KNOWLEDGE GOD: A CONVERSATION WITH RAEKWON

Soul controller of the whole globe

Raekwon The Chef — the veteran MC from Staten Island, New York and founding member of Wu-Tang Clan — is a living legend, supreme influencer and one of the finest lyricists in the history of hip-hop.

Since his permanently historic verse on Wu-Tang’s classic single “C.R.E.A.M.” in November 1993 through his equally-iconic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… solo debut in August 1995 to his show-stealing appearances alongside the genre’s most celebrated artists (“Skew It On The Bar-B” from OutKast’s 1998 classic Aquemini and iSHi’s ridiculously good “Dirty Needles” from 2016 stand out amongst a litany of stand-outs) — Raekwon has done nothing but cook up classic material for nearly twenty-five years and counting.

If The Wild — his most-recent solo project from March 2017 — is any indication, he’s not running out of ingredients any time soon.

With comic book-quality cover art from Dan Lish and built upon lead single “Marvin” — one of the finest tracks in Raekwon’s career — The Wild was another solid, forward-thinking effort from the rapper with the near-unparalleled work ethic and consistency.

During a stop at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts as part of The Wild tour, Raekwon took the time to speak about fatherhood, authenticity and his status as a legend in hip-hop, art and creativity.


Photography courtesy of Colin Lane

ON LEGENDARY STATUS

I don’t see it. I don’t see it the way you guys see it — but I respect it. It’s always great to achieve a certain level of respect in the business and people who look at you as that — but I don’t see myself as that.

I see myself as an artist still climbing until I stop doing it. That’s when I’ll probably take a look and really measure out what people really think.

Not like I don’t respect it — it’s just that I don’t look at myself like that. I’m still a cat that’s doing what I do and I love to do it. And I am a fan of hip-hop. I’m a fan of a lot of great artists that came from my time and before my time.

I just don’t feel it yet, kid. I think that’s what keeps me grounded, because I still got more shit to give ya’ll. I look past the fact of being what ya’ll expect; I just want to deliver. I want to deliver. I want to be able to tell ya’ll, “Yo, man: I got more. I still got more.” It ain’t really so much about me — it’s about the culture. I’ll tell any cat: if you put in twenty years (and) you still critically acclaimed — respect it. That’s what I see more than anything.

Legend? That’s cool; I’ll take it. But legends to me? Legends got way more work that I’ve done. I did a lot of stuff… but I don’t feel it yet. I appreciate it; it’s all about the appreciation. And y’all give me the energy to keep shaking and baking on this pen game, you know?

My pen is everything to me, and I’m not finished.

I remember Marly Marl said a long time ago that he doesn’t like to be called ‘legend’ — it sounds like you’re at your ending point. And I couldn’t understand that! But I kind of get it a little bit, because you want to still let people know, “Yo, I’m still dancing!” Like I said (on-stage): “I ain’t knocked out yet!” At the end of the day, I love it; I love the respect… But I still got work to do. I’ve got people all over the world I haven’t seen, and people I did see. So the people I didn’t see — I still got to get over and get to them.

I’m just working, kid. Just working.

ON FATHERHOOD

It’s everything. Everything. It’s all about letting them know: when I’m not with you, I’m out there doing the stuff that is able to help them and take care of them. Sometimes we’ve got to show them that so they’ll know they’re not being neglected.

It’s tough, though. Sometimes I don’t feel like the greatest Pops because I don’t give my kids as much as I can. But every now and then, when they get to a certain age, we’ve got to let them see who we are. And they’re enjoying it right now. They’re out there, they’re working (the merchandise table). I let them work: you ain’t here just to chill; you’ve got a job. This is summertime, so this is the money you’re making for the summer.

More importantly, it’s just to let them know that: this is what Daddy do. You got to know how to separate it too, when it’s time. I’m still a growing father that has to get it right.

But they love me; my kids love me. And that’s all that counts.

They see me as both (Dad and Raekwon) — but more Dad. That’s the greatest thing in the world: to be able to see your kids and see they’re happy. Some of my greatest moments of being with my kids is when they’re sleeping, and I can just look at them and they’re in a good sleep-mode and just chilling.

I’m just out here to work for them — because everything I do, I leave it to them.

ON AUTHENTICITY

That’s important. I come from a scuffed-up town; we were always taught to be grounded, but more importantly to appreciate our blessing. This is a blessing, man. Sometimes I sit down with my crew and I say, “Yo: why are we here? We had to have some good in us for us to get this kind of blessing twenty years later; fans are still in our face and they love us and appreciate us.” To me, that’s the real blessing: is just to be able to give back.

That’s what we’re doing: we’re giving back — still. We here. I ain’t give up.

I think a lot of times when you think of artists that’ve been in the game that feel they fell off: it’s because they give up! They don’t want to work no more; they don’t want to go out there and see the people. And it ain’t like they’re mad! It’s just: they give up! “Nah, I don’t want to do it no more.” Me? I want to do it. Because at the end of the day, without ya’ll? I wouldn’t be shit. I wouldn’t be able to take care of my kids.

I was one of them kids that was heading down a destructive path and hip-hop saved my life. So if I don’t do nothing else, I’ve got to be humble and be appreciative of my blessing.

Ya’ll my blessing; that’s why I’m here.

Written By: Matteo Urella / July 2018

  • Original discussion → July 2017

Original Photography By: Colin Lane


A sincere thank you to for Colin Lane and his incredible photography.
A sincere thank you to the incomparable Rashida Watler / Super Femina Entertainment for the graciousness and support.
A sincere thank you to Brighton Music Hall for the hospitality.