Raekwon the Chef has always been the type to craft incredibly focused bodies of work as opposed to singles. He demonstrated as much right off the bat, with his cinematic debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, which gave birth to a new age of mafioso rap and catapulted the Clan to a whole new level. Now, 22 years later, Raekwon is releasing his seventh album, The Wild. From top to bottom, it's a brilliantly reflective look at the current state of hip-hop, how far he's come and why he's such a fixture in the culture.
With a subdued list of guests, limited to verses from his new protégé P.U.R.E., Lil Wayne and G-Eazy, as well as two guest choruses, the album allows the spotlight to shine mostly on Rae, who sounds hungrier than ever here. He delivers that raw rap he's synonymous with on records like "This Is What It Comes Too" and " Nothing," while showing fans another side of himself on records like "Visiting Hour" and "Can't You See," where his bars become unusually cautionary. He also opens up about his family and focus; "Now it's all about good living, raising my children."
Highlights, though, are the G-Eazy-assisted "Purple Brick Road" and "Marvin," in which Rae tells the life-story of iconic singer Marvin Gaye with a smooth chorus by Cee-Lo Green.
While more uptempo than his fans may have been comfortable with in the past, the project has a noticeable sense of growth and maturity about it. Coupled with incredible production, The Wild reaffirms why Raekwon's been so revered all these years. (ICEH20 Records)