It’s been over 20 years since the Wu-Tang Clan came into existence. Yet, even today many of it’s nine members are still doing very original and unique things in the world of hip-hop. One such artist is “gangsta” member Raekwon. Also, known as Raekwon the chef, he has released five solo albums, with his sixth – Fly International Luxurious Art, or F.I.L.A – dropping in October. Like many of his fellow clan members, he has dabbled into other areas and mediums, including shooting a documentary about Blood Diamonds for VH1 and being the first rapper ever to perform in Sierra Leone. Like RZA, he also moving towards film directing, with a project, C.R.E.A.M, currently in pre-production.
Raekwon was the second clan member I had the pleasure of speaking with – following GZA – and yet the two couldn’t be more different. While there is definitely a certain style of speak and attitude when it comes to hip-hop artists, GZA was more spiritual and well-worded whereas Raekwon was more street-talk (not surprising given both his background and the content of his lyrics). Although he may sound like your typical thug/gangtser – he even has the laugh to go with it – like most rappers of his era, his intelligence goes deeper than that.
I had privilege of hearing his two new singles. The first “All About You” is somewhat of an atypical rap song as it comes across almost as a love ballad. Estelle‘s vocals really accentuate the chorus. As Raekwon put it, he needed somebody who could embody the sexiness he was trying to portray and felt that Estelle could pull that off. I’ll let the regular listeners of hip-hop have final say on that one.
The second single is “Sound Boy Killa” featuring another talented female vocalist in Melanie. This track is more old school, traditional Raekwon, flowing like Gangsta rap and containing thuggish themes. Yet Melanie Fiona gives it a certain flare that differentiates it from your standard mafioso rap song and NWA-style hardcore tracks. While not soothing by any means, it does provide a nice contrast to Raekwon’s often harsh lyrics.
As if this album wasn’t enough, Raekwon is also planning another release for 2014 – supposedly a third installment in the “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” series. If his new singles are any indication, it should be a great album. F.I.L.A is Raekwon doing what he does best, and is a nice refreshment in the often misunderstood world of hip-hop.