Raekwon makes a stopover in Seattle on his way to Coachella, and sits down with PDA at Kingfish Cafe
In a black SUV parked illegally in front of Sneaker City Raekwon leisurely smoked his herb with the window rolled up. A Seattle Police Officer approached the vehicle and was not thrilled about the choice of spots for partaking in recreational cannabis activities. It was dicey for a second, then a rep from GKPR explained this is Raekwon (aka Lex Diamonds, aka Corey Woods) from the mighty Wu-Tang. All was forgiven.
“Police snuck up on me, but we made it out of it,” Raekwon recalled over a plate of soul food. “The cops told me to ‘respect the families.'”
It was a reasonable request, and considering his position on cannabis in the community, he obliged by deading the cherry and extinguishing the blunt. This was a benchmark moment as the blunt stops with Raekwon like the buck stops with the President. He doesn’t take two and keep it pushing to the left. Passing the fire is as rare as Congress passing a gun control bill.
“They know marijuana is a drug that’s not a drug. It’s important we usin’ it for the right reasons,” Raekwon explains. “Don’t get kids thinking ‘oh I’m 18, Imma go to the dispensary.’ Even though it’s fun to us, kids are lookin’ at anything and everything. From sneakers, to jewelry to earrings. You open the box and it could be a gift and a curse situation. It’s needs to be monitored so it ain’t so feasible to the average kid.”
You can expect this introspective tilt from a high priest of rap with a little salt and pepper in his beard. He is on his own label now (IceH20) and signs acts with the same pen used to scrawls lyrics on notebook paper. During a quick stop at 4:20 on the dot, Rae speaks to a capacity audience in Alive & Well skate shop. They’ve made custom chef aprons for his visit. He serves autographs and photo ops to fans of all ages, while relishing the opportunity to kick it with a range of graf writers and DJs that have stories to tell.
“I been smokin’ day in, day out for three quarters of my life,” Raekwon says to the crowd as he is introduced. “Me and weed been hangin around each other. I was 14. I came up writing graf, skateboards and shopping carts, puttin’ it together.”
He takes a second to adjust his ACG boots, selected for their black bottoms which stay right in the rain. The HUF “PlantLife” socks in collaboration with Snoop Dogg catch his eye, the knitted weed leaves in a rainbow of colors, and he takes a few pair for the road. Since HUF is sponsoring the show later at 95 Slide it’s only appropriate to incorporate them in the fit. Less than 24 hours before he was at a show in Denver with a smoke machine rigged to precipitate the crowd with a medicated mist.
“I’m a beast. I can’t get no higher and I’m already high,” he says with an understated bravado.
It’s a short drive to Kingfish Cafe where Raekwon can go course-for-course in the soul food arena, a culinary genre he knows quite a lot about. The few moments in transit allows him to share some context about his committed relationship with marijuana.
“I started smokin’ oregano first. A lot of people don’t know, oregano burn like weed too. As kids we wanted to be that. We got schooled through uncles and aunts. They mighta left some weed on the table. A lil’ somethin’ you know, left a joint. We would wait ’til the time was right and scoop it.”
With the extraction and concentration of THC defining a new era of getting high, and Raekwon’s love of proper sit-down meals, it begged the question if edibles are part of his regiment these days.
“If I take some edibles, ain’t gonna be no hangin’ out tonight,” he states bluntly.
But a few complex carbohydrates are on deck this afternoon. Raekwon takes in the vibe at the Central District landmark where the buttermilk fried chicken put them on the map when the doors first opened in 1997. The same year “Wu-Tang Forever” dropped and Lex Diamonds felt the icey chill of going four-times platinum.
“I know there’s a lot of history in here, I can feel it,” Rae observes as he gets comfortable. “Takes me back to day time. I’m big on soul food. It ran in my family. My moms was one of the illest cooks, and she learned from grandmoms. We were taught to not eat everything you smell. She would tell me ‘don’t eat outside.’ So for me when I taste somethin’ real good… I body it. We gotta big up (Kingfish) on twitter.”
As the appetizers roll out he non-chalantly drops quotables like “that’s standin’ tall right there,” in reaction to the presentation of the dish. This is a man that knows details. He’s experienced the finer things. He’s been the guest of honor at the parties you read about on the grocery store checkout line.
