Raekwon Raps to Throwbacks

Wu-Tang really ‘ain’t nothing to fuck with.’ Everyone knows it. Even if you’re not a fan, you know when you hear the name that it is to be respected and slightly feared. They invented the standards for the rap subgenres “horrorcore” and “mafioso rap,” and have been one of the most recognizable groups in hip-hop since 1993.

Raekwon, known most for his smooth delivery and incredible use of New York slang is at his best when rapping about drugs, crime, clothing, money and violence. While these sound like popular subjects to rap about, Raekwon and his fellow Wu-Tang members have been doing it for decades longer than most of the popular rappers today, inserting a level of wisdom and experience that other rappers simply cannot touch. Raekwon received critical acclaim in 2009 for his long awaited sequel to his most notorious “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” and since then has expanded on Wu-Tang’s signature sound, this time with an all-star lineup of rappers that have each had careers as successful as Raekwon’s.

The album contains verses from rappers who represent various sectors of hip hop.  Among the featured rappers are fellow Wu-Tang members Ghostface Killah, GZA, Method Man and Inspectah Deck. Other guests include Nas, Lloyd Banks, Black Thought from The Roots, Busta Rhymes and Rick Ross.

Tracks like “Every Soldier in the Hood,” are made up of universal elements that fans everywhere can appreciate. The beat is a sporadically synthy banger filled with subtle pieces that continue to present themselves with each new listen.  Method Man, who has a knack for overshadowing any rapper he shares a track with, fully lives up to his reputation on “Every Soldier” and “From the Hills.”

Raekwon, along with Ghostface Killah, pride themselves on their intense and sometimes confusing use of slang. Raekwon in particular, will only make sense on the first listen of a given song about 15 percent of the time, but indecipherable verses is one of the reasons that Rae is who he is. In “Ferry Boat Killaz,” an epic beat in classic Wu-Tang fashion featuring strings, simple but hard drums and a slower tempo than most rap songs, shows just how outlandish Raekwon can be when telling a story. “Larry and his guns is weird, six hundred onions a year. No more running, see the morgue, shorty. Wild nights, crew gunning cats, animal jackets and axes bulletproof buses, forty backs.” What seems like a random string of visuals ends up making a pretty vivid picture when coming from Raekwon’s mouth.

The album maintains RZA’s classic production without a single RZA contribution.  His style is properly expanded upon on the track “Molasses,” featuring Rick Ross and Ghostface Killah. The beat contains short blaring horns that might be less pronounced had RZA produced it, and a soft guitar sound that could be heard on most of RZA’s work.

While it may not be as strong as “Cuban Linx II,” Raekwon scores with “Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang.”  The overall album is unified in sound and quality.  The collaborations with his fellow rappers, and the reliably Wu-Tang-esque production make a great opportunity for Raekwon to shine, which he always manages to do.