Posted April 17, 2017
By ZACHARY DEVITA
In 1996, the album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” was released, shooting the then unknown New York group, the Wu-Tang Clan, from nine unknown rappers, to nine leaders in the art of hip-hop.
More than 20 years later, one of those members, Raekwon the Chef, continues to capture the soulful old school vibe, while incorporating new elements of rap music on his new album “The Wild.”
This mixture leads to a mesmerizing list of songs that can capture the avid rap fan. Whether they are older and are looking to seize that 1990s nostalgia or they are young, looking to expand their listening taste. I have always loved the Wu-Tang Clan, but this album is truly different. Raekwon takes a step back from the group and some parts of its overall sound, allowing him to establish himself as a truly gifted and independent artist.
Raekwon, who gained solo fame after releasing the album “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…”, is known for telling stories throughout his verses. One of his most famous songs, “C.R.E.A.M.” from the Wu-Tang’s debut album, discusses his struggle of selling drugs as a youth in order to maintain a standard of living and his battle to make a name for himself among his peers.
While he continues to tell tales about his life, “The Wild” allows the 47-year-old rapper to dictate his perspective of the rap game today, where his place is among other rappers and how younger rappers can learn from his journey.
The album holds minimal feature artists (four total), but allows Raekwon to pace the album his way. In the song “Nothing,” he uses a sample from the 1990 song “Humpty Dump” by The Vibrettes, combined with poignant cooing, allowing his harsh but unique voice to be at forefront of the listener’s attention.
When he says, “At any given second it’s real, gimme the go and Imma tear one of y’all apart slow then scar you with one of these daggers and drag you through the snow,” he uses the ambiguity of the rapper he is attacking, while maintaining his flow to the drop beat of the drum and the twang of the soft guitar.
Thus, allowing a combination of his very real lyrics and attention-grabbing tune. This niche category of rap proves his historic role in the industry and his place among the best. His use of visuals demonstrates the visceral impact his lyrics can have and allow him to emulate his very true music to even the average listener.
Other members of the Wu-Tang Clan cannot be found on the album, which is a first for Raekwon. This allows “The Wild” to be a much more intimate and personal affair compared to previous Raekwon recordings. This intimacy causes the listener to zero in on every note, sound and word that might have secondary or deeper meaning.
However, one song, “Marvin,” stands outside the tone and spectrum from the rest of the album. Featuring R&B singer Cee-Lo Green, the song details the ups and downs of performer Marvin Gaye’s life, including his unfortunate death done by the hands of his own father. Green’s melodious voice blends harmoniously with Raekwon’s deep lyrics about the gift Marvin was and the external, but little known about, struggle he had with his own father.
The song comes across as organic, looking to commemorate the historical singer and his life, but still has the ability to become a memorable and independent piece. While it strays away from the more aggressive tracks, it provides a moving break with a more profound meaning for both the artist and the listener.
More modern rap fans may find issues with the album’s reliance on older sounds and deviation from focusing on beats, to rather focusing on lyrics, which is common in older rap music compared to new rap music.
This is true in the song, “My Corner,” featuring New Orleans rap native Lil’ Wayne. The synths radiating throughout the song, however outdated they may sound, provide a comfortable environment for both rappers words to be the center of attention.
Hence, many rap fans whose centralized interest is solely modern rap or rap of the past five years, may not find “The Wild” to be appealing. Yet, the album can provide a bridge for those particular rap fans to discover the gritty and down to earth stories Raekwon the Chef tells. It may even open their ears to the historic artist’s past work and mold their palate to a new definition of rap.
“The Wild” proves Raekwon has stayed true to form, crafting the accounts of his past, present and future life. This work of art allows raps fans to come back to the roots of the genre and provides a well-deserved break from the commercialized industry that rap has slowly turned into.
Despite his old age, Raekwon’s future as a solo artist remains very bright and “The Wild” shows that reliance on the other members of the Wu-Tang Clan is not necessary.
- Album: “The Wild”
- Artist: Raekwon
- Label: Empire
- Genre: Hip-hop/rap
- Release: March 24, 2017
- Run Time: 43 minutes
- Parental Advisory
- Review Rating: 3 out of 4 stars