With rap music receiving attention for all the wrong reasons as of late due to the current trend of so-called “mumble rappers” taking centre stage, it has been reassuring to hear some of hip hop’s old guard still standing firm.…
With solid releases from 90’s legends such as De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest recently, there is no doubt that “real” rap still exists and thankfully there are many young upcoming artists who still follow the traditions of wordplay, punchlines and flow. As an answer to the uniquely weak style made popular by the likes of Lil Yachty and Uzi Vert, there have been plenty of hard-hitting freestyles both online and on the radio by everyone from Busta Rhymes to DMX. Hip hop is in a strange place right now, with each side championing themselves without having much respect for the other. Reading that landscape, there is little doubt which team will be listening to the latest drop by Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon, who sums up the situation himself: “I look at today’s industry as being a jungle. There are different rules. Me being out in the wild for so long and looking at what it is today, it’s just different.”
Whilst all nine members of the Wu Tang Clan still occasionally release material as a unit, most members of the Wu Tang have moved towards solo careers, Raekwon serving as a great example given his healthy back catalogue. Raekwon’s latest effort, The Wild, is his follow up to the relatively unsuccessful 2015 project Fly International Luxurious Art. “The Wild Intro” features some smooth sounds accompanied by a speech from Raekwon himself that sets the tone for what is a predominantly soulful album. One of the most soulful beats – arguably the album’s best – arrives on the second cut “This Is What It Comes To”. Raekwon delivers a true hip-hop masterclass here, with lines like “soak my bullets in cyanide” proving that he has not lost his edge or his way with words. The song’s major key inspires a pretty uplifting outcome, a stark contrast to the more sinister vibes he and the Wu Tang Clan are famous for. Luckily for anybody expecting to hear some darker accompaniments, the following track “Nothing” is nothing short of spectacular. The production is satisfyingly sparse with minimal instrumentation, but the choice of piano and vocal samples fit the bill perfectly, highlighting Raekwon’s delivery which, on some of the album’s weaker beats, can sound like he’s somewhat bored.
Before even pressing play, there are plenty of exciting collaborators popping up on the track listing, with appearances from Lil Wayne, G-Eazy, Cee-Lo Green to name a few, as well as production credits from JUSTICE League, Xtreme and G Sparkz. “Marvin”, which features the incredible voice of Cee-Lo Green is another one of the album’s gems. In fact, there aren’t really any hiccups on the record and the majority of The Wild really hits the spot. “Can’t You See” and “The Reign” are both big and bold, with enormous instrumentals to match. “You Hear Me”, “My Corner” (featuring Lil Wayne) and the P.U.R.E collaboration “M&N” work to switch things up a little with more modern production approaches, as electronic horns, drum machines and synthesisers bring some welcome sonic contrast to the albums generally organic aesthetic.
“Forever may not exist in the flesh but my music will” boasts Raekwon as the album draws to a close on “Purple Brick Road”, which features G-Eazy. There are plenty of memorable moments on this project and very few forgettable tracks, even if they follow a similar framework. While Raekwon fails to push the boundaries hugely in terms of his own delivery, now is hardly the time in his career to start experimenting too much. True hip hop heads will appreciate his traditional approach and the new-school will be excited to hear a new twist on the classic Wu Tang sound. Overall this album is surely going to be a successful one, even if it plays things relatively safe. Why not come and hear it for yourself at one of our Richer Sounds stores today?