Review Summary: To every soldier in the hood, go in.Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang
is a legitimate cure for any Lupe Fiasco Lasers
-induced cancer. His third record in as many years, Raekwon defines expectations for golden era rappers in the 21st century with his own breed of timeless hip-hop. There are no cheap synths or lame choruses to be had, just classic east coast hard shi
t about generally epic street concepts. After a killer opener with an equally murderous video, "Every Soldier in the Hood" likely sets the bar impossibly high; Oh No's future-inspired composition is truly imbued with the darkness of the streets, while Rae's hook is an immediate classic line. Like 2009's "House of Flying Daggers", Method Man puts the blunt down long enough to put his rap face on; his verse is verifiable proof that Meth is the perfect complement to the Chef. Just as feared, Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang
prematurely ejaculates; nothing quite comes close after "Every Soldier". "Silver Rings" is solid yet eventually forgettable, while Estelle's chorus on "Chop Chop" only detracts from a track that Rae really shines on. Ghostface, Busta, Nas, Rick Ross, and Black Thought all lend some of their best bars in recent history (seriously, Busta sucks now, but his performance on "Crane Style" is incredible). More than anything, these featured artists and nearly all of Raekwon's performances emphasize the lyrical focus of the record - that isn't to say the production is terrible by any means, only less refined than precursor Only Built for Cuban Linx... pt II
At times, it is definitely a detractor when your record would fit right in ten years ago. In Raekwon's (and Wu-Tang in general it seems) case, he's found a winning formula by updating production techniques just enough to be contemporary yet maintain RZA's original raw, cinematic feel, while concentrating on the word play at hand. If he can blast out something like Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang
in less than a year, expectations for OB4CL pt III
are already building. Make sure to cherish "Every Soldier" (certainly one of the best cuts this year) while digging on the unfettered lyrical onslaught throughout.