and he was making beats back then, but we was just picking and that beat happened to always sit around and I would be like, ’I want that beat, so don’t give that beat to nobody.’ And he kept his word and let me have it.

“Meth came up with the hook but our dude named Raider Ruckus, this was like Meth’s homeboy back then, like they was real close, he came up with the phrase ’cash rules everything around me.’ So when he showed Meth what it was and was like, ’Cash rules everything around me,’ Meth was like, ’Word, you right!’ And turned it into a movie, and I came in later that day and heard it and co-signed it.”

Wu-Tang Clan “Can It Be All So Simple” (1993)

Produced by: RZA

Raekwon: “Back then I was doing a lot of soul searching and writing about where I was at that time. That was definitely a hot beat. The sample with Gladys Knight in it, it just kinda was talking to me and I just started writing about the streets again. ’It started off on the island…’

I would definitely sit there with [Hype Williams] for hours and get amped up like, ‘Nah, I don’t like how it look. Nah, we don’t look right. Hold up, show the cars like this. Fix the cars it gotta be like this…’ Hype wasn’t really prepared for all that.

”This is what’s happening, and it became a song that was just describing us and describing where we wanted to go and where we wanted to be. When you’re young and used to not having nothing, you kinda tend to fantasize where you wanna be at. Basically I was telling the struggle side and Ghost was telling the dream side where he was saying, ’Yo, I wanna have me a phat Yacht.’ It’s just young kids wanting to have something later on in life, but they’re right here for now.

”That was Hype Williams’ first major major major video. Guess who was in the camera room with him?! Guess who was in the editing room with him?! But I never took credit for it. I know the stuff that I like to see. Cats walking by pouring the beer, ’Yeah, that look mean, that look like something that we need to put in there.’ The kids wheelie-ing and the slow motion effect. Hype was really paying attention to what cats had to say and how we wanted the video. And for me, all this is a dream come true. So, I’m excited. I’m putting my continuity with it. I’m feeling like I’m a star already before I even got on so you know I would definitely sit there with him for hours and get amped up like, ’Nah, I don’t like how it look. Nah, we don’t look right. Hold up, show the cars like this. Fix the cars it gotta be like this…’ Hype wasn’t really prepared for all that, but he respected it.”

Method Man f/ Raekwon “Meth vs. Chef” (1994)

Produced by: RZA

We like to argue, fuss, and fight with one another, so everybody in the clan they kinda get a kick out of us two geekin’ and lunchin’ on each other every time.

Raekwon: “Me and Meth loved the beat. For the world to really know, me and Meth always go back and forth. We like to argue, fuss, and fight with one another, so everybody in the clan they kinda get a kick out of us two geekin’ and lunchin’ on each other every time. But, yeah, when we did that song we definitely was on some battling shit. And I knew Meth had the bounce.

When it comes to flowin’ we always looked at him as a flow-er. Niggas looked at me as a soldier. You know, a militant. Everybody had they specific chambers and at that time it was the flow-er versus the lyricist. The guy who’s gonna come at you with the war rhymes and the straight street shit.

“I feel he won still though because his flow was just so, ’Who lit that shit it was I, the chinky eye…’ I was just going at him with the machine gun, ’I’m goin’ all out kid no turn backs…’ So to this day we still laugh about it and it’s still a mystery to us who really won, but in my eyes I’ll give it to him.”

