The Chef is back, boasting claims of diamond rings with fresh rhymes and lavish beats in his new release, “Fly International Luxurious Art.” Raekwon, known for his work with legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan, dropped his album Tuesday to mainly positive reviews. He received a 67 on Metacritic and was given three stars by Rolling Stone. Let’s see if his work lives up to the hype.
Raekwon is a master of the mafioso rap genre, but his latest album seems to exchange that for materialistic bragging, which deliver well on tracks like “I Got Money” and “Live To Die,” but come off as awkward in “ “Live to Die” and “All About You,” which showcase a more modern sound with loose production and average lyrics. Most tracks are still bump-worthy, but underutilizing Raekwon’s storytelling ability in favor of cheap punchlines and generic songs seems to hurt the album
Yet Raekwon is still a fantastic storyteller. Songs like “4 in the Morning,” where he illustrates inner city drug dealing and broken-down homes recall memories of his days as a early-mid 90s artist — one whose raps are so vivid that they feel like a verbal picture. His free-form flow also shows the potential to stay relatable and entertaining to listeners, like when he asks listeners, “More money more problems? You gotta be kidding me!” Moments like these allow the audience to realize that the sarcastic, successful and dark-humored Raekwon still stay somewhere deep beneath his material success.
Although Raekwon clearly has his own values as a solo artist, listeners will feel robbed of collaborations with other WTC members, especially with his new album only having two quick songs with Ghostface Killah. Listening to Raekwon and another WTC member go back and forth in numerous songs is almost like a tradition for WTC members in their solo albums and it’s disappointing to have those features replaced by fleeting guest appearances from other artists, like A.S.A.P. Rocky, French Montana and Rick Ross who, while still entertaining in their own right, don’t have the same kind of chemistry or style to them that contrasts Raekwon’s delivery. Moreover, while having a hilariously corny but entertaining verse per usual, it’s also strange to see 2 Chainz work on a song with Raekwon.
In terms of quality, “Fly International Luxurious Art” is not a “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” or anything close to Raekwon’s material with WTC. It’s still a pretty good album, but as unfair as it is, most people in the rap scene hold him to a pretty high standard — one which this album just barely misses, though not without having a few entertaining moments. Raekwon’s latest album might deserve a check on YouTube, but it’s not the game-changing material of his past.