Y'all can front like you're too cool for school, but I can't pretend like these Raekwon videos haven't been a dream come true. How often do you get the chance to sit down with a hip-hop legend and have them truly break down game, share all their widsom and experience and, if you're really lucky, tell some truly amazing stories? That was a rhetorical question, it almost never happens, so that's why I'm hanging on every word, trying to soak up whatever lessons I can learn from a man who literally helped change hip-hop forever.
In part two of our interview series with Raekwon, The Chef returns and class is in session. First up, he explains why he's learned to completely ignore album sales, and how disregarding radio spins and Billboard charts has helped give him a 20-year career instead of a two month buzz.
"I don't give a fuck about album sales, man. We already did platinums and golds." There are only so many people alive that could say a sentence like that, and Raekwon is one of them. It's a powerful thought though, a reminder that our hip-hop heroes became our heroes by staying focused on simply making great music, by practicing artistry.
Speaking of which, the idea that major labels and outside influences can change an artist's music has been well established, but you'd think that someone like Raekwon is well beyond such worries. Think again. As far as he's come, he still needs to constantly remind himself that while it can be valuable to listen to others, ultimately the only opinion that truly matters is your own.
Artists so often only talk about their successes, but so much more can be learned from mistakes and it's amazing to hear Rae talk about his mistakes too, about the lessons he learned in rolling out Immobilarity. Our heroes aren't superhuman, they're humans who have pushed themselves to achieve the extraordinary. If even the almighty Chef has made mistakes, has learned from those mistakes and moved on, than you can too. At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, it's genuinely inspiring to listen to this and think about applying it to your own work, no matter what that work is.
And we had to close with this gem. Raekwon recruited A$AP Rocky for "I Got Money" off his new album, but it was far from the first time he bridged the NYC generation gap and worked with Rocky.
I know that a statement like "A$AP Mob is the new Wu-Tang" will cause spasms of anger in most of the older hip-hop head set, myself included, but when Raekwon himself is co-signing an idea like that I have to think about it more, about what connections the two crews share, even decades apart. The times have certainly changed, and A$AP Mob's story is just beginning to be written, but in many ways there are more similarities than differences between the two groups.
Well...I don't know how else to say this, that was motherfucking enlightening. It's not like I had a shortage of respect for Raekwon before we did these interviews, but hearing how ready he was to share his knowledge, to teach, to tell stories, to inspire, my love for The Chef is at an entirely new level. Raekwon forever. Wu-Tang forever.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks on podcasts/radio/TV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]