“Athletes are smokin’ more than the majority a muthafuckas,” Rae comments as the topic turns to celebrities. “They just know when they can and when they can’t. They pause for the cause.”
He reflects on all the places he has lived, and traveling in the same fashion pro athletes do, except with more international stamps in his passport.
“Seattle is too far. But I could live anywhere anyway. That’s how I was taught,” Rae mentions when asked if he ever thought about moving out here. “But some days I get up and just want to drive to New York. I got to be feelin’ it, it’s gotta be conducive. I lived in Cali, Atlanta, Miami. I had my fair share of spots. I go where the wind tell me to go. Go to a new place and you’ll feel new again. I’m already thinkin’ tropical. Virgin Islands somewhere. Real coolout.”
While his mind is on a beach his business has been in cold weather climates after establishing a new office for Ice H20 Records on Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario. There is a kinship he felt for that city, being so close to New York and responding to a void that has left hip-hop artists in that locale high and dry. He characterized his shop as a “media talent academy label.”
“In order to make an industry you gotta have businesses mergin’ with other businesses,” Raekwon reasons. “It wasn’t giving hip-hop an opportunity to live there. It’s a Top-40 country. I wanted to seal that gap for them. Canada is so close to us, and we resemble each other in a great way.”
As the stars align in his cloudless sky, business hasn’t taken the shine off his microphone mechanics. “Lost Jewlry” hit the market this year and didn’t disappoint. It served notice that the highly anticipated “F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)” full length album is a monster in the closet and near the end of the summer you’ll be reminded why Raekwon is a good wine getting better as the calendar flips.
On this night, with folks sitting on top of booths, blocking staircases and generally hanging from the rafters, Raekwon provides a history lesson. With no hype-man. The venue feels like a shoebox, the nostalgia for these kinds of artists in these kinds of environments is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. He is supposed to rock for 20 minutes. He does 45. All your favorites from his debut “Only Built For Cuban Links,” supplemented by covers of Mobb Deep and Ol’ Dirty. There was call and response in the Queensbridge “dunn language” for those that new about Bumpy’s speech impediment that spawned the lingo Mobb Deep made infamous.
All this through a simple PA system, with one soundman working four audio channels. This is how it used to be. You could hear his rhymes in the bathroom and the rooftop deck just the same. Later that night Rae posted up at the PDA Lounge with a cast of Seattle characters. Talk turned to where the music is heading.
“When we come around you’re gonna get somethin’ where you like ‘yo, I needed this.’ My name always came outta the bag when it was about deliverin’ great albums,” Raekwon states whole-heartedly. “How I knew my hip-hop to be growin up, it wasn’t about one particular style of music. Like you gotta have the best hook. No one cared about hooks, we wanted to know how the record felt. Today there is a sequence to follow. Commercial shit is surviving over other records that need to be heard. If it’s party music all day, you gonna become just strictly for that.”
Inevitably he gets asked about Wu-Tang reunion projects. The internet starts small wildfires of gossip about mysterious projects in the works, and the blogs spread the blaze to get clicks. Raekwon takes this after hours opportunity to go on the record about any future records.
“Whatever they want, all the time. I’m always gonna give them that. That’s the whole WU,” he clarifies. “Whether we’re working as one, or as separate. We deliver for each other. Without music you ain’t gettin’ a lot of harmony in your life. Music is a language now. You gotta choose ’em how you want to choose ’em. If you want somethin’ serious and authentic… you know where to go.”
As the birds begin to chirp and daybreak rests just over the Cascade Mountains, the conversation swerves back to cannabis for a final thought.
“Weed is there for peace of mind,” Raekwon explains between inhales. “Yeah it can be a stimulant, but it’s really there for you to use it in any way you feel good about. It’s a supplement. If it makes you laugh, laughin’ is part of bein’ healthy. The more you do that, the more it’s gonna be alright. That’s what kept us young. We were snappin’ all day, crackin’ up. I seen somethin’ on TV about that, losin’ stress by laughin’ and you don’t think about it, but it’s a big piece of cake. It applies itself in every way. Some people usin’ it to go to sleep.”
You can count us among them. Night night.
“Grace Kelly, GKPR, Alive & Well and HUF Clothing contributed to this article”