Review Summary: You're missing nothing if you choose to skip this album.
Let’s just get to the point: FILA
is a glorious disappointment. Maybe it’s the in-house quarrels that Raekwon always seems to have a role in, maybe it’s the delays and setbacks the album underwent, or maybe Rae is just finally getting over the hill, but what was supposed to be an ode to opulence is ultimately a garish, comfortable release that, while never offensively bad, brings nothing to the table and is almost entirely forgettable. Where Rae’s most recent LP, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang
proved itself agile, a generally limber listen made so by braiding quick tracks into a cohesive lattice that allowed Chef’s proclivities for storytelling to shine, it suffered only when the lyricism was overshadowed by dreadfully bad, protracted hooks (“Chop Chop Ninja”, “Rock N Roll”). For FILA
, Raekwon neglects to correct these mistakes and actually compounds the problem further by taking a more traditional approach to songwriting, making more ‘complete’ songs that rely more heavily on the beat and the hook to make it through, both of which pretty consistently miss the mark. Only a couple beats complement the themes Raekwon attempts to paint, and there are fewer hooks that work. The album starts out reasonably strong with “4 in the Morning,” a flourish of fanfare and trademark Scram Jones atmosphere and “I Got Money,” a straight hip-hop joint with a rare great hook and a def(t) A$AP Rocky flow that sees the youngster transcend his station with an A1 verse that would satisfy even the most curmudgeonly of golden age clingers. But it’s all downhill from there; “Wall to Wall” interrupts Rae and Busta’s streak of hot collaborations with its overbearing, nauseating hook and absurd length, and “F.I.L.A. World”s ‘celestial’ beat is a bumbling, faux-elegant mess that no one should have ever written over. The rest is a mishmash of throwaways, bland nothings occasionally sprinkled with brief moments of entertainment. And lyrically, the album, much like most of Raekwon’s verses in the past few years, is an incessant rehashing of the same formula over and over again – a dense batter of schemes and luxury with no readily discernible standout bars or flows; it’s not bad, per se, but it’s nothing special and does little to remedy the album’s flawed production and songwriting. Ultimately, FILA
suffers not from any sort of egregious mistakes, but rather from being almost entirely forgettable; excepting the standout “I Got Money,” you’re missing nothing if you choose to skip this album.