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To obtain longevity in any industry dependent upon the public’s fickle opinion is hard – especially in the music industry. Iconic rapper Raekwon has surpassed the expectations of any imposed expiration date. The Staten Island native’s ability to adapt is a testament to his career spanning over three decades.
While he never required reintroduction, the rapper is venturing into new spaces. He recently launched a Patreon that allows fans to get to know the “Chef” like they never have before.
As a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon (Corey Woods) is credited as one of the most pivotal voices in hip-hop history.
His debut solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.. has never missed a list of the genre’s classic albums.
And through it all, he has mastered the art of evolving and growing a dedicated fan base that will now have the chance to get up close and personal with the artist.
The Black Wall Street Times recently spoke with Raekwon in an interview.
“Patreon is a platform that allows me to share my lifestyle with my fans and give them a glimpse into my world on a personal level. I would like to think I’ve always been very personable.”
He continued, stating he hopes this platform will also serve as a source of motivation for people.
“It’s so important to watch people that came from where you came from, and grow. I just want to be a vessel, and I think the greatest way to show my light is just to show me swimming through my daily life, and sharing that”
Raekwon also mentioned that the motivation he hopes to provide goes beyond the music business.
“Having great conversations on multiple levels is cool, but it can be more. We could talk about dreams – you know? I want it to be a tool to help you understand how important it is in this world to be yourself.”
The patreon offerings include three tiers of engagement and access to the artist. All come with exclusive Q&A’s but then advance into giveaways, concert meet and greet chances, and merch.
Breaking down barriers to access
Raekwon knows the importance of influence and hopes his channel will offer that to someone. He could only imagine how something like this could have affected his career when he was getting his start. He would have done anything to have this access to Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, or Slick Rick.
“I tell people all the time today is different from when we came up because we really had to get in and grind. I remember the start of everything, and saying to myself, ‘Wow, you know, this is something you love so much that you are willing to work as hard as you can…and you are happy to be there whether you are sleeping on your brother’s shoulder or the floor or not sleeping at all!'”
Time changes things, even opportunities. He knows the endless outlets that artists and fans can access through the internet and social media – and encourages them to take advantage of it.
“You sit and say, ‘damn, we did all this work,’ and then you see this app. And now it’s so easy. You can sit at home and become successful in your own way!”
“With social media, you can pay attention to what everybody else is doing. You get to see other people that dream like you. Even if it’s your competition.”
He added, “we didn’t have that. We had to build it in a way where we had to get discovered! Now and then are two different worlds. We [Wu-Tang Clan] would have been on it[ [social media] just like everybody else because of the knowledge. But the knowledge and experiences are different now. Social media is a powerful tool. It’s like being a kid in the biggest school again. You get to hear everything, watch everything, and learn everything.”
The power of social media
The modern music industry makes no apologies for its affinity to social media influence. Singles break on TikTok before the radio, and YouTube influencers go platinum before an artist that’s three albums in. While Raekwon celebrates social media’s enhancements to the music industry, he’s not afraid to call out the downside.
“There’s always a good and bad side. I think it does hinder the fact that people do not take the time to create enough. You know, it’s one thing to have a great idea and say, ‘yo, I could pull it off.’ But it’s another thing to make it iconic. Or make it be whatever you truly feel will be influential down the line.”
“A lot of things are just carbon copies, and even people they copied are copies, but it’s all about how you use it. “
“You use it to empower yourself, but at the same time, you still got to be creative. And you got so many people doing the same thing because they are dealing with the same system; if they see someone win, they feel this is the formula.”
Raekwon knows a lot about formulas. Upon its release, his debut album took the #2 spot on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop charts and moved over 500,000 CDs in less than two months – in 1994 when physical sales were the only thing that mattered.
“I remember talking to a couple of rappers and we were talking about what works for you. We discussed how you stay winning in this [music industry]. Is it vital for you to stay in that one spot and do it that way or continue to be a genius and be bigger? Some people want to stay in that one spot.”
What’s the recipe?
“It’s all about how you use these things. Artists today don’t work as hard as we were at the time trying to make albums and get them out. Everything is so accessible, and that’s the actual advantage! It’s all about streaming! You can get streamed from anywhere, all over the world!”
He laughed as he said, “I can’t even go buy a CD any more!”
