It is always inspiring to hear a tale of family togetherness, especially when the family is in the entertainment industry and even more so when that very same family has managed to work closely together for several years. Hip-Hop aficionados know of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan (RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (R.I.P), Ghostface Killah, U-God, Masta Killa, and Raekwon), but what a lot of fans may not be privy to one of the members behind the scenes who have kept the fam together, Raekwon’s middle brother Kareem “Kay” Woods or just simply Kay as he likes to be called. In one of his first interviews, Kay was able to share some time to talk about growing up on Staten Island, managing both The Wu and his brother’s solo career as well as the careers of some other notable artists. He also shared his perspective on the entertainment industry and his future plans.
Kay grew up on Staten Island with two brothers and a sister. Raised without a father, their mother filled the role for both parents. Raekwon may be a legendary lyricist to some, but to Kay, Rae is simply his blood brother. When Rae was out beginning to make a name for himself as The Chef, Kay hadn’t been so eager to join the hustle that was the Hip-Hop industry. “At the time when the Wu was hitting it big, I was running the streets and got locked up. It was then that I started sitting back analyzing my life and what I wanted to do. When I came home, my brother put me on the road; he was like ‘Come play with me on the road a minute.’ That exposure to the road and the industry was all that Kay would need to hook him into it. He soon took to a management role, managing The Wu and Raekwon’s solo career. It took a while to adjust to the demands of the business but soon he was booking shows and making things happen for the guys. “At the time, I didn’t think I would go that far with it,” Kay admits. “But I just stayed focused and it worked out.”
It is no secret that business relationships can take on a toll on people’s personal lives especially if they are kin. Many people have fallen out because a business relationship spilled over to their personal lives. Kay notes that this is not the case for him and his brother Raekwon. “My personal business is personal and my business is my business.” He does explain however that his personal life provides the fuel for his success. His inspiration he says is, “My family, my wife and kids. Everything I do is for them and because of them.”
When fans speak of Hip-Hop, The Wu Tang is not too far behind Tupac and Biggie. I had to ask Kay on his perspective as to how and why The Wu is still relevant even in today’s times. “You’ve got to understand that there are 8 members in Wu-Tang and no matter what everyone else does solo wise they’re always sure to give a shout to the other members. Everybody wants to rep Wu.” And they have done just that over the years. The Wu Tang Clan is a true Hip-Hop dynasty, finding a way to remain relevant since emerging on the scene in 1992.
Being in the game about as long as his brother Raekwon, Kay has been a firsthand witness to the industry going through some major drastic changes. When asked about his opinions on the current state of hip-hop he simply laughs before replying, “That’s kinda like a hard question. I think what it is, I came up in the 80s and 90s when Hip-Hop/Rap was real with lyrics and rhymes so this new stuff is crazy to me and it’s selling, that’s what gets me. Nowadays these new young rappers don’t appreciate lyrics and rhymes and they don’t wanna respect the people that paved the way for them to be here.”
Being the brother of Raekwon could be enough for some people to coast off of but Kay stands on his own and opens up to share with us some of his upcoming projects. “When I say I’m in the music business I’ve been fortunate enough to make connections with people like C-N-N, Busta Rhymes, and Fat Joe. It is all about a hustle for me. I am currently the CEO of ICE H20 records; we have a group Ice Water with C-N-N as well. I’ve got a couple of artist coming up that I don’t wanna say right now, but everything’s in the works.” When asked about the hardest part of his job thus far, Kay says that is has to be running down artists for material. Still he loves every part of his job.
On a final note, Kay does offer advice, “Follow your dream. Take what you need to get into life, anything you need in life just go for it. Don’t take advice from anyone and just go with your heart. I’ve learned from my own mistakes and that’s made me better.”
Managing a legendary Hip-Hop group and his brother’s career as well as being the CEO of his own record label, Kay has a lot under his belt that the general public may not be aware of. With the help of family and friends, Kay’s motivation for success can only grow stronger. Unfortunately, to all to the fans and readers, Kay does not have a Facebook, MySpace or Twitter but he assures us that Raekwon does.
Images by Donald Lee for Parlé Magazine