Raekwon the Chef disses as he dishes…
Founding Wu-Tang Clan MC, Raekwon the Chef, has maintained his chokehold on the crime-rap genre since unleashing the mafioso imagery-laden classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx back in ‘95. His latest release Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang continues a recent run of form, which meant Mr Popular’s diary commitments had us passing a pleasant five hours in his hotel bar. When he finally arrived, it wasn’t the hit-and-run we’d feared – he was, of course, a gentleman and a scholar (of chicken).
So we’re catching you just before you hit the stage tonight. Any jewellery or clothing you won’t be seen without?
Just keeping it basic man! Just a little watch I got here and that’s it, know what I mean? Nothing crazy. Just the shit I chill in every day, son. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Your Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album was named after a style of gold chain though, right?
Yeah, there’s a little bit of significance with that, but at the same time: it’s subliminal. I look at my crew as being a chain. Like the Cuban link chain, know what I mean? There’s a tightness there. So at the end of the day, it’s a sign of strength. Something that can never be broken. That’s what Cuban links signify, more than just the jewelry side. It’s bonds you can’t break.
Are you into showing off ‘ice’? Diamonds and the like?
I don’t really do none of that stuff, like throwing it up for the camera. But I’ll always have a fascination with jewellery. I’ll always look at that like a reward for all the things I’m doing. But when Wu-Tang first broke big, the first thing I did was buy a car, then I bought a house for my mom to live in. Basically, I was just generous, just spending money like any young cat would. But I did buy a lot of cars and jewellery.
If we turned up as a rival rap crew, what would be the first diss you’d serve up about our possibly quite wack outfits today?
Haha. I ain’t gonna dis you, man. Not on your clothes anyway. You are who you are, know what I’m saying? You’re wearing skinny jeans – and that’s cool. Wear skinny jeans! Know what I mean? Me personally, I prefer to see white people with skinny jeans more than on black cats.
So what would be the worst thing you could possibly turn up to the show wearing right now?
Point taken. Who’s the best dressed in Wu-Tang?
Me! Haha. Nah man, to each his own. I just try and do what I do.
Who’s the worst dressed?
Me too. I’m the best and the worst.
Will there be any Wu members with you onstage tonight? I see Meth and Ghostface are on the new record.
Nah man. Everybody’s back home. Doing their own thing. Tonight is just a strict Chef night, you know?
Ok, but apart from the Chef moniker, you’ve invented a lot of Mafioso-style characters for yourself in the past. Is the new record based on that side?
Nah, this one is more conceptual to the classic Wu-Tang style. It’s just me, basically giving fans what they want. That’s why we made the album. I don’t think I could ever abandon that Wu-Tang imagery. That’s like abandoning my past. That’s something that I couldn’t do. I will always remember where I came from and then I’ll always know where I’m going.
But if you had to kill one of your characters off who might it be?
That’s kinda hard. You know what I mean? Lex Diamonds: he always been down with me. Shallah? The Chef? Hmmm, I don’t know. That’s a question I can’t answer.
I hear you actually have some chef skills for real. How’s the hotel food?
Oh I haven’t really eaten much. The only thing I had in here was the spring roll.
Went down ok?
Oh yeah, they got good food here.
Would you ever open a restaurant?
It’s soon coming man! But if I can’t do the cooking myself, then I don’t wanna do this. So that’d be something that everybody would have to be able to see. That Rae can really cook. There’d be a couple of dishes I might need some helping on, but I’ll learn.
What would Rae’s restaurant be called?
I don’t know. Maybe Chef’s Kitchen or Hell’s Kitchen, I don’t know.
Talking of food, I read recently you saw the friendly rivalry between Wu-Tang and Bad Boy Records in the 1990s as kind of harmless, like comparing McDonalds to Burger King. But which is actually better out of McDonalds and Burger King? Because that is actually quite important.
Haha! McDonalds. Definitely McDonalds.
Apparently Subway has just overtaken McDonalds as the most popular fast food outlet in the world.
I can believe it. I believe that, because Subway’s is definitely healthier. It’s in every country everywhere you go. And down at Subway, you can definitely get a lot more different dishes.
What do you go for?
I keep it basic. Turkey, cheese, that kinda thing.
And at McDonalds?
Unusual choice. Not many people go for that. What’s your opinion on KFC?
KFC ain’t real chicken.
What’s real chicken?
In the USA, it’s a place called Popeye’s.
There’s a place in Hackney on Lower Clapton Road called Sam’s. It does two burgers for £2. It’s amazing.
How far is it?
It’s in East London. But there’s a few around.
There’s a lot of good restaurants here, especially West Indian cuisines. Curried chicken, curried goat, I like stuff like that. Sam’s Chicken in Hackney? I’ll have to check it out. You say there’s a few around?
Just look out for it. I’m not saying you’ll find it but if you see it… Massive chicken wings, big hot wings.
By Tom Hall
Photos Alex de Mora
[For JUKE Vol.03]