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Raekwon: Classic Material - 2003-04-23 16:10:27

© The Wu-Tang Corp.- 2003-04-23

[wimg=left]../images/covers/covers/onlybuilt4cubanlinx.jpg[/wimg]"I started doin' my thing when I was like 15 or 16. Hallway style, in the staircases," recalls Raekwon The Chef, one of the Wu-Tang Clan's mightiest swords. "It was like a hobby back then. You know, punch the beatbox out with your face towards the wall." Straight from these humble and recreational Staten Island beginnings (Rae's frist crew was called the Rec Posse) rose one of the most important forces in the history of hip-hop: the Wu-Tang Clan.

After their indisputably classic debut, Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, which hit in late '93 and caught fire by mid-'94, individual MCs from the crew started to drop solo albums at a rapid pace. "We always planned solo projects [before 36 Chambers], that was definitely premeditated," says Raekwon. "We was organized, built from the ground up. And when we started working on the group album [in '93], that's when we started to really become a stronger force." By 1995 Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard had dropped theirs (both produced chiefly by RZA) and it was Raekwon's turn.

Only Built was recorded in early 1995, mostly in the basement of RZA's newly purchased Shaolin duplex. No nonsense involved, just beats and rhymes. Even though RZA was pumping out "10 beats a day of the illest, craziest shit," Wu members had to fight for theirs. "Sometimes we'd have to battle for RZA beats," Rae says. "Whoever's sword is the sharpest wins unanimously. A lot of people got beats I wanted, and vice-versa. But we always looked at everything as a collective effort."

Sprinkled with quotes and themes from gangster flicks like John Woo's The Killer and the Al Pacino classic Scarface, Raekwon and partner Ghostface Killah (who is featured on 12 of the LP's 17 tracks) created a gun- and money-filled world, interlocking intricate rhyme styles and showing off conspicuous wealth. "We was some street scholars who came from the underworld, where if you didn't represent, you didn't survive," Rae says today. "We really needed that album at the time. A lot of rappers wasn't being creative back then. We introduced shoes back to the game, we brought about different names and aliases. And we talked about shit out in the streets. That record inspired maybe 95% of the game's lyrics [afterwards]."

The Chef cooks up more words on his debut:

Criminology:
Back then, me and Ghost was on some real M-O-B shit, we had the names poppin' off. We was wearin' silks and shoes. Back then it was weird to see a rapper with shoes on. The video for that was off the hook. Ghost had the robe on. He was so fly that he didn't have to buy clothes no more!

Incarcerated Scarfaces:
I wrote that song in like 20 minutes. That song was more or less me comin' up with a hook for niggas who's locked up and got so much struggle in they way.

Guillotine [Swords]:
I think that song was a little piece of Method Man's album [Tical], as a skit. And I always told RZA that I wanted to use that beat. Genius was on there. He's like my older brother. He's been gettin' busy with it for longer than me.

Glaciers Of Ice:
That's probably my favorite song on there. The beat that RZA did had a weird type of sound. It always made me feel like it was a gun festival type of song. Like a fiesta with all nines out.

Verbal Intercourse:
That one, with me, Nas and Ghost on it, that was a headbanger for niggas too. Nas and me both came in the game around the same time, and we was feelin' each other's styles. We had a relationship back then. He'd come to Shaolin, and I was going out to Queens.

Wisdom Body:
That track was just Ghostface on there. I think I didn't even come in that day and Ghost spit that and I fell in love with it and it stayed being his track. It was his album, too. We were both puttin' in 200%.

Ice Cream:
To me that wasn't the biggest song, I didn't care about it too much at the time. It was to serve females and at the time I wasn't tryin' to do that. I might have fought for that not to be the single, but RZA knew [it should be].

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