RAEKWON as part Canadian Music Fest at Sound Academy (11 Polson), Wednesday (March 20), doors 9 pm. $25 or wristband. PDR, RT, SS, TM, UE. See listings.
Raekwon may be a member of one of hip-hop's pioneering groups, the Wu-Tang Clan, and a veteran MC with a lengthy career, but if you think he's content to rest on his laurels, guess again.
Already this year he's put out a free mixtape, Lost Jewlry, a teaser for his sixth solo album, F.I.L.A. (short for Fly International Luxurious Art), due out in June. Meanwhile, Wu-Tang's announced a handful of festival appearances to celebrate their 20th anniversary, and there's talk of a new album later this year.
"I've been really in the zone the past couple of months, just trying to be a better and relevant artist," says the rapper over the phone from New York City. "When you've been in the game a long time, it's really important to not miss a beat."
Raekwon is reluctant to discuss the particulars when it comes to F.I.L.A.'s producers and guest artists. But he's hoping the album will appeal to a broader audience.
"I feel it's going to make me more of a global success," he says. "I haven't been on the radio in a long time, so I definitely have to take that into consideration, but still not lose my character. You might have the diehard Wu-Tang fan who's like, ‘Yo, this ain't my kind of record,' but I've still got to have something on there for the hardcore individual."
He's also been busy with his Canadian label, Ice H20, and appearances on songs by everybody from A$AP Rocky to Kanye West. But he hasn't forgotten his long-time followers. For his upcoming Toronto show, he'll perform his 1995 debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, in its entirety. It's regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop records of all time, Raekwon's gritty storytelling having inspired a generation of rappers.
"When you think of Cuban Linx, you think of a drug dealer's album, but I'm no longer that. I try not to put myself in that box any more."
Though relations between some Wu-Tang members have been strained in recent years, Raekwon says that for the anniversary it was "important to do something for fans in a great way." But he makes it clear that his involvement also makes business sense.
"I'm a grown man now. I'm not a young dude and it's not just me I've got to worry about. I got to look at my family, my overhead, my livelihood, my comfortability, the benefits to me as an artist - everything. You gotta have your t's crossed and your i's dotted."