After a brief rest, Raekwon’s back with his 5th solo album with rumors of another set to follow later in the year. Wu fans are excited following the success of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 and Wu Massacre.
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang opens with the sounds of sword violence with dubs from kung-fu cartoons alongside Raekwon’s soulful rhymes, as he waxes poetic on modern day life. Rhymes about the trials and tribulations of having a family and looking after the wife and kids grace his songs. It’s emotional in delivery, yet gritty in temper.
The video is equally playful, showing animated clips from martial art classics and snippets of Rae in the recording process, the final scene merges the two for cinematic effect. Rae’s latest, like most other well-known Wu members represents the journey from the streets to the good life with an emphasis on remembering who you are and where you came from. While Rae hasn’t reached the heady heights of some of the other clansmen, he’s well noted noted for his verbal stealth. Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang ensures that his creative process will be critically praised. Some say he is to hip-hop what Scarface is to film–evocative and seminal.
The title is simply a reference to where most of the Clan are from, Staten Island. Though there have been claims that it reflects more than the daily grind of urban life. There was a time when disputes between the brothers were frequently reported in the press, especially over business arrangements and the break in communications between Chef and RZA, who produced many of the tracks on his debut album, Only Build for Cuban Linx (1995). But time has proved to be a great healer.
Ghostface, his poetic ally, features prominently on the album. Rae hooks up again with Nas on “Rich & Black.” Other notable guests include Lloyd Banks and Busta Rhymes. While “Butter Knives” is the album’s best known cuts, it’s a much more straight forward beat without the abstract wordplay and lyrical dynamism.
Back in 2007, MTV rated the Clan as the 5th most influential hip-hop band of all time with Run DMC taking top spot for turning heads with those outrageous chains. It has also been said of them that: “No weapon in hip-hop history can rival the chaotic cohesion of the Wu-Tang Clan”. Wu-Tang is essentially a unit with the freedom to pursue their own interests, including films and book spin-offs.
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang reaffirms the place of Chef Raekwon and the Wu-Tang clan as one of the foremost guiding lights offering mouth-watering musical selections for many years to come.
- Kim Wilson