Alice interviewed Raekwon.
It went down just like a scene from a Samurai film: hushed sounds, dim light, and smoke curling all around in an intense atmosphere of anticipation. Then, Raekwon emerges from the shadows and swoops into a rendition of the Wu Tang Clan’s classic ‘C.R.E.A.M’. Back in London to promote his latest solo project ‘Shaolin vs. Wu Tang’, Raekwon put on an epic show last Friday, hosted by London residents Livin’ Proof at the HMV Forum in Kentish Town.
The Wu Tang’s cinematic style translates perfectly to live shows and big scale venues, bringing their narratives and unique energy to life. More than just a music concert, seeing them play is like going to a drive-in movie and hip hop show all in one. Knowing how hard-core Wu Tang fans can be, staking out at the front was a risk that had to be taken, and it certainly led to a rambunctious experience of the set.
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Raekwon played a good mix of tracks from his new album and classics from older albums such as ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ and ‘Enter the Wu Tang Clan – 36 Chambers’. Highlights had to be a chilled version of the original ‘Can It Be All So Simple’ and a ridiculous performance of ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ in tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard- I can’t describe the shivers I got when that opening piano kicked in. Raekwon is an incredibly sound guy, and after the show was cool enough to check in with Mint Magazine, so I chatted about the new album, London crowds, and had a rather bizarre experience, with the Chef himself:
So, you’ve got your new album ‘Shaolin vs. Wu Tang’ out, could you tell us a bit about what influenced this album?
The Wu Tang was going through a lot of histories at the time. When we dropped our last album together we wasn’t feeling the product, you know. RZA was responsible for the production, and we was all beefing about the direction of the music, so we wanted to do another album and I came up with the title ‘Shaolin vs. Wu Tang’. You know, it was basically to come back just to do another great album again, and really settle the score with the fans and the production side of it. And ‘Shaolin vs. Wu Tang’ I felt was the best name for the album at the time. We was gonna do it collectively, do it together, but then it didn’t happen, so I took the title amongst myself and did the album alone.
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Where did you draw on inspiration for this album? Your music’s so full of stories and narrative…
Like, for this particular album, definitely we went back to the Karate flick ‘Shaolin vs. Wu Tang’. It kinda shares the same kind of storyline as the music that’s being made, know what I mean? Like, when you look at the movie it’s about two schools that didn’t get along too. Know what I mean? But at the end of the day they represented the same style of rhyming, and the same style of Kung Fu. For us it’s just rhyming right now, its lyrics. So yeah, it definitely carries that side of it as well.
I saw you guys play at Rock the Bells last summer – the setting seemed to really suit your music -
Are you nervous? (Whole backstage goes silent, Raekwon turns and stares, movie-style)
You’re nervous – and it’s making me nervous!
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I feel like the whole room’s gone kinda quiet…
Yeeah, they did… Come on guys! (Party resumes) You don’t gotta be nervous, we’re here together okay? Come on – talk to me.
Okay – so how do you find the London music crowd?
Oh, London is an excellent crowd. They love hip hop to the fullest, and it’s always a pleasure to come here and perform. I mean I been coming here for so long, and nothing but love, you know, nothing but a lot of great friends I got out here that have just been fully supportive of everything I do. So, I always said I would come back out here and represent so that’s why I come back.
And do you have any thought on the U.K Hip Hop scene?
Oh, everybody’s getting better. I mean, you know, to me London is like New York: the same energy of people, the same attitude, and the same vibe. And yeah as far as the music is concerned I been listening to the radio and you know checking out Westwood’s show and all that. I’m happy that he’s supporting a lot of the UK artists now in a great way. That’s supporting, and like I said everybody’s getting better and better.
words Alice Price – Styles