Corey Woods, better known by the stage name Raekwon, is an American rapper and a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. He released his solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… in 1995, and has since recorded four solo albums, as well as work with Wu-Tang and an extensive amount of guest contributions with other hip hop artists.

Raekwon is often cited as one of the pioneers of the Mafioso rap sub-genre. In 2007, The editors of placed him on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007). The Miami New Times described Raekwon’s music as being “street epics” that are “straightforward yet linguistically rich universes not unlike a gangsta Iliad.”

Check out our exclusive interview with this hip-hop living legend.

Raekwon interview:

1.  Unlike gangsta rap, many believe you started the mafioso, multi-layered story-telling raps. How did you develop your rhyme style and where did you draw your inspirations from?

Well as for me growing up as a 70s baby i used to rock to all the pioneers of the game like grandmaster flash, and cold crush brothers etc, but when i heard rakim, kool g rap  and slick rick and Big daddy kane i was inspired and intrigued by their vision and pen game so that’s where my inspiration came from.

2.  I just can’t seem to find this out, but where did the name “Raekwon” originate from?
well it’s really shallah raekwon which i got when i was a 5 per center of the nation of islam and it just took with me from there.

3.  What’s the biggest difference between the rap game today and when you were coming up with the Wu?
Well from what i see there are a lot of ways to get signed easier than there ever was for us when we came up. They have all kinds of new ways to be heard such as youtube, sound cloud, etc where the world can see your talent just from a click of a button. To where as when we came up, we had to go everywhere and be noticed and go to the city and try to pass out our cds to record execs that were walking into these labels or at a party.

4.  You are responsible for one of the most critically acclaimed albums in OB4CL and the follow up with OB4CL II.  What prompted you to make a follow up album 15 years later?

Well it really was a calling from  the streets that made it happen, because really i was goin into a another world musically but everywhere i went even in other countries they would ask “chef, when u comin out with another cuban linx” so it kinda stuck with me for a couple years and i spoke wit my team and we slowly but surely got the sound of it and put it out.

5.  The Wu has been a staple in Hip Hop for many years up until today. To what can you attribute that success?
I still think we are to today as well, but for me i can just say still putting out quality music, content and just staying true to the fans all around the board.

6.  Many believe with the exception of yourself and Ghostface Killah, many members of the Wu weren’t able to remain relavent in Hip Hop’s competitive rap game. How were you able to regularly compete and remain relevant?

Well for me me n my time Iceh20 which is my company basically sat down and figured it out and stayed with the time of the game, far as blogs, mixtapes, features and being relevant.

7.  Are you a fan of any of the new artists in the game today?

Yes indeed, there a lot of new cats out there that i respect and listen to like Meek Mill, kendrick lamar, fred the godson, vado etc

8.  What’s the most suprising thing a Raekwon fan wouldn’t know about you?

The most surprising thing that people might not know about me besides that i really can throw down in the kitchen is that i like to interior decorate as well. It’s just a way that i can express myself through colors and patterns and furniture.

9.  Surely every member of the Wu brought their own energy to the group, but was there a particular member that drove others to perform better, and step their game up?

God bless the dead ,it would have to be my brother ODB, he just had a way with the crowd that when he said something to them they would listen carefully. So when i would be on stage with him  i would just sit back like damn, i gotta  get my shit together, where he had full control of them and i wanted to do the same.

10.  The Wu has always been a close-knit group that maintained a status quo of not featuring any outside rappers on their material. Nas was the first rapper to be blessed with the honor of being featured on OB4CL’s “Verbal Intercourse”. Why did this rule change over the years?

I mean Wu-tang is really a group that never needed features from anybody at that point and time of our career but i was thinking outside of the box when i made that album and you know, Nas was another great mc during our time as well, i was a fan of his music so i thought it was just a great idea to just reach out and do it for hip hop.

For more on Raekwon follow him on twitter at : @Raekwon
Don’t forget to hit us up on @MideastDynasty & let us know what you think!