"Just growing up when we grew up and how we grew up and of course where we grew up . . . I seen enough to keep me inspired for decades, man."
From the moment we all heard those kung fu effects on "Protect Ya Neck," the world was hooked. Smitten by the rugged wordplay and seemingly endless lineup of furiously spitting rappers, the Wu Tang Clan was like nothing any rap consumer had ever heard before. But on their second single, "C.R.E.A.M.," the bragging, violent rhymes were replaced by somber, heart-wrenching verses about the hardships of growing up on the crime side - one particular emcee with a penchant for vivid, creative slang introduced listeners to a world few knew existed. Raekwon the Chef quickly became a Wu favorite; his 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, is still regarded by many as the finest individual Wu effort in a crowded field, and might get more than a few votes for the best hip-hop album of all time.
After 1997's Wu Tang Forever, however, things got a little funny. Excepting Ghostface and maybe Method Man, the rest of the clan didn't garner the same attention as it did during the early and mid '90s. Through the last decade, Raekwon released work sporadically to lukewarm critical reviews and wildly varied public opinions. After the release of the Clan's 2007 effort 8 Diagrams, Rae voiced dissatisfaction with ringleader RZA's beat selection and vowed to put out more work on a more consistent schedule. 2009's Only Built for Cuban Linx II . . . Part II was quickly followed by Meth, Rae, and Ghost's Wu Massacre; his latest solo effort, Shaolin vs. Wu Tang, came out last week. Rae is clearly getting his third wind: Walk with Lex Diamonds as he revisits his childhood, and discusses his redoubled efforts to stay both inspired and relevant.More »