It was Sunday, September 1 around 3pm as I was waiting in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel-Chicago for one of MY top lyrical rappers of all time, Raekwon the Chef of Wu-Tang Clan. They were in town for the North Coast Music Fest. While looking out the window, I see another one of my Wu favorites, Mr. Wu Wear himself, Cappadonna (You know I had to get a pic), I felt like the doorman from The Five Heartbeats, ‘Wow, two Heartbeats in one night’ (Laughs).
Even though I had my questions already prepared I couldn’t believe I was having a ‘moment of thirstiness’ and I know if any of my die hard Wu fans had the same opportunity you’d freak out low-key as well. I just wanted to ask Rae every question that came to mind in relation to the entire Wu-Tang movement, but as much as I love the musical genius that is Raekwon the Chef I had to pick his brain about his love for fashion, the stories behind Ghostface’s Eagle cuff and Rae’s tarantula medallion and the fascination of the legendary Wallabee Clark’s …
Row A Seat 1 definitely snagged up some exclusive stories with Raekwon and I must say much love to the god he was very laid back, showed me much love and opened up to each question as if we were old friends … So, sit back and enjoy the interview with Raekwon the Chef!
Raekwon: I fell in love with fashion about ’83, I was 13, you had the younger generation and the older generation, and the older generation niggas had some jobs, some was crooks and of course we had drugs in our neighborhood like crazy. I grew up around a lot of West Indians and Jamaicans and back then in order to show you he got money you had to see that in him, he had to feel it. Me being a kid and seeing Jamaicans come out with five ropes on, rocking diamond rings shit hanging down to their dick or whatever and seeing the OG’s with Clarks on with leather blazers – it showed a certain kind of respect within the hood.
Automatically, we wanted to immulate that we wanted to be like them and for us it was hard to get a pair of sneakers back then because your moms ain’t really have money like that – my moms made sure I had shit, but I had more siblings so you know how that go. So I was watching a lot of shit that was going on in the neighborhood and saying to myself ‘Yo, that’s a fly muthafucka right there’ he coming out with all these FILA suits and his jewelry game is crazy. I asked him can I try it on, he let me try it on then I go look in the mirror like ‘yeah.’ Being around the older cats and dressing like them represented power, strength and it meant you were doing alright for yourself. And the older cats wouldn’t let us come around if we looked dirty, so I was always mezmorized by the OG’s in the hood. I was young and I always looked at it like if you look good, you feel good and it represented strength – That’s what inspired me about fashion!
Raekwon: Honestly, Jamaicans inspired us to wear Clarks. Back in my younger days I watched them sell drugs and get money and the shoes they would rock were the Clark Wallabee and Clark NuBuck. They’d rock them with slacks, silk shirts and throw on all their jewelry that was their favorite shoe. When I was around 15, we looking at the whole look thinking ‘when I get my paper up I gotta get the same kind of fit,’ so for two summers straight that’s how we were dressing back then. Watching Kane and Slick Rick then the Jamaicans in my neighborhood became the blueprint for us on how to rock our gear. So, Clarks go all the way back to then and the West Indians really made us get involved with the Clarks shoe.
RowASeat1: During those times, how monumental was the Dapper Dan movement?
Raekwon: (Whew!) Dapper Dan was someone we looked at like the ‘Ralph Lauren’ of the hood. He was making jackets for dudes in Harlem and we would come up to Harlem for parties and see a nigga rocking a jacket that looked like Gucci, but we know it wasn’t the original Gucci and the way he was making it looked so real. Dap was throwing suede and gold tips on jackets then you’d see niggas rocking his designs jump out of Jettas, Accuras and Benzes and we was like, ‘Yo, I need a jacket and how do we find this nigga.’ Eventually we found his shop in Harlem and he had at least five Africans making shit right on the spot, and for us we just wanted a jacket made by Dapper Dan. We knew it wasn’t official Gucci, but nobody was designing it like Dap, so we didn’t mind paying $850 for a jacket – His designs were so official you couldn’t tell us it wasn’t real because Dap was and is still legendary!
Raekwon: I was never really into chains until much later when I rocked the Cuban link chains and the infamous tarantula medallion – I was always into rings. That tarantula was heavy as fuck, but one of my dudes made that piece and gave it to me. You know, me and Ghost (That’s my brother) we think big from jewelry to clothes, and we would always say ‘we gon’ freak niggas when they see us.’ And one day Ghost told me he wanted to get a crazy bracelet and when he came with the idea for that Eagle cuff we was waiting around for it like a car, arguing with the jewelry guy asking ‘how much longer til it’s finished?’ When we first saw it we wanted to ice the Eagle out, but it looked so classic without the ice we said ‘fuck it get the ice later, rock that shit now.’ (Laughs)
It was all gold, at least seven pounds and that cuff really hurt his arm, he wore it for style, but he didn’t enjoy it because it was so heavy and the dude who designed it didn’t put any cushion inside the cuff to make it comfortable. I remember one day Ghost was like, ‘Yo man, this shit is fucking killing me,’ I’m like its killing you? You still gotta wear it our rep is on the line.’ (Laughs) But that was when we were younger, now I’m more simple with my jewelry game because we made history during our era with our jewelry – Now, I keep it simple.
Raekwon: I was trying to make some moves with FILA but they really didn’t see the vision – However, FILA is still apart of my legacy so it’s all good!
I’m actually thinking about doing a shoe line for men and women (You’re actually the first one I gave that jewel to), but I was thinking about opening up some small boutiques selling everything from Izod socks to jeans. I know a ton of stylists, one in particular my dude Toure (Celebrity Stylist Alhassan Toure of Toure Designs) and teaming up with them to create certain things for the boutiques. I’ll make sure you have an exclusive once everything comes together.
A special Thank You to Bri Gatlin of Swank Publishing for making this interview possible.
For more information on Raekwon the Chef for upcoming shows, album downloads and video, check him out here. Be sure to follow him on IG: Raekwon.