Raekwon (sometimes « Raekwon the Chef »), is an American rapper who joined the Wu-Tang Clan, a nine-member hip hop group based in the Staten Island borough of New York City, in 1993. He went under the stage name Raekwon and aliases Shallah Raekwon, Raekwon the Chef, and Lex Diamonds. Wu-Tang Clan debuted that year 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 reaching #8 on the Billboard rap chart. Method Man became the first Wu-Tang member to release a solo album; his was Tical, released in 1994. 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). Alongside other solo albums by its members, Wu-Tang continued recording as a group, releasing The W in 2001 and 8 Diagrams in 2007.
In 1994, Raekwon signed a solo deal with Loud Records and released his debut single « Heaven & Hell » for the soundtrack to the movie Fresh. His first solo LP, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, was released in 1995 to rave reviews, though not to as much commercial success as fellow Wu-Tang member Method Man’s Tical. 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. Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah appeared on many tracks on the album.
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. He also appeared on Fat Joe’s song « John Blaze » alongside Nas, Jadakiss, and Big Pun; « John Blaze » also had a music video. Raekwon’s next effort, Immobiliarity, came out in 1999, to mixed reviews because of the absence of RZA and Ghostface Killah. The Lex Diamond Story followed in 2003 on Universal Records, to mixed reviews (generally lukewarm critical reviews and wildly varying public reviews) and moderate success. Raekwon complained about the lack of promotion and vowed that future releases wouldn’t suffer the same fate.
Raekwon planned to release the long-delayed sequel to his debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, in 2007 through Aftermath Entertainment; it was informally executively produced by Busta Rhymes (who Raekwon described as getting him into the « Cuban Linx mindset ») and RZA, with RZA handling most of the production. Dr. Dre, Scram Jones, and J Dilla were other producers that had been mentioned as working with Raekwon on the album.
RZA explained the collaboration between he and Dr. Dre as like « yin and yang » when it came to their styles. « The album is gonna attract all the gangstas, nigga; all the thugs and everybody is going to be listening to this shit, » said RZA of the album.
Raekwon and EMI both confirmed at one point that Only Built For Cuban Linx… Pt. II would be released the summer of 2009 with EMI serving as the distribution label for the album, which was officially released on Raekwon’s ICEH2O 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. » On September 8, 2009, Only Built For Cuban Linx… Pt. II was finally 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 also converted to Islam in 2009. According to The Next 48 Hours w/ Raekwon web series, Raekwon stated that a project is in the works between him and Kool G Rap, the two fathers of Mafioso Rap. In December 2009, major hip hop site HipHopDx released their 2009 HipHopDx Awards. Raekwon’s fourth studio album and latest effort Only Built For Cuban Linx… Pt. II was chosen as ‘Album of the Year’, described as ‘…the Hip Hop equivalent to The Godfather 2, with Rae as revitalized as Marlon was…’ and Raekwon himself picked as Best Emcee of 2009 (fellow New Yorker Nas had won in 2008). The DX staff justified this pick with this description of Cory Wood’s career in 2009.