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Raekwon at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival
Raekwon at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival
Background information
Birth nameCorey Woods
Also known as
  • Raekwon The Chef
  • Shallah Raekwon
  • Lex Diamonds
Born (1970-01-12) January 12, 1970 (age 51)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
OriginStaten Island, New York, U.S.
GenresHip hop
  • Rapper
  • actor
Years active1991–present
Associated acts

Corey Woods[2] (born January 12, 1970),[3][4] better known by his stage name Raekwon (/rˈkwɒn/), is an American rapper and a member of Wu-Tang Clan. He released his solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... in 1995 to universal critical acclaim.[citation needed] He has since recorded numerous solo albums, as well as continuing to work with Wu-Tang and providing an extensive number of guest contributions to other hip hop artists' works. He is the founder of his own label ICE H2O Records.

Raekwon has been cited as a pioneer of mafioso rap.[5] In 2007, the editors of About.com placed him on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007).[6]

The Miami New Times described Raekwon's music as being "street epics" that are "straightforward yet linguistically rich universes like a gangsta Iliad."[7]

Early life[edit]

Raekwon stated in an interview that he and Ghostface Killah attended junior high school together on Staten Island.[8] Raekwon attended New Dorp High School, where he became friends with Remedy, Method Man and Inspectah Deck.[9]

In a 2009 interview, Raekwon stated that the name "'Raekwon' came from part of the Nation of Islam — The 'Five Percent Nation'— when I was a young kid."[10]

Music career[edit]

Wu-Tang Clan[edit]

Before Woods joined the Wu-Tang Clan his rap name was Sha Raider. Woods joined Wu-Tang Clan, an originally nine-member hip-hop group that later added rapper Cappadonna, based in the Staten Island and Brooklyn borough of New York City, in 1992. He performed under the stage name Raekwon The Chef as well as the aliases Shallah Raekwon, Louis Rich and Lex Diamonds.[11] Wu-Tang Clan debuted one year later with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Singles from the album included "Protect Ya Neck" and "C.R.E.A.M.", the latter of which reached #8 on the Billboard rap chart.[12] Wu-Tang Forever followed in 1997 and was certified four times platinum by the RIAA, quadruple the certification given Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).[13] Alongside other solo albums by its members, Wu-Tang continued recording as a group, releasing The W in 2000, Iron Flag in 2001, and 8 Diagrams in 2007.[11]

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...[edit]

In 1994, Raekwon signed a solo deal with Loud Records and released his debut single "Heaven & Hell" for the soundtrack to the film Fresh. His first solo LP, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., was released August 1, 1995 to rave reviews, though not to as much commercial success as fellow Wu-Tang member Method Man's Tical.[14] Nonetheless, the album was immediately deemed a hip-hop classic.[15] According to Steve Huey of AllMusic, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... contained a narrative album format revolving around cocaine trafficking, criminal activity, and a rise through the ranks of the illegal industry." RZA added, "It was always like a crime mafia story for me."[16] Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah appeared on over half of the album's tracks, with Wu-Tang member RZA producing the album in its entirety.[17] Apart from working alongside RZA on Staten Island, Raekwon and Ghostface went to Barbados and Miami to write lyrics for the album.[8]

Raekwon insists Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...' was aimed at listeners who could relate to the underground, street culture. In an interview with HipHop DX, Raekwon said, "This album was just the definition of everything that was in front of us. So where we was trying to go, we was trying to get out the hood. We wanted to buy the most expensive cars and jewelry and different things like that. So that's why I guess I always call the album... Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... because it was only built for a certain lifestyle or people that understood that language. But eventually, it would break off to people looking at it as a movie and respecting it saying, ‘Yo, wow! This is authentic. This is something that never been done before’...So, I just wanted to give the world something that they could feel is brand new, it's different, but it's real." Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. It sold roughly 130,000 copies the first week - eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in October 1995, two months after its release.[18]

Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story[edit]

After Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., Raekwon appeared on a track by the R&B group Allure from the group's self-titled debut in 1997.[19] He also appeared on Fat Joe's song "John Blaze" alongside Nas, Jadakiss, and Big Pun; "John Blaze" also had a music video.[20] Raekwon's next effort, Immobilarity, came out in 1999 to mixed reviews, which were mainly attributed to the absence of RZA and Ghostface Killah.[14] The Lex Diamond Story followed in 2003 on Universal Records, to mixed reviews as well (generally lukewarm critical reviews and wildly varying public reviews) and moderate success. Raekwon later voiced his distaste for the album's lack of promotion and budget and vowed that future releases would not suffer the same fate.[21]

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II[edit]

Raekwon in 2008.

