13 April 2017

REVIEW: Raekwon - The Wild

Since the end of the Golden Era, most Wu-Tang fans needed to look no further than Raekwon for their steady Shaolin fix (I would also throw Method Man and Ghostface Killah in that mix too). The Staten Island emcee is creeping up on 50, but the living legend is still able to put together a project that should be required listening for all these up and coming rappers in the game. The Chef's seventh solo LP, The Wild, is another notch of excellence in a discography that spans 22 years. I'm only going by solo albums, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... came out in '95 (we all know 36 Chambers came out in '93..sit back down). His previous LP, 2015's Fly International Luxurious Art, was Rae's attempt at a commercially successful album. The album wasn't as great as it could have been. It was good to see the Chef try a new lane, but it felt disjointed and sub par for an emcee of Raekwon's caliber. The Wild is a much more cohesive project and is a decisive step back to form for the Wu general.

According to Rae, the album's first single "This Is What It Comes Too" serves as a "taste" of what the Chef had cooking in the lab. The energetic boom bap track is a callback to The Purple Tape days. Rae goes HARD with braggadocio bars that remind listeners that his pen game is just as strong as his street affiliations. The track "Purple Brick Road" provides a more melodic and "newer" school sound for Raekwon. The title is a play off of the "yellow brick road" from The Wizard of OZ (put probably from The Wiz). The "purple" comes from the aforementioned LP, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (also known as The Purple Tape) and "bricks" reference measurements of drugs (normally cocaine). So the title could mean Reakwon's life journey that started in the streets, but now finds him on a more successful road. Raekwon has made it, and with the spoils of victory come new adversities. On top of that, Raekwon litters his verses with internal rhymes that remind me of another legend, Rakim. And honestly, I think I've heard of G-Eazy, but I can't say I've heard dude spit. At first I thought it was Dave East (which would have been a better feature in my opinion). But the Oakland emcee DEF did himself a huge favor by jumping on the track with the legend. His flow is tight and compliments the track well. I will absolutely be checking tracks when I see his name now. His tribute single, "Marvin", pays homage to the late great Marvin Gaye. With CeeLo Green on the hook, we get a soulful track that Rae uses to tell a beautiful story of another legend. I even like the collab with Lil' Wayne on "My Corner". Crazy, I know. But I've always felt Wayne is talented enough. He's just dumbed himself down for so long (he is def a mumble rap godfather), that it is now his norm to sound like he freaky Fridayed with a teenager going through puberty, drugged up on ALL THE LEAN he could get his hands on. But when he chills out, dude is nice. 

The Wild is Raekwon's attempt to diversify his brand. He wants his "fans to see another side of a champion" and that his "triumphs remain inimitable when making music for yesterday and today’s culture." The album cover depicts Rae standing over a post apocalyptic landscape. Where speaker/buildings are overgrown with trees and vines (I Am Legend style) and the animals are anthropomorphized rocking fly gear and bumping to a boombox. The streets are commonly referred to as the "concrete jungle". The cover and album title both reinforce the theme that Raekwon has masterfully painted. At the top of the food chain, Raekwon is at home in any jungle. The Wild is another top shelf album to add to an already surprising 2017 roster. With all these young spitters dropping gems, it is good to see an old head put his thing down and show them legends don't die. 

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