Let me start with saying, ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ is my favorite hip hop album of all time, the ‘Purple Tape’ paved the way for rappers from all regions to be able to talk that fly, street-guy talk. Be able to chop a kilo, perfect your chef game in a Pyrex pot, but at the same time be able to share knowledge of self, wisdom, knowledge on the same album. It’s that street talk that made Wu Tang Clan the phenomenon it was, and still is today. These guys could rob you on one track, cook crack with you on another, and then have you self improving a cleaning up your lifstyle via self reflection the next. That’s why their music has resonated with so many different people, where your drug dealing friend will listen to the same album as your college buddy and be able to seek and find different jewels.
To a certain extent, Rae and the entire Wu are some what of “Legacy Artists”, which is a good term, but if misinterpreted could be taken as a jab. But they BUILT that legacy, they’ve aloud themselves the benefit of the doubt from years of continually innovating and advancing the culture in many ways. The team of Rae and Ghost have just delivered a designer brand of rap. Where as some rappers are cloth, or wool, they have been silk. When the majority of the east coast was wearing hoodies and fatigues, Chef and Ghost were rocking Versace shirts, gold chains and boarding helicopters. But don’t get me wrong, they could easily slip back into a pair of all Nautica sweats, and a Champion hoodie, topped off with a fresh pair of wheat Timberlands.
Rae returns with his 7th solo album, it’s been 4 years since the very slept on ‘Wu Tang vs Sholin’ dropped. Since then, there’s been a rift with RZA (which has since been squashed), a secret Wu album and a publicly released ‘A Better Tomorrow’. The news of Rae working on an album was made over a year ago, and now it has finally arrived his fans are in for a ride of knowledge, entertainment, wisdom, drug talk, understanding and his signature luxurious approach to MCing. He doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel, he doesn’t beg new fans to respect or recognize his legendary status, that’s not his style. His swagger has screamed veteran since he spit on “Protect Ya Neck”, it’s like he’s always been here, and has always been legendary.
I’m going to be completely honest, I personally have never seen Raekwon as a an amazing lyricist, in the sense of someone who’s going to blow me away with internal rhyme, intricate rhyme scemes or patterns. I say that to say this, Rae is a rappers-rapper, he’s an MCs-MC, he just understands how to get on a track and not Canibus-Me-To-Death. He will Raekwon-you-to-life, he just has an understanding how to effortlessly own a track without doing anything unnecessary. This art was created for guys like Rae. Microphones were constructed for guys like him to be able to have a bigger audience, he’s just that interesting without being super personal.
On ‘F.I.L.A.’ you get the 2015 Chef. He doesn’t chase trends, he never has, he’s always set them, what he does do is update the foundation he started 23 years ago. On the opening track he takes you right back to that Park Hill apartment in the wee hours of the morning, “4 In The Morning” he just reminds you why he’s so loved, the first line of the track is “Bernard Goetz Cazels on”, it just such a multi layered statement, in three words he does what rappers can’t do in hour long albums, he makes you visualize what he’s talking about. He brings you right next to him in three words, it’s 80s flyness, with elements of a painful history of crime and race relations in New York City. The production is what you would expect, this could’ve been on ‘Cuban Linx’ just vintage, grimey East Coast hip hop, and did I mention Ghostface in on the track?
The album starts off strongly, production wise, lyrically and most importantly, musically. On “I Got Money”, A$AP Rocky comes along for the ride, the collaboration on paper may be a bit of a head scratcher for some, but it sounds so organic it’s classic Rae, and it’s the Rocky that has become one of the most loved artists of this new generation of MCs. French Montana return the favor (Rae appeared on his major label debut)on the She Da GOD produced, “Wall To Wall”. Along with a verse from Busta Rhymes who has been on a milk carton with the exception of falling off stage a few months ago. It results in a anthem of sorts, it’s just works.
‘F.I.L.A.’ does have it’s down sides, while his collaberations with 2Chainz “F.I.L.A. World” is a decent record, but it is simply something that the project could do without. The same can be said for the Snoop Dogg featured “1,2,1,2”. Scoop Deville plays his part with a classic sounding track, but the duo of Rae and Snoop combined are around 90 years old, and sound every bit of it here, Snoop more than Rae. This is a collaboration that if it had came out 20 years ago could have been something monumental, here it just sounds stale. “Soundboy Kill It”, and “All About You” just miss their mark.
Overall the album isn’t bad per se, it’s short and sweet, clockin in at under 45 minutes. Addition via subtraction could have changed what ends up being a slightly above average album. There are bright are bright spots like the drug dealer summit, “Revory” which connects 2 generations of ‘Coke Rap’ over amazing production by Bluerockz. “To Live & Die” and closing tracks “Natilus” & “Worst Enemy” are strong efforts as well. He still channels that classic Rae, fly drug dealer in a new Lexus feel that his music has traditionally always reflected. The issue here is lack of memorable tracks. There’s no “New Wu” here, there’s no “From The Hills”. There’s many good songs, but nothing really great. It’s not as good as ‘Shoalin Vs’ or ‘Cuban Linx’ but it’s not legacy damaging or by any means a bad album. It’s just simply leaves more to desire.[yasr_overall_rating size=”medium”]