“I'm a street cat, but I've been through so much that I'm able to handle it in a more mature way.”
Raekwon: Solo Act, Group Performer
Solo artist-hood is typically a binary state; most artists are either just in a group or out of one. Not everyone can manage to cultivate both an existing relationship with a group and their own budding solo career. But that's where Raekwon – and all the other members of the Wu-Tang Clan besides – shines. He's proven time and again that he can perform and sell his records, whether he's alone or with eight other equally talented artists.
Born Corey Woods in New York on January 12, 1968, his first foray into music was as a member of the iconic hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, which he joined in 1992. At the time, however, Wu-Tang was still a relatively unknown nine-some, as their platinum selling album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was not released until the following year.
Raekwon Learns to Rap
Just a year after Enter the Wu-Tang, Woods followed in the footsteps of fellow member Method Man, who released his solo debut Tical that year. Woods became an artist under Loud Records in 1994, which released solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... in 1995. Some critics partially credit the album's success to the help of fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, who appeared on several of the album's tracks.
Woods' solo career took a back seat around then, as work had begun on Wu-Tang's next album Wu-Tang Forever, which came out in 1997. He kept his solo act going, though, with collaboration credits on tracks like Allure's Give You All I Got and Fat Joe's John Blaze. His sophomore solo album Immobilarity (which featured his then-side project the American Cream Team) was released in 1999 to mixed reviews, but was still able to earn certified gold status from the RIAA that same year.
Raekwon's Balancing Act
His membership in Wu-Tang once again took priority in the following years, as the group began recording for their albums The W and The Iron Flag, which were released in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Woods finally released solo album #3, The Lex Diamond Story, in 2003 under Universal Records. It has the worst commercial sales of all his albums.
After the release of Wu-Tang's 2007 album 8 Diagrams, it was confirmed that yet another Raekwon album was in the works. In fact, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II was meant to be released that same year with Aftermath Entertainment, but the release suffered many delays. The release finally pushed through in September 2009, and the album was able to sell 150,000 copies by the end of the year.
Did you know that...
- ...there's a Raekwon alter ego? The title for The Lex Diamond Story comes from Lex Diamond, his mafioso alter identity.
- ...rapping isn't his only skill? One of his other monikers – the Chef – comes from his experience with 'cooking' cocaine.