Published Apr 28, 2015Raekwon may have dubbed his sixth studio album Fly International Luxurious Art, but that title doesn't fit the LP's shoddy production. Tracks like "All About You," "Wall to Wall," "Nautilus" and "Worst Enemy" each have plodding, all-but-one-note beats with an extra tacked on element — a brief horn riff, a few simplistic organ lines, strings that sigh in the same sampled segment again and again, to the point of exasperation. These instrumentals have no texture or depth; lower tier rappers like Jadakiss or Lloyd Banks would've passed on them a decade ago.
"I Got Money" is one of the album's more competent cuts thanks to its reverberating xylophone notes, one of the few unique production elements throughout this 13-track set. And "Heated Nights" has the best instrumental on the album by a mile, featuring a molasses-thick bass line and pitter-patter drums that are refreshingly subtle. Unfortunately, it's followed by another sonic dud, "F.I.L.A. World," which has a nursery rhyme melody and sing-song-y backing vocals that even a toddler would find grating. Fortunately, Raekwon's lyrics are not so juvenile, as he tells a harrowing tale about how his "Mother (is) so vexed," because his "brother is on ex." But those lines are overshadowed by an out of place albeit entertaining guest spot from 2 Chainz, who delivers typically so-bad-they're-good punch lines.
Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky, Ghostface Killah and Rick Ross also give strong contributions on other songs, but none of their admirable turns are able to transcend the dingy instrumentals, which make FILA a lacklustre affair. Next time, Raekwon should forget about international luxury, and just invest in some decent beats. (ICEH20 Records)