If the hip-hop industry had a definition for “off the hook busy,” it would probably look a lot like Raekwon’s 2007 calendar. Though we may not have seen much from him yet, a new Wu-Tang album, 8 Diagrams, and another pet project, Raekwon Presents… Ice Water, are still due out later this year (and there is still that unresolved matter of Raekwon’s solo album).
Ice Water, the four-man crew of Polite, Stomach, P.C. (Paulie Caskets) and D.C. (Donnie Cash), is native to Staten Island and has been on Raekwon’s radar for some time. Polite, who was in jail during the formation of Wu-Tang, was a childhood friend of Raekwon’s and was recruited by The Chef in the mid-90s for the short-lived American Cream Team group. He is the self-proclaimed captain of Ice Water and was integral in bringing the quartet together. But, as the younger generation of Island rappers, Ice Water was not ripe for industry success until now.
Of course, Raekwon, the perfectionist, would never oversee a sub-par project: “I can’t put my name on anything that I feel is not on my level. These dudes are on my level, that’s why I pushed for the project. I believe in them… these dudes’ chemistry is perfect. This is the next dynasty.”
And Ice Water is equally grateful to be given the opportunity to take part in the borough’s legacy, says D.C., “Anything coming off of the Island is gonna have that W on it. That’s where you get the Wu-Tang. We’re also the youth, the streets, the hood… we’ve got the movement of the island behind us.”
The album, Raekwon Presents… Ice Water: Polluted, is due out August 28, with several guests appearing in support, as Rae was more than happy to spread word to some of his A-list friends, including Busta Rhymes, Remy Ma, Three Six Mafia and Rick Ross… And, of course, The Master Chef himself makes a cameo.
But what about Raekwon’s own album: Only Built for Cuban Linx II? Ballerstatus.com got that update on that too.
Ballerstatus.com: You have known the Ice Water members for a long time?
Raekwon: They all from my neighborhood. We all knew each other for years. They like the younger cats from our neighborhood that we watched growing up. These are dudes that grew up under me and I’ve had a lot of respect for them when we was in the streets. These are young dudes that I look at that got talent that I wanted to help get in the business.
Ballerstatus.com: How do they compare to Wu-Tang?
Raekwon: You know, at the end of the day, it’s not about a competition thing with Ice Water and Wu-Tang. They grew up watching us do our thing. They was like our younger brothers that was actually being influenced by us to do what they wanted to do as far as being in the music business. Now, it’s their time to shine. That’s what it’s more less about. It’s not about somebody trying to come as if they the opposite. It’s just another generation of young hip-hop cats from Staten Island that we giving an opportunity to display their talent to the world.
Ballerstatus.com: Do you think they have a different style or approach than Wu-Tang?
Raekwon: Yeah, these guys, they recognize what Wu-Tang did, but they got their own style. You got so many different cats in the neighborhood. They grew up on hip-hop. I wouldn’t call these guys the next Wu-Tang Clan, because they not Wu-Tang. Their style is not like Wu-Tang, it’s their style.
Ballerstatus.com: What made this the right time for the Ice Water album to drop?
Raekwon: Just the fact that these cats was very patient. They had to learn the importance of making a good record and dealing with certain songs that they needed for their record. Basically, they had to learn about the business. It was just a matter of time. These ain’t new guys to me. These guys have been around me for a long time as far as watching them grow. These are the dudes that when I come back to the neighborhood I keep my eyes on.
Ballerstatus.com: Is Staten Island in need of more hip-hop?
Raekwon: Of course! Hip-hop is needed all over the world.
Ballerstatus.com: Does hip-hop need more artists from Staten Island?
Raekwon: Absolutely! People got too adjusted to thinking that Wu-Tang is the only dudes on Staten Island that got talent. I don’t agree with that. We just the dudes that set it off. There’s a lot of young kids all over the world, not just on Staten Island, that got something to share. I’m from Staten Island, and I know there’s a lot of talent out there. And I’m making it my business to help these dudes get inside the business.
Ballerstatus.com: When you started Wu-Tang, did you ever envision yourself becoming a mentor to younger rappers?
Raekwon: Of course! Once you get a chance to have the torch in your hand, and you go out there and do your thing, it’s only right you come back and you help n****s that you know that got it. That’s what I think that I’m doing right now. I wanna be considered one of the dudes from Staten Island that came back and looked for some more Staten Island dudes to get in the business.
Ballerstatus.com: How big a role change is it for you to help raise up the next dynasty?
Raekwon: It’s just about paying respect to the new generation of artists and growing in the business as a mentor. At the same time, I’m a fan. I am a fan of the streets and I gotta keep my ear to the streets. That’s how you keep your blade sharp, by knowing what’s going on in the streets. Being a mentor is only like saying I got the connects to get n****s heard. I’m a mentor to them, but I’m a brother to them more than that.
