Raekwon: ‘Everything ain’t always perfection’

The Wu-Tang master rapper looks back over his career in rhyme to share the secrets of his trade


Yo man, just keep it creative, challenge yourself, try and get as vivid as you can with the balance of everything. Make motherfuckers feel like they can see your hard work is paying off in the track. The beginning stages are all about worrying if people understand you or respect it. Once you get past knowing people appreciate who you are and what you make, you go back and give people what they want again. It’s a different feeling because you’re nervous at first; you don’t know if people will like how you’re going to present it, but when they do, you’ve got to keep the bar high and work hard to do so.


The pacing factor is just about knowing when it feels done. I make records at certain paces cuz I have to make sure at the end of the day it’s enough to keep you listening. When it’s enough to keep you there I did my job; if it’s too much, overboard, then it can be overkill. I sit back and vibe according to that.


One thing about the Chef: I don’t come in the studio with rhymes made already, I write on the spot. Whatever I feel at that time, I’m expressing it on wax, I’m putting it on a piece of paper. That’s just one of my techniques on how I do things, you know. It’s all about just being a picture painter and just feeling good about what you’re hearing. The production has to be able to get the stories going in my eyes. When I hear something and say, “Yo, oh shit!” it’s saying, “Yo, talk about this...”


Me and the track have a conversation you know? Records like Can It Be All So Simple, which was a dope record. Records like Bring Da Ruckus, it was just the way it sounded. I look at the track like it’s a person, so if it’s screaming to me, “Yo, I need to rhyme this way,” I’m just gonna do it. It’s about emotions, it’s about tapping into people’s minds and giving them exactly what you want to give them. Some tracks tell me, “Just rhyme, freestyle” or whatever, but then you’ve got some joints where it’s just like, “It’s time for a picture”, you know what I mean? On various albums, man, it could have been, you know, C.R.E.A.M. Prime example: that beat right there, I already know I’m going into a story. It felt like a story. It felt like, you know, this is what I need to talk about. That first line just opened up and took me somewhere, you know.


I’m not perfect – sometimes I can exaggerate, sometimes I can lose a thought. It depends, but I try to at least decipher where the track should go. If it feels good, it feels good. If it don’t, then I have to make some changes, but I’m used to that. Everything ain’t always perfection. You still have to work under certain guidances. If you just can’t get it then put it down, it might not be for you. If it doesn’t make sense then it’s like, yo, dip off on it. I’m just a guy, I’m just a Chef, you know what I mean? I’m just a messenger, kid.

Raekwon’s new album, F.I.L.A., is out on 28 April


Joe Bish

The GuardianTramp

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