Raekwon / Various The DaVinci Code: The Vatican Mixtape Vol. 2

Having little more than breezed through the odd Raekwon disc since the days of Wu glory towards the end of the ’90s, it actually comes as little surprise that the Chef sounds almost exactly the same on his latest offering as he did nearly ten years back — from slang and fashion references on down. Apparent arrested development issues aside, the NYC MC manages to slap together a pretty interesting record in his latest Vatican Mixtape, a chaotic mess of a disc that works because of its incessant rawness. Grab bag production that sees old school samples spliced into augmented beats of Wu-Tang classics, gritty un-worked Marvin Gaye snatches, and a total disregard for proper sequencing keep things interesting and overshadow the many periodic mastering problems. Meanwhile, quest spots by GZA, RZA, Nas, Ghostface, and other lesser players pop up out of nowhere as tracks start, stop, rewind, and morph into random skits and freestyles. Through it all, Raekwon maintains his mic-wielding relevance (even when outshined by his counterparts), retain his status as one of the few remaining Wu members still recording at a viable level. (Ice Water)