Raekwon RaekwonShaolin vs Wu-Tang
It’s a dagger stuck in the neck, a kung fu kick in the stomach, a shuriken slicing your throat, a venomous dart that will make you foam at the mouth. Raekwon doesn’t foam at the mouth, but he does spit the best rhymes heard in American hip-hop in a long time, the most concise street stories of this moment, the uncomfortable halitosis of that part of the rap underground that feeds on fishbone and Gatorade. Yes, he’s had some lesser moments, like “Immobiliarity” and “ The Lex Diamond Story”, but he never threw the towel, and it was worth it: see the much acclaimed “Only Built for Cuban Linx Part II” as the most recent example. While the Chef is alive and kicking, Wu-Tang will never die.
Raekwon is pure street. He could have gone to the other side, but his attitude always takes us to places with the most unshakable streed cred. The essence of the Clan gives his teeth a shine. He’s the family member that has best kept the mythology of raw beats, martial arts film samples, lo-fi rhythm boxes and odd basslines alive. “Shaolin vs Wu-Tang” proves that “Cuban Linx II” was no coincidence. The man remains an indomitable monster in his limited grid: short phrases, gangster stories, an aversion of metaphors, chewed syllable as if they were tobacco in the mouth, the ability to synthesise close to the best of Biggie: addictive verses in a context that leans on the old Wu-Tang Clan style book, and he updates a speech that, executed from the gut, will never go out of fashion.
Yes. Raekwon’s latest is a Wu-Tang Clan record, only without the Clan. Or only part of it. Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Inspectah Deck are present, and even Nas himself drops by – “Rich And Black”, with those crazy strings, is a bombshell more street than pigeon shit– just like Black Thought, Lloyd Banks, Busta Rhymes and Rick Ross, who with his hoarse voice gives colour to “Molasses”, the most “36 Chambers” cut on the album. All the producers seem to pay tribute to the classic RZA sound, without holding back. Erick Sermon and his apocalyptic funk on “Every Soldier”, Alchemist and his gangster epic on “Ferry Boat”, Evidence and his smoked soul beats on “The Scroll”. There is no pause, you can only take some breath on “Rock N Roll”, the only screeching piece on this huge record, a demonstration of realness that recovers sewer rap and elevates it up to the stratosphere to remind us where we came from. Some speak of unnecessary nostalgia, of a sound that is no longer of this time of metrosexual MCs. But I say that in this old school black Western, Rae is, more than ever, the good, the bad and the ugly.