The Score: Raekwon, "Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang"

Tuesday, Mar 8, 2011 12:45PM

Written by Jesse Prince

Buy Now
  • Shaolin Vs.Wu-Tang
  • Raekwon
  • March 8, 2011
Hip Hop DX 3.5/5 2/10
411Mania 8.5/10
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 3/5

Wu-Tang Clan founding member Raekwon is back on the scene today with his latest release, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang.

It is his fifth solo studio album and its title reflects a major part of the Clan's history.

The origin of the name comes from the martial arts film of the same title. This very film inspired the Wu to come up with their group name, and soundbytes from the film are dispersed all throughout Wu-Tang's debut album, 1993's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). A title of that magnitude would suggest that Raekwon would be bringing his formula back to Day One. That statement is partially true. (HipHopDX)

In addition to the usual Clansmen, Raekwon requested several artists to get busy in the kitchen alongside him.

Of course Raekwon is hardly alone on Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, and while the bevy of guest features provide the album's low points, those points aren't all that loud. Not to pick on Busta twice in the same review, but his work on the down tempo Crane Style is forgettable at best, as is Inspectah Deck and Estelle's work on Chop Chop Ninja (although Estelle does sound like she's having the time of her life crooning about ninjas). By the same token, allow me to allay the fears purists undoubtedly had when they saw the album's tracklist: Jim Jones is decent on Rock N' Roll, Lloyd Banks works on the oddly titled Last Trip to Scotland and Rick Ross sounds flat out nice on Molasses. Even better, hip-hop history is made twice, first when Rae and Nas reunite to recapture Verbal Intercourse's energy on Rich & Black (even if Nas' verse is old) and together Black Thought and the Chef make Masters of Our Fate absolutely epic. (DJBooth)

Various lent their tracks to Rae, but the Wu's most trusted beatsmith is absent from this project.

RZA plays no part in arranging the score but an ensemble cast of producers, including Alchemist, Dilated Peoples' Evidence and DJ Khalil, give Raekwon enough to work with. It's Khalil's beastly production which stands out amongst the rest as the ballsy 'Rock n Roll,' featuring Ghostface Killah, Jim Jones and Kobe. is powered mainly by the swagger/hilarity in Jones' adlibs and its so-so chorus - and although not sounding in sync with the rest of Shaolin... (and will certainly cause debate amongst die hard fans) its an in-your-face, grab-your-crotch anthem which works entirely well. (SoulCulture)

Recently, Rae discussed his Rich and Black collaboration with Nas.

"It definitely sounds like vintage Rae and Nas again," Rae said about their leaked track. "I [saw] Nas across seas, we had a show together, and we talked about a lot of things," Rae explained about how the two linked up. "We went from 'A through Z ', how we felt about things what was goin on at the time, and by thegrace of God we was able to get this thing happenin' again. That was definitely one of the surprise things that I wanted to alert the fans with, just to let em know that my brother came up [for] air for me and I know through his busy schedule, in the back of his mind he was like 'Yo I gotta come up for Rae.'" ("I Could Never Say Anything Foul About Him On [Any] Level")

Despite a few questionable album ingredients, critics viewed Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang as a decent serving cooked up by The Chef.

The success level here largely depends on the producers' ability to hit the expected marks, making this an exercise in direct imitation. The opener, with its pulsing strings and cinematic orchestral flourishes, is the most successful. But the scattershot collection of new names and old hands inevitably has mixed results. Missteps include "Every Soldier in the Hood," with Erick Sermon attempting to resurrect Liquid Swords-style chiaroscuro, with a solemn guitar strum and a chanted hook. "Rock N Roll," which makes a tired comparison between making music with selling drugs (in this case joking about selling crack "rocks" named after rock stars), only serves to play up the moldiness of its conceits, namely the talk of dealing for a guy who's at least 20 years out of the game. This is only made worse by the conspicuously flagging Jim Jones, who shouts out the Diplomats, another crew with a recent history of in-fighting, as if the group's name still had relevance. (Slant Magazine)

If anything, despite RZA's absence, this is the most a Wu record has reclaimed their original sound since perhaps the first slew of Wu solo offerings. For any hip hop head, that's an exciting prospect, making this a small album with a grand presence. The purported Eminem feature isn't to be found, and the promised Nas verse is recycled, and some cuts seem to just end, but this record still manages to shine. (OneThirtyBPM)

To purchase Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, just click here.

Preview tracks from the album below:

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