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Raekwon is the mayor of fly shit. Snow Beach pullovers to Cuban links, his oft-imitated style and slang have been referenced for the past 20 years — as Cappadonna once put it, “Half the East Coast sound just like Rae”). In the past, he’s accused Frank White of biting his visual style. Today, if he gave a damn, he could accuse Frank Ocean, who was spotted a little while back sporting the quintessential Polo Ralph Lauren piece, the Snow Beach pullover, of the same. Rae’s reach is obvious.
Over the course of his career he’s kept what he calls a “jewelry box” of unreleased musical gems he’s amassed. He’s decided to drop that collection out of the sky as Lost Jewelry. As he put it, ” it’s an appetizer” for the start of the new year and as a prelude to an album he says he’s releasing sooner than later in this year of The Gods, 2013. Let’s just enjoy the appetizer the Chef has just presented and chat him up about the ingredients, what it took to make the dish, and of course, jewelry.
Why’d you name the EP, Lost Jewelry?
These are pieces, large golden bracelets and all types of gems that I had in the stash. Out of all my rhymes, I always put a few aside until I had what I call my little jewelry box. It’s a lot of things people have never heard and I wanted to give for free as an appreciation to my fans.
So it’s like a Nas Lost Tapes type of situation?
Yeah, you could say that, but I also fixed a couple things. I added verses to add continuity and put it in context so it wouldn’t sound age. It’s timeless now. This is like the appetizer for the beginning of the year to show where my creativity is at. Some one is always rhyming over somebody else’s shit and that’s cool. But I want to give original work just for fun, but most importantly for the fans to enjoy, so it’s for free too. It’s something to hold people over until F.I.L.A.
What the fuck is F.I.L.A.?
Fly International Luxurious Art. It’s the name of my new upcoming album. The whole F.I.L.A. situation was inspired by Fila clothes back in the day. Not just the sneakers but the gear and Fila suits for certain. Fila was supported heavy back in the day. I was all about that casual fly shit. We talking to [Fila] about it so maybe they’ll see this Village Voice joint and they might be more excited and [do the deal].
Have you ever lost some jewelry?
I lost so many pieces, fam. For real. Who ever found my shits it was a great day for them because they were all authentic. I wasn’t into no fake shit. I lost a couple joints just moving around. I’ve had shit that got stole from me by my friends and that shit fucked up friendships. I’ve lost a handful of rings.
What does the jewelry you wear signify?
A lot time I look at it like jewels are just signs of your hard work.
Do you remember your first chain?
Yeah I had a few pieces before I got in the game. But my first official link? It was a Figaro. Back then jewels was a big, big deal. It meant a lot. I remember when we got the long Cubans, we called them The Cobras, or rather the West Indians around my way called them The Cobras. You had to be stand up material because niggas would’ve been on yo’ ass trying to yap them. Like I said jewels were a sign, a reward for a man of respect who earned it. He got it and he protected it. It meant a lot. Now everybody got a chain. But that’s part of the rapper suit now [laughs]. It’s all good, and done out of fun for everybody. Everybody on they Cubans and shit… it feels good to be mayor of that. But you know now I’m into skinny fly shit that light up from across the street.
What was your favorite piece of jewelry? Mine was that iced out tarantula you had. Shit was stupid!
Haha, word. Hard to pick a favorite but I was into a lot of the watches I’ve had. I would build my own shits. Like the Wu watch with the W… I copped a Rolex then customized it. We would go to 47th Street, the Diamond District to go get some authentic shit. This guy named Manny, Jacob the Jeweler and all a that. We used to fuck with them heavy but we’d snap on their shit because their designs were wack to us. The shit we were coming up with was better than their shit. So when we came around they started showing us shit and eventually it started to look like our shit, like our designs. We opened up a market for them but, you know, jewelers are hustlers so that’s cool.
So here’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you. Do you remember copping that Snow Beach and putting it on the morning of the video shoot?
Yeah I remember that. It was either Downtown Brooklyn or 34th in Macy’s in the ‘Lo section. I remember I saw it on the rack so I run over and start looking up close. I’m looking through the rack but all I kept seeing is size large. I kept looking and the last one was that XXL that I needed. I damn near boosted it like “Shhhhh…,” just so my niggas couldn’t get it. I put it on at the register so my niggas wouldn’t get no funny ideas [laughs]. I was a like a little kid with that joint. That’s what made shopping with ya niggas fun.
So comes time for the photo shoot. I decided to keep it basic. Just some new Airs and Levis on but I knew had the ill ‘Lo joint, so I threw that on with the good baseball hat. I didn’t know what I was gonna wear until that day. That shit inspired a lot of shit for some reason.