Raek­won trains Siob­hán Kane in the way of the Wu-Tang ahead of his trip to Dublin,

While full of re­spect for the way of the Wu-Tang, which he’s still very much a part of, Raek­won wants to be re­mem­bered as the best. Ahead of his Dublin show he tells Siob­hán Kane about com­ing from the old hip-hop sto­ry­telling tra­di­tion and how his ‘big br

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

COREY WOODS grew up in what is now seen as a golden-era of hiphop; in New York, among the early imag­in­ings of the form. This se­ri­ous-minded sense of honouring the past in or­der to in­form the present has al­ways been syn­ony­mous with Raek­won’s out­put.

“I be­came part of the game when hip-hop was so se­ri­ous to us. It was a lan­guage, a way of life, a feel­ing, a hope. I feel like I came out as one of the best cats, be­cause I learned from those be­fore me – Rakim and Kane, all those in­no­va­tive artists that came from the ’80s. I re­ceived the best knowl­edge of the day, and I carry that with me, be­cause I take my hip-hop se­ri­ously. Don’t get me wrong: I recog­nise that it is also a busi­ness, but it has to come from the streets, like the late B.I.G., he was a great sto­ry­teller, Slick Rick, Nas, Mobb Deep – these were the guys who knew how to paint pic­tures on a crazy scale. I like Lil Wayne – I think he can be cre­ative, but he is not as much of a sto­ry­teller.

“A lot of rap nowa­days is party rap. It is to­tally dif­fer­ent to what Wu-Tang came out of. We wanted to cre­ate art. It is so easy to just go one way with it, but it’s not chal­leng­ing.”

This striv­ing for au­then­tic­ity is rooted in what hip-hop was orig­i­nally born out of: strug­gle, a need to ex­press in a world that would not ac­cept, and from that need an en­tire move­ment evolved. “Hip-hop is an art, it is a whole thing. Imag­ine a rap­per not re­spect­ing a break­dancer or graf­fiti artist – all of these el­e­ments have so much to do with hip-hop – that’s how we changed mu­sic. Peo­ple may lis­ten to the com­mer­cial­ism and maybe that’s all they will see, but hip-hop is rounded in so many ways that you can’t af­ford to not ac­knowl­edge that it started from po­etry.”

This po­etry can be found not just in of­fi­cial re­leases, but in the hum­ble mix­tape, which has al­ways been a cur­rency in hip-hop – a way to try new things, to el­e­vate or den­i­grate rep­u­ta­tions, it takes the fight out of the hands of the in­dus­try and back on to the streets, and for Raek­won, with his Co­cain­ism se­ries, it is a way of show­ing off his phe­nom­e­nal tech­nique.

“I am glad you said that. It’s true, you give a cer­tain tech­nique to the world with a mix­tape, telling peo­ple what you are get­ting ready to do. I can’t sell you a hot CD if you haven’t heard where my voice is at. The mix­tape be­came a ve­hi­cle for putting an al­bum to­gether. You can’t just worry


about mak­ing an al­bum. You’ve gotta feed the fans, so they will keep you on their mind.

“I knew that at some point, mak­ing a come­back, I would have to have some rel­e­vance on a higher level, and I used the mix­tape as the ap­pe­tiser to the food I was pre­par­ing. You could be hot any­way, but some­times peo­ple will check you for one or two records, whereas if you are re­ally hot on a mix­tape it is go­ing to bub­ble up, where fans will start re­quest­ing a record. That is what hap­pens with mix­tapes, with Co­cain­ism. I was just let­ting ev­ery­body know that I am still on my rhyme, but I am go­ing to in­tro­duce some­thing new. You have also gotta give back to the fans. Artists gotta be able to un­der­stand the value in giv­ing mu­sic away as well as sell­ing it.”

This valu­ing of fans is ev­i­dent in Raek­won’s spe­cial up­com­ing shows, where he will per­form Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, which fol­lows in the more in­die-rock tra­di­tion over the last num­ber of years of artists per­form­ing one of their clas­sic records in its en­tirety.

“It com­pletely came from the fans. Some­times peo­ple want par­tic­u­lar things on the menu, and that par­tic­u­lar al­bum is re­ally golden to peo­ple – they go crazy for it. One of my favourite al­bums is The Great Ad­ven­tures of Slick Rick. I would love to see him per­form that whole al­bum be­cause it meant a lot to me at the time.”

With this in mind, it must have been deeply sat­is­fy­ing to work with Slick Rick on Rick’s 1999 record Art of Sto­ry­telling. “Oh def­i­nitely. There is a feel­ing of be­com­ing a kid again ev­ery time I see any of my favourites. It takes you back to when you were young, and I feel like these men are my big brothers, all the way.”

An­other “big brother” is Busta Rhymes, who helped Raek­won re­dis­cover his ap­petite for hip-hop to cre­ate Only Built for

Shaolin vs Wu-Tang,

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