Ballerstatus.com: So part of it is a learning experience for you to grow as an artist?
Raekwon: Exactly. At one point, I had to build my bones and do what I had to do. But when I was able to understand the business more, I wanted to come back to them and give them an opportunity to get in and share the wealth with brothers who I feel deserve it.
Ballerstatus.com: How did you spread word about Ice Water to get friends like Busta and Remy Ma to appear on the album?
Raekwon: These are good friends of mine that have heard of Ice Water and they was gonna support them because they felt like [Ice Water] had what it takes. It was an honor because they looked up to me as this big friend in the business. They see what I’m trying to do.
This is a cycle rappers in the business do when we try to put our peoples on. We go out and get the support from certain dudes that love us and respect us, and we come back and ask them how they feel about getting on a song with these people. And they say, “Them n****s is nice. I’m with it.” It takes off from there.
Ballerstatus.com: How much does it mean to have your stamp of approval?
Raekwon: It means a lot. The bottom line is whatever I put my stamp on has to be hip-hop. Everybody gotta get put on through somebody and if I’m the dude they actually coming through, I think the fans are gonna support the fact that I know what I’m doing.
I’m just being a businessman and, at the same time, being a strong brother that can lead them in the right direction.
Ballerstatus.com: What’s the first single from Ice Water?
Raekwon: I think we probably gonna do a video for one of the songs, called “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” That might be the first single.
Ballerstatus.com: On your albums you’ve used a story-telling style across the tracks, does Ice Water do anything similar?
Raekwon: Ice Water is good writers. Their record is more or less based on a good energy album. You got party songs, reality songs; it’s a combination of everything. As far as myself, I am a more conceptual type of artist. I’m kinda different from what they do, but kinda still the same. But their record isn’t based on a concept of writing stories.
Ballerstatus.com: Is Ice Water gonna be touring?
Raekwon: That’s to be announced, but I think they gonna be going out soon. We just gotta figure out what direction they gonna go off first. They’ll be out soon though; they’ll be in your local spots in a minute.
Ballerstatus.com: When is the Wu-Tang album supposed to drop?
Raekwon: I can’t even say exactly the date. I’m hearing October though. That was the last word I got, so I’m assuming between October and November.
Ballerstatus.com: How’s it coming along?
Raekwon: Everything is coming out good. We almost done with it and it’s gonna be official. It’s a good record.
Ballerstatus.com: Is it exciting to get back in the studio with Wu-Tang or do you see each other often?
Raekwon: It’s always exciting to get back in there with my brothers. But at the end of the day, it’s a job. We get up in there to do what we gotta do. We have fun and whatever, but at the end of the day it’s about coming in to work. It’s always nice to see my brothers, but we’re here to work right now.
Ballerstatus.com: I know you did some live performances with El Michels Affair, did you work with them at all on the album?
Raekwon: No, they didn’t work on this album with us. We just did tours with them cats because they cool and they got a lot of potential as far as what they do. We didn’t think about putting them on the record.
Ballerstatus.com: But you liked working with them live?
Raekwon: Yeah, they cool. They talented musicians. In the future, when I get ready to deal with them, I’ll give them a call. It was a new experience for us to get up there and try some band shit at a show and we dug it. So it was cool.
Ballerstatus.com: And what about Only Built for Cuban Linx II? Is that on the back burner while you’re working on Ice Water and 8 Diagrams?
Raekwon: Yeah, I didn’t want to rush the Cuban Linx record and have it in a certain kind of house that I feel is not gonna appreciate the record. I’m still searching for a home with that record. I gotta feel comfortable with whoever I put this record in their hand and allow them to do their marketing and their promotion. This is a big record, so until I find a proper home for it, I’m not throwing it out yet, not until I feel comfortable with whose sponsoring it with me. We gotta make sure we have a nice house where we feel like they respect the product that we bringin’ to the table. You have to respect it. If you don’t respect it, and I don’t feel comfortable with your marketing device. I might not want to be on your label. It’s about being comfortable with the label situation and knowing how they gonna market the record.
Ballerstatus.com: But the album itself is mostly complete?
Raekwon: The album is 200% done. It’s sittin’ on a shelf. It’s definitely top secret. Right now we just fixing the minor things.
Ballerstatus.com: What are you listening to these days?
Raekwon: I’m focusing on my music, the Ice Water music, the Wu-Tang album. These are the three things that I have in my mind. I don’t listen to too much sh** right now, ’cause I’m staying in my zone. Staying focused on what I gotta do. [But] I listen to slow music too, like The O’Jays and oldies stuff. That music keeps me tranquil, able to walk in the studio and approach everything with the best know-how. Every now and then my mind need a rest from that loud music, so I listen to slow shit when I have my time to myself.