Raekwon: The Key to Being a Ninja...

Raekwon: The Key to Being a Ninja...

Apart from the RZA, it’d be difficult to figure any other Wu Tang Clan member as being more busy than Raekwon, the chef. Including mixtapes and whatever other ephemera floating around, the emcee’s issued at least three long form recordings in the space of something like a year. If you add in all the video promotion the guy’s worked on, it’s hard to believe he has time to eat as much as he clearly does to maintain a frame of such tremendous proportions.

Working on such a wealth of projects, fans and would be detractors might expect a lack of quality on Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang. It’s not a step down from Only Built for Cuban Linx II, issued last year, but maybe an intermediary level of success. There aren’t any clunkers. And counting Nas’ verse on “Rich and Black”,  the album’s not short on material.

Some of that material, unfortunately, includes more than a casual nod to soul hooks and otherwise, lame sung choruses. “Rock n’ Roll” was clearly concocted to include some sort of potential radio ready effort. Rae’s lyrical stuff here doesn’t disappoint, but hearing the hook run around and around is troublesome.

Of course, there’re more than a few appearances of Wu Tang members. Granted, “From The Hills” sports a slight fey hook courtesy of Raheem DeVaughn, it also includes Method Man on the mic. And combining Meth and Rae seems like an ultimate way to succeed. The former, turns in a smooth verse touching on requisite topics which crop up on any and every Wu related album ever released going back almost twenty years at this point.

The aforementioned track, coming more than half way through Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang, points to the albums strength. And a few tracks on, Rick Ross and Ghostface Killah show up and go in over a smooth horn sample and ample, bedrock drumming. What’s easily recognizable is RZA’s mark isn’t anywhere to be found here – or on Rae’s last album. It’d be difficult to figure production would drastically effect the emcee’s writing, but a bit of gritty and dusty samples could have mitigated some of those lame soul hooks. But at the end of the day, pretty much an Rae release is gonna trump anything Mac Miller and his ilk could even conceive of.

 

If the other Rae helmed discs have become frequent listens, there’s no reason to pass this one up. Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang might not top any year end lists, but solid discs live longer than over hyped trash.