rest here @ complex.com

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  • behind da barz

    --------the chemicals R identical, we're one & the same / with 7 letters in all 3 of my government names / walked on water, nah, neither did jesus / its a parable to make followers & readers believers--------i gave her my honorable discharge & she took it like a soldier--------what's a black beetle anyway, a fuckin roach-------she told the director she tryna get in a school-he said "take them glasses off and get in the pool"---------what ya'll call swag to me is faggotry-------my outfit so disrespectful / u go 'head n sneeze let my presence bless u--------its quite amazing that u rhyme like u do / & how u shine like u grew up in a shrine in peru-------its hard fuckin with niggaz u hope u can trust / ure a fool if ure main bitch is easy to fuck--------beyond the walls of intelligence life is divine / i think of crime when im in a new york state of mind - ------THE WAY SOME ACT IN RAP IS KINDA WACK / IT LACKS CREATIVITY & INTELLIGENCE / BUT THEY DON'T CARE BECAUSE THEIR COMPANY IS SELLING IT / ITS MY PHILOSOPHY ON THE INDUSTRY--------From days I wasn't "Abel/able", there was always "Cain/caine-------know how to leave anything in 30 seconds / when you feel the heat coming & flee with the murder weapon--------ayo my silent moments' loud as the crack of thunder / my hunger like the crocodile that attacked the hunter-------i'm something between platinum & flop, underground & mainstream / conscious, backpack, scratch dat; 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passed more essays / than police motorcade parades thru east l.a.-------DEAD IN THE MIDDLE OF LITTLE ITALY LITTLE DID WE KNOW / WE RIDDLED SOME MIDDLE-MAN WHO DIDN'T DO DIDDLY-------visualizing the realism of life in actuality / fuck who's da baddest; a person's status depends on salary-------mechanical movement, understandable smooth shit / that murderers move with-the thief's theme--------DEEP LIKE "THE SHINING" SPARKLE LIKE A DIAMOND / SNEAK AN UZI ON DA ISLAND IN MY ARMY JACKET LINING / HIT THE EARTH LIKE A COMET - INVASION / NAS IS LIKE THE AFRO-CENTRIC ASIAN; ½ MAN, ½ AMAZING-------& why certainly i'm squirtin / bust a nut then get up & wipe my dick on your curtain-------walk by your casket & spit in your face--------i know how to get my peers off me / make 'em cry & die from high blood-pressure cuz tears are salty-------i'm not trying to give you love & affection / i'm tryna give you 60 seconds of erection / then im'a give you cab fare & directions / get your independent ass outta here - question?---------black cat is bad luck; bad guys wear black / must've been a white guy who started all that--------either you're slinging crack-rocks or you got a wicked jumpshot--------all us blacks got is sports & entertainment--------2 many athletes, actors & rappers / but not enough niggaz at nasa - ------why did bush knock down the towers?--------I REACT LIKE MIKE / ANY ONE TY-SON, JOR-DAN, JACK-SON / action, pack gunz, ridiculous--------all the teachers couldn't reach me & my mom couldn't beat me / hard enough to make up for my pop not seeing me---------kings from queens, from queens comes kings / we're raising hell like a class when the lunch bell rings---------excuse me miss, can i give you a minute? / may i buy you a glass of ice with liquor in it?--------what goes around comes around i figure / now we got white kids calling themselves nigga / the tables turn as the crosses burn...---------YOU LOVE TO HEAR THE STORY AGAIN & AGAIN / OF HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED WAY BACK WHEN--------i guess they got a grudge cause i won't budge / playin tough, staring down the judge with my hands cuffed---------A CHILD IS BORN WITH NO STATE OF MIND / BLIND TO THE WAYS OF MANKIND--------who shot biggie smalls? if we don't get them they gon' get us all / i'm down to run up pn them crackers in their city hall----------its kinda hard to be optimistic / when your homey is laying dead in a casket----------they say the blacker the berry; the sweeter the juice / i say the darker the flesh; then the deeper the roots---------i took your breath away then we'd perform cpr---------there's no real way it can be explained / i guess its just the way i smile when i hear your name--------CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME / C.R.E.A.M. GET THE MONEY, DOLLAR DOLLAR BILL Y'AAAAALL------------see I’m a poet to some, a regular modern day shakespeare / jesus christ the king of these latter day saints here / To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me as / a monger of hate and satan a scatter-brained atheist--------i remember marvin gaye used to sing to me / he had me feeling like black was the thing to be------------this be that put-you-out-your-misery song / that makes you ask your man 'is this the joint he's dissin me on?'---------foul all your life now ure 90 / on ure death bed u regret being grimey---------INDUSTRY RULE #4080, RECORD COMPANY PEOPLE ARE SHAAADYYYY / so kids watch your back cause i think they smoke crack---------society's a weak excuse for a man-----------planet earth my place of birth / born to be the sole controller of the universe---------the mic had my prints, on on it was a body---------a squealer tells, but the dealer still sells---------some young male put in jail / lawyer so good his bail was on sale----------i'm just takin a piss......unless you're gonna do it----------fuck street clothes, we thug it out in tuxedos / stomp niggaz with hard bottoms in casinos--------people higher up have the lowest self-esteem / & the prettiest people do the ugliest things-----------IF YOU ADMIRE SOMEONE YOU SHOULD GO 'HEAD & TELL 'EM / PEOPLE NEVER GET THE ROSES WHILE THEY CAN STILL SMELL 'EM-----------goddamn, what a nigga gotta do to make a million / without the fbi catching feelings--------i got a story to tell / in these streets we got drugs & guns for sale---------we keep the nine tucked chop dimes up rap about it / wild out fuck niggaz up laugh about it---------- read between tha lines of ya eyes and ya brows / ya handshake aint matchin ya smile---------what the fuck i rap for? to push a fuckin rav-4?-------fuck all the glamour & glitz, i plan to get rich / i'm from new york & never was a fan of the knicks----------the white boy blossomed after dre endorsed him / his flow on renegade-fuckin awesome...applaud him-------before i start you know i gotta / pay homage & respects to afrika bambaata---------DRUGS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS / MONEY IS THE KEY TO SEX------i pimped my crib so i must exhibit------- I - WILL - NOT - LOSE !
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