In recent years, the Wu-Tang Clan have expanded the mythos of their story by both pulling back the curtain on their origin (the Of Mics and Men documentary series) and dramatizing it (the An American Saga series). In his recently-released memoir, From Staircase to Stage, Raekwon definitely adds to the former by offering his own perspective on the Wu — from its beginnings to where it’s at currently — while also telling his story as both Corey Woods and the beloved rapper known across the world as Raekwon.
As with any memoir there are going to be interesting facts, and From Staircase to Stage has a handful of them. Some of them haven’t been shared before, while others have been known but not discussed in as much detail as they are in this book. Here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting facts shared in it.
The greatness of “C.R.E.A.M.” is the sum of many parts: its Charmels sample, back-to-back memorable verses from Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, and, of course, Method Man’s infectious hook. According to Rae, “cream” as the Wu came to define it was inspired by a cousin of his — and Tom and Jerry.
The rapper claims that the term originated with his cousin out in Brooklyn who used to come and sell crack in Staten Island. “I’m trying to make some cream. I gotta get that cream,” he would say when Rae and others asked him what he was doing. Not knowing what he was talking about, the cousin explained to them how cream came from an episode of Tom and Jerry, where the pair are making sandwiches and spreading so much mayo on them that it looks like cream when they bite into them.
“‘Cream’ was his way of saying he was trying to get his spread on and do well,” Rae explains.
Described as a “straight-up rap concept song using food as a metaphor,” “Food” was inspired by a rhyme Cappadonna did in a freestyle. After completing the track together, RZA recorded it on a tape that he gave to Rae, with him and his friend bumping the song “all f**king night” in the friend’s car.
As Raekwon explains in his memoir, the Park Hill and Stapleton neighborhoods were “sworn enemies,” with the beef between the two so deep that when fights broke out everyone (including mothers) got involved. Well, Wu-Tang was caught into between that feud, too. Rae reveals how Hong Kong Shaolin and Wu-Tang movies were very popular with his generation, but it was the latter that became popular slang in both neighborhoods, particularly in Stapleton.
“They’d refer to themselves as Wu-Tang, their weed was Wu-Tang…basically everything cool or good was Wu-Tang,” Rae writes. Well, considering that Wu-Tang, “as a trend and idea, had become a Stapleton identity,” the neighborhood didn’t take too kindly to RZA calling the rap collective he was trying to form the Wu-Tang Clan (especially considering only one member from Stapleton had been chosen to join the group, Ghostface). In response to that, RNS — essentially RZA’s foil as a Stapleton DJ and producer — and others created their own group called GP Wu-Tang (Gladiator Posse Wu-Tang). Caught in the middle, Ghost obviously ended up going with Wu-Tang Clan, and although RZA wasn’t really welcome in Stapleton for some time, Wu-Tang’s success ultimately smoothed things over.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is a celebration of the musical bond between Rae and Ghost, and considering it was Rae’s debut it’s understandable that most of the features on the album came from fellow Wu members (and affiliates like Blue Raspberry). But Rae had to make sure he brought a then up-and-coming standout MC from Queens into his mafioso rap world — Nas.
In the book, Rae recalls how he initially thought the rapper then known as “Nasty Nas” was “Nasty Knives,” and how “two wild white girls from London” introduced him to the rapper’s music. Whenever the pair came to New York they’d take Rae and Ghost out, and as they drove around the city they’d be listening to mixtapes the girls had. One of those tapes happened to have Nas’ “Halftime” track that appeared in the film Zebrahead.
“And that’s where we heard Nas for the first time,” Rae writes.
Rae has talked about the “Purple Tape” (the other name for his beloved Only Built 4 Cuban Linx) and its creation in countless interviews, but in his book he details how Loud Records founder Steve Rifkin played a part in making it a hip-hop collectible thanks to his “marketing mind.”
Initially, Rae wanted the tapes to be the color of money, but since the manufacturer couldn’t do that color he settled for purple (instead of the red or yellow of the cover art) because it’s the color of royalty. Needing to stay on budget, Rifkin offered to pay for a limited edition run of 10,000 purple tapes and, as a result, transformed Rae’s album into a collector’s item that’s worth a thousand dollars today.
Busta Rhymes was integral to Pt. II‘s creation, with the rapper encouraging Rae to make the sequel to his classic debut album after the two started hanging out while Busta was working on The Big Bang. At first, Rae was deterred; by this time the Wu wasn’t was as solidified as it once was (something Rae primarily credits to the mishandling of Wu-Tang Productions by RZA’s brother, Divine), and Ghost was doing his own thing. But after Busta expressed interest in helping make the album, Rae was down.
Through Bus’ encouragement, Rae set out to get what he needed to make Pt. II happen — RZA’s blessing and support, and Ghost’s support. But Busta’s contributions didn’t stop there. He also helped set up a meeting between Rae and Dr. Dre that ultimately resulted in the joint venture between Wu-Tang Records and Aftermath Entertainment for the album (although the deal never ended up going through).
Still, Rae makes sure to acknowledge Bus and his help in not only creating Pt. II but, more importantly, getting him to feel good about rapping again.
“I’ve never worked harder or smarter on anything, and I wouldn’t take a minute of it back,” Rae writes. “Without this album, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today.”
Different members of the Wu have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album, from how it was made to it being owned by Pharma Bro and convicted felon Martin Shkreli (until the Department of Justice took it and sold it). Rae offers as much as he can say on the album in the book while revealing that he’s in an ongoing lawsuit related to the notorious project.
Turns out that the artist who built the ornate casing for the album was never paid by Cilvaringz (Shaolin‘s co-producer and the person who made the deal with the artist) and, after failing to track him down, instead set his sights on the Wu members to get his money.
“I don’t know the terms of his deal because I wasn’t involved, but he went after all of us,” Rae writes.
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