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When the Wu rolls into South Florida this week, we'll witness what is arguably the greatest hip-hop group ever in a rare live appearance. The key to Wu's success lies not in the compatibility of its members but in their aesthetic and thematic differences from one another. If Meth is the smooth hustler, and RZA is the vaguely spiritual overseer, then Raekwon the Chef is the cocaine cartel overlord and the distiller of Wubonics that at-times humorous, at-times esoteric blend of street speak, 5 Percenter rhetoric, and kung fu references. His 1995 debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, is generally regarded as the strongest Wu solo album. It set the stage for the Mafioso raps that dominated the late Nineties and still have resonance today.
When word leaked out last year that Raekwon was enlisting the forever-young Busta Rhymes to record a sequel to Cuban Linx, fans were ecstatic. New Times recently spoke with Rae about his upcoming album and the Wu-Tang Reunion Tour.
My first question is the one on everybody's mind: what's up withCuban Linx 2?
Cuban Linx 2 is coming out the first week of May. And it's fire. The formula is to have the Clan involved with it and bring it back to how it was ten years ago. The Abbot [a.k.a. RZA] is in control, but you might hear some other [producers] that we feel deserved to be heard. I got Dre on this album. We have a lot of energy going on here. I'm going back into a very visual state of mind, and this is going to be a movie that you listen to.
Is there going to be an overarching story?
Yeah, if you listen to the first one, there was a lot of storytelling going on. And that's traditionally how I rhyme. But this one is going to put you on the block. You'll see Lex in relentless pursuit of his career being a cocaine lord, bringing back that Cuban Linx vibe.
Why did you decide to return to this character the Chef?
This was the vibe that everyone was loving about me, that's what everyone knows, that golden era of crack when everyone was striving to make something out of themselves. And my name is the Chef for a reason. I can hit you with this kind of flavor and then come with something else. I wouldn't be the Chef if I didn't have different kind of seasonings around me. But I chose to speak about the things that I was involved with and that I saw around me.
When did Busta come in?
Busta came in as a good friend and a peer that has a lot of respect for me as an artist and what I've done for the game. We were in Germany and talking, and he was concerned about me and my career. I told him I was thinking about doing Cuban Linx 2, and he was like, "Hell yeah, you that dude. We hear a lot of dudes talk that talk, but no one can paint it as rugged and as vivid as you because you've seen it." And he told me that any way he can assist me, he's down.
I heard the tour was being dedicated to ODB.
Everything is in dedication to him. The live shows, the album ... everything. I always think about him. He was the epitome of Wu for me. He was our alter ego. He made us believe in ourselves and made us the mighty Wu. He made us feel that nobody could fuck with us.