But he emphasized the importance of the growth and development of today’s artists and that element was missing because of their possible lack of “grind.”
“You know, I don’t expect everybody to know everything or even work hard because they know easy ways of doing it now.”
So, what’s the recipe, Chef?
“Today, if you want to be an artist, your biggest weapon is content. You can use content to create awareness. Take it to the next level by letting people see all sides of you.”
Then, add a cup of community.
“Get to know your fans, the people around you, your community. You could say you need beats, and boom, 100 beats in your face within minutes. Artists now have these people around them with this knowledge to create their own infrastructures. We didn’t have that luxury.
We didn’t even know what that was! There is an advantage of creating that office right at your fingertips.”
A Migos fan
While we were still on the topic of influence, he spoke about the honor of seeing his classic album cover replicated by TakeOff and Quavo with their first project as a duo, Only Built For Infinity Links.
He expressed his condolences for the loss of TakeOff and his feelings about the unexpected homage.
“I’m a Migos fan, first and foremost, ever since they came out. They just do something for me.”
Take off reached out to me and we talked about connecting. And I knew they were doing an album, and he told me about the cover and what they planned to call the album. It was a dope way of keeping my legacy going. I thought it was dope to be respected in the eyes of the younger cats in the game.”
Unfortunately, the two rappers didn’t get to work together as planned, but it doesn’t diminish Raekwon’s impact on two young men from Atlanta.
He wants to have that impact on everyone, hence the start of his Patreon.
“I get to be me in this space. I’m so colorful in my own mind because I like to talk about all different kinds of things. I want to talk about lifestyle, discipline, business, and mental health awareness, and this [his channel] allows me to dive into all of those things. We [he and his fans] get to share the things we love. I get to build personal connections with everybody and let them know, ‘yo I appreciate you like you appreciate me,’ that means a lot to me!”
Those tokens of appreciation could come in the form of a happy birthday message from the legend to an entire therapy session about staying consistent with your craft.
“It might be someone like, ‘Damn. Ray came off like Dr. Phil on me real quick. He gave me something to think about.”
Foundational to hip-hop
He doesn’t take for granted the vessel that his 30-year career has created for him to influence people’s minds and hearts. His albums have provided his fans with a reflection of him for years, but his new platform will solidify his authenticity.
“I think I share a lot of those vibes with people that they think they can say ‘yo Ray is really genuine.'”
The rapper’s authenticity or ability to be genuine has never been questioned, even with fans just being introduced to his likeness through Hulu’s Wu-Tang – An American Saga.
Actor Shameik Moore portrays the rapper on the series that he admits “is the Disney version of the real stories,” but it’s inspirational nonetheless.
“I will never shoot it down, I think it’s a very entertaining show, and I’m appreciative of it. It’s kept our story alive.”
“It is a great way to tell the story of kids who weren’t supposed to make it out. And then, they learned how to deal with the success of being in the business. And the ins and out, but as far as the facts…..join the Patreon.”
One fact is that Raekwon will forever be one of the bricks in the foundation of hip-hop.
Understandably, he had difficulty choosing his top picks from his catalog.
“These are the questions where I run into the closet and lock it! It’s hard! I look at every rhyme like a new kid being born. Sometimes they’re going to be cute. Some are going to be handsome, some won’t!”
He was able to agree that his verse on C.R.E.A.M. was his most impactful.
“The song just personified where we were at the moment, and people felt that. Everybody was trying to better themselves. No matter what! I think that’s why it has stood the test of time.”
Most (I) would deem it an anthem.
The 50th anniversary of hip-hop shouldn’t be the only time Raekwon is celebrated. His multiple business ventures (his Licataa wine stay’s sold out) and continuous music contributions (Unpredictable) should be enough to remind you that the chef is always cooking.
Raekwon “The Chef” Playlist
- Visiting Hour– Raekwon *artist suggestion*
- Ice Cream – Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah, Method Man, & Cappadonna
- Still Strugglin’ – Raekwon
- Heaven & Hell – Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah
- Incarcerated Scarfaces – Raekwon
- Verbal Intercourse – Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah & Nas
- Live From New York – Raekwon
- State of Grace – Raekwon
- Criminology – Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah
- C.R.E.A.M. (last verse..but listen to the whole song) – Wu Tang Clan
Protect Your Neck (he’s second up…but listen to the whole song) – Wu Tang Clan
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