On a drizzly Wednesday (March 2) night in Los Angeles, the Wu-Tang Clan's resident chef, Raekwon, arrives at Blu Monkey Lounge -- a small bar tucked just off Hollywood Boulevard -- to attend a weekly industry party called Bubble Gum.
As he hops out of a nondescript rental car, with the rest of his entourage exiting a similar vehicle behind him, Rae looks ready to be amongst the people, and rightfully so. His fifth solo album, "Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang," hits retailers next Tuesday, Mar. 8, and the internet's been buzzing about recent collaborations with Nas and Rick Ross.
Before entering the party, Raekwon took some time to chat with Billboard.com's The Juice about his new album, his long-awaited reunion with Nas on record, the Odd Future/Wu-Tang comparisons, why Charlie Sheen is a "rich d*ck," and more.
The Juice: First off, tell us about "Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang." How long has it been in the making?
Raekwon: I've been working on it for the last four-and-a-half months, almost, since "[Only Built 4] Cuban Linx II" dropped. The purpose of this album is to go after that Wu-Tang sound that everybody's been wanting to get from us. I decided to call it "Shaolin vs Wu-Tang" because... it's me paying homage to the Wu-Tang Clan as well as paying homage to myself as an emcee out of Shaolin. It's two schools that are basically challenging one another, but they come to realize at the end of the day that they're one and the same, you feel me? We're always repping Shaolin from the door because that's where it came from, that's where the styles were born at.
You've been dropping a lot of music lately -- "Cuban Linx II" in 2009, and "Wu-Massacre" with Meth and Ghost last year. Can we expect an album every year now?
You know, [I'm] just trying to work, man. I feel like I'm in a great space. The fans are really giving me the energy to be back in the ring the way I'm doing it, and yeah, you're going to be receiving more things as I go on. I just wanted to clear a couple of humps and let everybody know what I'm capable of. I'ma keep it moving, man.
You finally collaborated with Nas [on "Rich & Black"]. How did that come together, and were there any hard feelings after he didn't jump on "Cuban Linx II"?
Not at all; never [any] hard feelings. We're men of respect and we understand when certain things happen… I just sometimes want a phone call, you know what I mean? And he was going through a lot, but at the end of the day, it was able to happen. We had some great producers, some great friends that really wanted to make it happen, and they took it upon themselves and brought it to the table. It's a great look for the fans, 'cause they always wanted that.
How did the Rick Ross collaboration ["Molasses," also featuring Ghostface] come about?
Ross is a good friend of mine. Ross did things for me before and I had done something on his last album "Teflon Don," and it was just a favor returned. I felt I had something that I wanted to try him on and give him that Wu-Tang flavor and see if he could rep over it, and he jumped in and handled his business. I told him what I was doing and he was like "Yo, I'm down. I'm a big fan."
You also did a different kind of collaboration recently, with Justin Bieber and Kanye West. Why did you want to be a part of the "Runaway Love" remix?
Well, you know, shout out to the young G Justin Bieber for doing his thing. These are brothers that recognize Wu-Tang's legacy, and I definitely appreciated getting into that song with him and getting some limelight with him because he's hot right now. I think that us being cats that been in the game as long as we've been, we have to show love to our younger brothers. That's the person I am; that's how I was cut -- if you're respectful, you're humble, and you carry yourself like a successful and professional dude, I want to be involved with it. And we made it happen. We knew it was going to be a strong record, and we went for it.
Speaking of the younger generation and Wu's legacy, a lot of people have been calling Odd Future the new Wu-Tang Clan. How do you feel about that?
I think it's ill; I think it could work. I think that was some of the best energy when we started, so if people could carry that legacy and make it better for them to understand one another, so be it. I think that's what's missing -- that real genuine love at that time between brothers that showed what we was about, and we showed other people how to do it as well.
Since everybody's talking about Charlie Sheen this week, we have to ask: what does the Chef have to say about him?
Charlie Sheen is a rich d*ck, man. He's running around doing all this sh*t, and you know, he's got kids involved. I don't have anything against him. I just think when you handle yourself like that, when you're so much of a powerful man, it ain't cool. When you're at a certain part of your life when you have children involved, and they gotta go to school and deal with that sh*t -- come on, man. Wisen up man, straighten up man. You're getting $2 million an episode, B -- what the f*ck!