With song titles like "Pit Bull Fights," "Missing Watch," "Robbery" and "Pa-Blow Escablow," The Lex Diamond Story -- the third solo release from the Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon (a.k.a. "the Chef") -- can hardly be accused of touting the high life. As he aptly puts it, "I'm the type of dude who keeps myself up with what's going on in the streets."
The rapper's first album in four years, which bears the name of his fictional nom de gangster, is loaded with his trademark streets-laden narratives much like his 1995 solo bow Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, perhaps the best of the solo releases from the Wu crew. "It's just Lex Diamond's story," he says. "I just try to be cinematic with it. Or a painter. I want you to see everyone and everything and you're always gonna get some food for thought. That's what the Chef is for."
Lex Diamond also boasts Raekwon's no-frills beats, which he describes as "hardcore shit, a real gritty sound." "I've been in the game for more than ten years," he continues, "I don't know any other way to do it."
If not a love letter to his native Staten Island, the album is certainly a reminder that Raekwon hasn't forgotten his roots, particularly on tracks like the hooky "The Hood." "I wanted to be conscious on this record about talking to the people," he says. "And the people I wanted to talk to were in the hood, I look at the hood as a person. It's important for rappers to know where they came from and what their neighborhood did for them. So I wrote a letter and wanted it to land back there. It's me glorifying where we come from. It's a poor place, but it's rich in heart."
Lex Diamond also marks the launch of Raekwon's Ice Water, a multi-media company (a joint venture with Aaron Spelling's son Randy) that will work in music, film, books and fashion. In the spring, the company will release the debut album of a new rap collective that bears its name.
In addition to up-and-coming talent, the record also features guest spots by the likes of Capone and Fat Joe, as well as plenty of Raekwon's Wu bretheren -- Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna, Masta Killa and Inspecta Deck. Many of the group's members have busied themselves of late with solo projects, and though Raekwon says there are no concrete plans for a Wu album, 2004 will likely see some sort of release from the collective. "It's our tenth year, and we're gonna try to do another album for our people," he says. "There are things we need to do on the business side of it, but we'll put it on the table."