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Interview:
Rappers Rocking The Bell On Festival Tour
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK



Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon is pleased to report that Rock the Bells, a touring incarnation of the hip-hop festival that began three years ago in California, has been “really cool, man. It’s been selling out. We can’t complain. The legacy lives.”

And that’s good news for Raekwon and company, an eightmember collective of active MCs who work to their own particular beat as both a recording and touring entity. But he says that after 15 years and eight albums, the Clan is confident the its fans will come out when the group does come together.

“The audience is always there,” says Raekwon (real name Corey Woods), 37. “People kind of respect the people who made classic hip-hop, which is different from today’s hip-hop. It attracts people all over the world.

“We happen to be a group that pulled a lot of countries and cities into loving hip-hop. So when we go to different places out in the (United States) or in other countries, people come out because of that.”

The Clan will be busy throughout the rest of the year. The group will headline another tour, Hip-Hop Lives, this fall as well as finish work on “8 Diagrams,” its first album since 2004.

Raekwon, who’s also known as The Chef, says Clan leader RZA is busy putting the finishing touches on the set, which is due out Nov. 13 and will carry a tribute to the late Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who died on that date in 2004.

The album also includes a track called “Gently Weeps,” which samples the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and features solos by the late George Harrison’s son Dhani and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante.

“It’s authentic and hot,” says Raekwon, who on Tuesday releases “Raekwon Presents ... Ice Water: Polluted Water,” the first album by the Staten Island quartet the rapper has been training and nurturing for several years.

“We’re still debating about certain tracks as far as will the people understand or will they be able to ride with it. If you’re a real Wu fan, than you know what to expect from Wu-Tang, but if you’re trying to expect anything close to anybody else, you don’t really now us.”



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Rappers are, of course, all about their lyrics. But on his new album, “Ear Drum,” Brooklyn’s Talib Kweli wanted listeners to hear more than just his rhymes.

“I just wanted to make an album where people could concentrate on the music,” says the Brooklyn-born Kweli (ne Greene), 31, who came to fame as part of the group Black Star with Mos Def before making his solo debut with 2002’s “Quality.” “People see me as a deep lyricist, but I wanted to concentrate on the music.

“I feel like I’ve always been musical, but I feel like that gets lost when people start talking about how deep of a lyricist I am. That’s why I named the album ‘Ear Drum,’ so you could concentrate on the music, as well.”

Kweli worked with a variety of collaborators to achieve that vision, including longtime cohorts such as Kanye West and Hi-Tek plus Black Eyed Peas leader will. i.am., Jean Grae, UGK, KRS-One and Dion. But he also reached over to the pop world to hook up with Norah Jones, who provides vocals on the track “Soon a New Day.”

“My manager suggested that,” Kweli says. “I just wanted her to do her thing, to be herself. The hook was already there; I wanted her to give her interpretation of it, and she did a great job.

“I only had one album of hers, the first album that she won all the (Grammy) awards for, so I wasn’t like the biggest fan or, ‘Oh, I have all your albums ...’ I became a bigger fan after she got on the album, for sure.”





Rock the Bells, featuring Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Talib Kweli, MF Doom, Pharoahe Monch, Immortal Technique, Slum Village with Phat Kat and hosts Supernatural and Rahzel begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday (August 29th) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $42.50 pavilion, $20 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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