Rapper Roulette: Wu-Tang Clan Members Swap Spots at Frank Book Launch

Raekwon and Stephen Malbon.

Raekwon and Stephen Malbon.

If one member of the Wu-Tang Clan can’t make it to dinner at the last minute, there’s always another Wu-Tang Clan member to take his place. Such a switch-up happened last Wednesday at the Bowery Hotel, where RZA was supposed to host a bash for downtown collective Frank 151 on the occasion of its 51st “Frank Book” (hard-spined, pocket-size zines, essentially). For undisclosed reasons, RZA bailed, but he sent Raekwon the Chef as his surrogate.

“I love the RZA; I wish he could come,” said Jim Jarmusch, the film director who cast the rapper alongside fellow Wu-Tang member GZA in his film Coffee & Cigarettes (the two men had a very memorable run-in with Bill Murray). “I’m not as close with Raekwon,” the East Village auteur continued, “but when I curated All Tomorrow’s Parties, I invited him to come.”

Mr. Jarmusch, with his shock of white hair intent on sticking toward the ceiling, doesn’t go out much anymore, but said he felt compelled to share arugula salad with the many people who have contributed to Frank Books since their inception in 1999.

And there’s more to Frank than its quarterly zines. In little over a decade, the Frank empire has come to include a media company (complete with a super-stylized blog), satellite bureaus in L.A. and Tokyo, and the celeb-friendly Essex Street barber Frank’s Chop Shop.

On this night, Mr. Jarmusch was surrounded by sneaker-wearing creative types in the wine room at Gemma, many of whom were wearing items of their own design. Photographer Ricky Powell sported a cap that read “The New York Crimes” in the offending paper’s trademark font—a collaboration he released with Akomplice Clothing—and he was inspecting a tablemate’s necklace, which read, spelled out in gold, “Comme des Fuckdown.”

“You know he came up with that,” Mr. Powell told the young lady, pointing to graffiti-wear icon Ruslan Karablin, who was sitting a table over. “Hey, Russ, check this out!”

Mr. Karablin did indeed invent the line, which riffs on the name of the Comme des Garçons fashion label. We asked the woman, a writer for Paper magazine, where she had obtained such a talisman. She said the rapper A$AP Rocky had given to her as a gift.

Just then, Raekwon burst into the tiny room with his large presence. The Transom caught up with him as waiters cleared the main dish and began to serve dessert.

“My people at Frank, these guys are legends to me,” said Raekwon. Then he started musing on the penne he had ordered. “You know I’m a pasta lover, and the pasta was off the hook. A lot of garlic in it—it was awesome. I love garlic.”

Raekwon soon followed artist Nate Lowman and model Erin Wasson upstairs, where the after-party was already in full swing. Stephen Malbon, the founder of Frank, looked approvingly over the dancing and drinking masses.

“With Frank, what we’ve been doing is getting up-and-coming young people and connecting them with the past curators,” Mr. Malbon told the Transom. “Raekwon, he’s a curator.”

No doubt there. Although at the moment, this particular curator didn’t seem to be thinking much about the past. As the deejay put on “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit,” Raekwon just continued his conversation with a young woman, leaning against a plant, never acknowledging the song selection.