Raekwon – Shaolin vs Wu-Tang | Album Review

Still going strong in 2011, the Wu-Tang revolution, continues get Hip Hoppers amped like the first time they ever came across the Staten Island natives. One question which continues to remain unanswered (besides when the new joint Wu album will be released) is which member has the most stellar catalog of albums?

Whilst there’s room for many debates, the Chef Raekwon is one name who can lay claim to the accolade. Putting out fine, cinematic material since the 1995 classic Only Built For Cuban Linx, Rae’s importance to the branding of the Wu remains ever much important, and his latest release intends to keep the ‘W’ in the circle of rap’s greats still present in the new millennium.

In tradition of many Wu Tang albums Shaolin vs Wu-Tang opens with more cinema excerpts, schooling new and old listeners on the ‘origins’ of Rae and co’s stylings. The title track kicks in thirty seconds later with an emphatic, sinister production from Scram Jones which the Chef drops two solid verses over. Its intro may lead to false assumptions of a vintage Raekwon album as Shaolin vs Wu-Tang also adopts a more current sound than expected.

‘Every Soldier In The Hood’ is a heavy head nodding street anthem on which the Method Man aids Staten Island’s finest in dropping knowledge of the rules on the road. Although collaborations are numerous on ‘SVW’, its Rae’s solo tracks which really hold on to the essence of the Wu’s brand of rap. The shadowy productions on tracks such as ‘Snake Pond’ and ‘The Scroll’ gives the Chef licence to roll the clock back, delivering his vintage husky lyrical narrations over subtle-but-stinging beats.

RZA plays no part in arranging the score but an ensemble cast of producers, including Alchemist, Dilated Peoples’ Evidence and DJ Khalil, give Raekwon enough to work with. It’s Khalil’s beastly production which stands out amongst the rest as the ballsy ‘Rock n Roll,’ featuring Ghostface Killah, Jim Jones and Kobe. is powered mainly by the swagger/hilarity in Jones’ adlibs and its so-so chorus – and although not sounding in sync with the rest of Shaolin… (and will certainly cause debate amongst die hard fans) its an in-your-face, grab-your-crotch anthem which works entirely well.

Features for the most part pass with no controversy. Estelle’s chorus handling of ‘Chop Chop Ninja’ doesn’t bring anything major to the track and although Nas doesn’t drop a verse half as good as his imperial bars on the classic ‘Verbal Intercourse’, his contribution to ‘Rich and Black’ is decent. Black Thought, however, continues to add to his success of recent features with a stellar contribution to the soul stirring ‘Masters Of The Universe’.

Unlike many veteran emcees who seem to digress with each release, Raekwon’s recent new lease of life has provided another remarkable record which holds onto the past and embraces the new school. An album truly grounded in Hip Hop, Shaolin vs Wu-Tang towers over many new releases because its consistency in knowing what works for him remains key. The Chef keeps the Wu brand of rap alive thanks to his poignant storytelling and slouches comfortably amongst his long time brethren. Slowly making his way up the list of Top 10 D.O.A, this is further concrete evidence as to why Raekwon, individually, is one of the best to ever do it.

Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang is out now through Ice H2O Records [March 8th in the US].

Purchase via iTunes; Amazon UK / US.

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