Raekwon planned to release the long-delayed sequel to his debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II in 2007 through Aftermath Entertainment. The album was informally executively produced by Busta Rhymes, whom Raekwon cited as getting him in the "Cuban Linx mindset", and RZA, with RZA handling most of the production. Dr. Dre, Scram Jones, and J Dilla were other producers that were announced early on as working on the album. RZA explained the collaboration between him and Dr. Dre as "yin and yang" when it came to their styles.[citation needed]

Raekwon and EMI both confirmed at one point that Only Built For Cuban Linx... Pt. II would be released in the summer of 2009 with EMI serving as the distribution label for the album, which was officially released on Raekwon's ICE H2O label. However, Raekwon and EMI later announced that the album would be pushed back to September 8, 2009 due to sample clearance issues, and the leak of a song from the album entitled "Surgical Gloves."[22]

On September 8, 2009, Only Built For Cuban Linx... Pt. II was released after many delays. The album features many Wu-Tang members and affiliates, as well as Slick Rick, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, Beanie Sigel and more. On September 28, 2009, Raekwon was named the #10 Hottest MC in the game by MTV. He converted to Islam in 2009.[23]

In December 2009, HipHopDx released their 2009 Awards, with Only Built For Cuban Linx... Pt. II being chosen as 'Album of the Year'. Dx described it as "...the Hip Hop equivalent to The Godfather 2, with Rae as revitalized as Marlon was...". In addition, Raekwon was selected as 'Emcee of the Year' (fellow New Yorker Nas had won in 2008). Their staff justified this pick with this description of Raekwon's career in 2009:

Raekwon brought it back to lyrical, dope rap. He released an album that spoke to teens, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings, and beyond. Without compromising, the Chef made an edgy Hip Hop record that refused to bastardize the catalog he laid down 15 years ago. On top of that, Rae (along with Ghostface) was a go-to for numerous rappers making albums, ranging from the Playaz Circle to Jadakiss to BK One. That's beyond real, as was a year filled with performing in arenas, clubs and even churches. When it came to mastering the ceremony, Rae had 'em all following the leader.[24]

— HipHopDX

Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang[edit]

After the critical and relative commercial success of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, Raekwon collaborated with Method Man and Ghostface Killah for Wu-Massacre, a short trio album designed to showcase unity within the group. Following this release, Raekwon resurrected talk of Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, a project announced in 2007, originally planned as a Wu-Tang album, minus RZA, due to his response to the previous group album 8 Diagrams. Raekwon forwarded his projects continuously through his growing label Icewater. He both worked on his own project while signing other underground artists.

Although not a Wu-Tang Clan project, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang was released in March 2011, serving as Raekwon's fifth solo LP. As originally planned, RZA did not participate on the project,[25] however, several other Wu-Tang members made appearances, as well as Black Thought, Nas and Rick Ross,[26] among others. Raekwon revealed that he intends on eventually releasing a third installment to the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... albums.[27][28]

Lost Jewlry, Fly International Luxurious Art, The Wild, and present[edit]

In 2012, Raekwon launched his own record label, Ice H2O Records. Raekwon announced on November 30, 2012 that he would soon release an EP entitled Lost Jewlry.[29] On December 20, he released "Never Can Say Goodbye",[30] which did not end up on the EP. Lost Jewlry was released on January 15, 2013. It featured guest appearances from Maino and Freddie Gibbs, as well as production from Scram Jones, among others.[31]

On January 1, 2013, Raekwon announced that the title of his next album would be F.I.L.A., an acronym for Fly International Luxurious Art, and that it would be released during the second quarter of 2013.[32][33] He would later specify a release month of September 2013.[34] Following the release of the first single "All About You", Raekwon intimated that the album would be released in January 2014; it finally saw release on April 28, 2015. In November 2016, Raekwon announced that a new album was complete.[35]

