Corey Woods (born January 12, 1970), 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 numerous solo albums, as well as continuing to work with Wu-Tang and providing an extensive number of guest contributions to other hip hop artist's works. He is the founder of his own label ICEH20 Records.
Raekwon is often cited as one of the pioneers of the Mafioso rap sub-genre. In 2007, the editors of About.com 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."
Corey Woods joined the Wu-Tang Clan, a nine-member hip hop group based in the Staten Island borough of New York City, in 1992. He went under the stage name Raekwon the Chef and aliases Raekwon, Shallah Raekwon, and Lex Diamonds. 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.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 2000, Iron Flag in 2001, and 8 Diagrams in 2007.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...:
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 over half of the album's tracks, with Wu-Tang member RZA producing the album in its entirety.
Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story:
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, Immobilarity, came out in 1999 to mixed reviews, which were mainly attributed to the absence of RZA and Ghostface Killah.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 dis-taste for the album's lack of promotion and budget and vowed that future releases would not suffer the same fate.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II:
Raekwon planned to release the long-delayed sequel to his debut, entitled 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.
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 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 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.
In December 2009, major hip hop site 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.
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang:
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. Raekwon's son is rumored to be heavily involved in his father's label.
Though 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, however, several other Wu-Tang members made appearances, as well as Black Thought, Nas and Rick Ross, among others. Raekwon revealed that he intends on eventually releasing a third installment to the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... albums.
Lost Jewlry and Fly International Luxurious Art:
In 2012, Raekwon launched his own record label, Ice H2O Records. Raekwon announced on November 30, 2012 that he will soon release an EP titled Lost Jewlry. On December 20, he released "Never Can Say Goodbye", which did not end up on the EP. Lost Jewlry was released on January 15, 2013. It features guest appearances from Maino and Freddie Gibbs, as well as production from Scram Jones, among others.
On January 1, 2013, Raekwon announced that the title of his new album will be F.I.L.A., which is an acronym for Fly International Luxurious Art and a release date to come in the second quarter of 2013. He would later specify a release month of September 2013. Following the release of the first single "All About You", he confirmed a release to come in January 2014, though this date to came past, due as well to a reunion Wu-Tang album being prepared.