Raekwon The Vatican Mixtape Vol. 1

Though top-ranking Wu member Ghostface may be getting all the shine time for the legendary Staten Island crew, long-time partner in rhyme Raekwon continues to prove he’s still got the touch, plugging away on the mix-tape circuit as he plots an ill-conceived second volume of his classic Cuban Linx disc. On the first instalment of his Vatican Mixtape series, though the Chef continues to revel in the same tired Scarface skits that won him fame over a decade ago, there’s no question that he can still rock a beat, at least in short spurts. DJ Riddler laces the set, which plays out like one long, chaotic mob story, as Rae serves up the stylised organised crime fare that has long formed the staple of his diet. On "Baggage Handlers,” the MC rides solo over Dilla’s "Thelonious” intro, while "Bump Bump” finds him siding up with Organized Konfusion’s Prince Po on a bouncing beat and one-note guitar loop you could easily imagine Busta Rhymes flowing over. Ghostface lends a helping hand over guitar wails and an up-tempo break on "Eldarado” before Raekwon offers up one of his few multi-verse endeavours on the solid "Kids That’s Rich,” a sparse, typically Wu-sounding tune with a solitary key melody adding weight to the MC’s tales. With its excess of skits and interludes, the record often struggles to maintain a consistent flow, though in between Raekwon does provide enough positive moments to at least make this worth a listen. (Ice Water)