As first reported on Billboard.com last month, rapper Raekwon signed with EMI for his ICE H20 label, which will distribute his highly-anticipated "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II" album. Now, that set finally has a street date of August 11.
"I'm really joyous with the opportunity I've been given. I'm taking this album back to what it is I do - back to that real music," Raekwon tells Billboard.com. "I'm really thirsting to get back in the game and let people hear it. Everybody on this album's got something to prove."
Raekwon worked with a number of producers on the album, including Dr. Dre, who has been working on his own "Detox" album for 7 years. "Dre came in and got his nut off - he came in with the traditional, signature Dre sound," Raekwon says of the track, while refusing to reveal its title or if it will be a single. "I want to keep that in the pocket, to get more excitement. But be certain - we did this one for the fans."
Other producers on "Linx II" include Marley Marl, Pete Rock, the late J. Dilla, Scram Jones, DJ Scratch, Erick Sermon and RZA, who produced Raekwon's 1995 "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx," which sold 1.1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Soundscan. The latter also produced the street single "New Wu," featuring fellow Wu Tang Clan members Method Man and Ghostface Killah. "I had this track for a long time and was saving it because I knew it was 'Cuban Linx' material," says Raekwon.
Still, Raekwon admits he and RZA faced some tough times over the release of "8 Diagrams," Wu Tang Clan's 2007 album, claiming the production RZA provided wasn't what the group was known for. "For the album, it was important to keep the brand exciting. But RZA was doing the Hollywood shuffle in the film world and started bringing music to the table that we weren't known for," he says. "Our fans respect our tag teaming, our story-telling, not some opera shit.
"At the end of the day, I wasn't happy with that album, especially because I had this album coming out after and I didn't want n*ggas thinking we were losing our grip, and I damn sure wasn't going to let anyone sabotage my project," he continues. "Ghost wasn't happy, Meth wasn't happy - it wasn't just Rae. I was just the spokesperson. So we let the people know and asked them to forgive us for this one. That was RZA's world. Not that it was weak or trash but he was just over there right now."
But Raekwon clarifies it was just brotherly bickering, and the relationship is back to normal. "It's hard to tell your brother who made over ten fucking classics to chill. But, we go through that sometimes," he says. "At the end of the day I love my brothers. They had a lot to do with my career, my motivation and I definitely don't hold grudges." To date, "8 Diagrams" has sold 197,000 copies in the United States.
Raekwon certainly has no problems expressing his ill will. When asked about rapper Joe Budden recently challenging Method's Man rapping skills, Raekwon says it was a "violation," and goes as far as to say Budden copied his rhyming style from his Wu Tang partner. "I was hurt by Joe's comment. He seems like a cool dude, but I don't appreciate him going at Meth like that. He [Joe Budden] must've been feeling himself. You don't play a legend who, like Method Man, did a lot for hip-hop," says Raekwon. "Joe bit off him anyway. When you listen to 'Pump It Up,' real n*ggas know where that flow came from. I'm not a battle rapper, but I will skin a n*gga -- I will skin anybody. And, in my opinion, he isn't better than Meth, never. You gotta watch your mouth. Joe was out of character."
To promote "Cuban Linx II," Raekwon says he will begin touring shortly and will also appear in a biopic titled "Cash Rules Everything Around Me," released by his own Ice H20 entertainment company.