On March 24, 2017, Raekwon released a studio album, The Wild, his first not to feature collaborations with fellow members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Critical reception was positive, with Pitchfork saying the album was stronger than Fly, which it alleged had a "bloated roster".[36] Consequence of Sound agreed, saying The Wild was largely understood as a return to form by Raekwon, with fewer guest appearances by other artists than usual and more focus on Raekwon's long-established style, albeit with the "maximalist modern production" he had employed on Fly.[37]

As of 2020, Raekwon's most recent appearance was as a featured guest on the intro to the WWCD compilation by Griselda.[38] On August 1, 2020, Elliot Wilson, of Tidal and Rap Radar, announced Raekwon will be releasing Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 3 soon.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Raekwon is a Muslim, having converted to Islam in 2009.[39]


Studio albums

Collaboration albums[edit]


  1. ^ Rys, Dan (2015-09-30). "22 Aftermath Artists Who Have Left The Label". XXL Magazine. Retrieved 2019-09-25.
  2. ^ "Raekwon Brings "The Wild" To Fans With 7th Studio Album". Hiphopdx.com. Archived from the original on 10 February 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
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  4. ^ RZA, 2005, The Wu-Tang Manual, p. 18.
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  6. ^ "Top 50 MCs of Our Time: 1987–2007 – 50 Greatest Emcees of Our Time". Rap.about.com. 2012-01-26. Archived from the original on 2012-05-10. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
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  9. ^ "Rhymes and Remembrance". New Voices. 2002-02-21. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  10. ^ "Chatting with Raekwon the Chef about music, Islam and the Wu-Tang Clan". The Michigan Daily. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
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  15. ^ Blistein, Jon (July 29, 2020). "Raekwon to Release 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx' Instrumentals for Debut LP's 25th Anniversary".
  16. ^ Ivey, Justin (July 29, 2020). "Raekwon Aligns 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx' With Film Royalty: 'It's The Godfather Vibe Of Hip Hop'".
  17. ^ "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx > Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  18. ^ a b "Raekwon Announces 'Only Built For Cuban Linx 3' Album As Original Turns 25". August 1, 2020.
  19. ^ "Allure Still Waiting To Meet Raekwon Despite Working Together". MTV News. 1998-03-26. Archived from the original on 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  20. ^ "Fat Joe Enlists Big Pun, Nas, Raekwon For Solo Album". MTV News. 1998-08-13. Archived from the original on 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
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  24. ^ "2009 HipHopDX Awards | Discussing Lil' Wayne, Drake & Many More Hip Hop Artists". HipHopDX. 2009-12-22. Archived from the original on 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  25. ^ "Raekwon On New Album: Ghost, Meth, Black Thought In; No RZA". VIBE. Archived from the original on 2010-08-08. Retrieved 2010-08-19.
  26. ^ Young, Alex. (2014-02-15) Chef designs 10-course meal inspired by Radiohead's Kid A. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved on 2014-04-24.
  27. ^ "Raekwon Raekwon making "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. III". HipHopDX. Archived from the original on 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
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  29. ^ "Raekwon To Release New EP Titled "Lost Jewelry"". Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
  30. ^ Raekwon – Never Can Say Goodbye|New Hip Hop Music & All The New Rap Songs 2011 Archived 2012-12-30 at the Wayback Machine. HipHop DX (2012-12-20); retrieved 2014-04-24.
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  32. ^ Raekwon Announces New Album Title Archived 2014-10-17 at the Wayback Machine. Complex (2013-01-01); retrieved 2014-04-24.
  33. ^ "Raekwon Announces New Album "F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)"". HipHop DX. 2013-01-01. Archived from the original on 2013-01-07. Retrieved 2013-04-17.
  34. ^ Harling, Danielle (2013-03-07). "Raekwon Talks New "F.I.L.A." LP, Refers To The Album As A "Lifestyle Project"". HipHop DX. Archived from the original on 2013-03-20. Retrieved 2013-04-17.
  35. ^ Smith, Trevor (27 November 2016). "Raekwon's new album is complete". Hotnewhiphop.com. Archived from the original on 28 November 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  36. ^ "Raekwon: The Wild". Pitchfork.com.
  37. ^ "Album Review: Raekwon - The Wild". Consequenceofsound.net. March 23, 2017.
  38. ^ Weiss, Jeff (January 12, 2020). "Raekwon: Hail to the Chef".
  39. ^ "Raekwon Interview". Wheelscene.co.uk. 2011-04-13. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-05-05.

External links[edit]