Raekwon the Chef delivers another strong installment in his solo career with his seventh studio album, The Wild. Coming 24 years after his debut as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon’s ability to continue to put out music speaks to his longevity as an artist. While he does not reinvent hip-hop in his latest record, he showcases the skills that have led to his ongoing success.
Raekwon demonstrates the lyrical abilities and taste for exaggerated stories of gang life that made him an emblem of mafioso rap in the lead single “This Is What It Comes Too.” With lines like, “You a killer then show me, if not then meet my savages/ the general, I’ll have my goons tear up your establishment,” Raekwon creates the persona of a mafia don or kingpin for himself. Rhymes like these have been a hallmark of his career, and are as strong as ever throughout the album.
The Chef turns his attention from himself and puts his narrative abilities to use on “Marvin,” another standout track. Supported by a feature from Ceelo Green, Raekwon delivers a tribute to the life of Marvin Gaye, documenting his childhood and successful musical career. He devotes special attention to Gaye’s death in 1984, when he was shot by his father. “The scene was so horrific/ how could a father kill his son?/ Defines wicked,” Raekwon raps. The song is evidence of the range of Raekwon’s skill for crafting vivid and compelling stories, whether about himself or about another.
The Wild also sees Raekwon reflect on the risks that he took to reach where he is. In “Visitation Hours,” a highpoint of the second half of the album, he raps, “that used to be me/ young, ruthless and carefree/ until I seen the bigger picture/ shifted my way of thinking/ that 25 to life is real/ so is the casket once it close on you.” At this point in his life, Raekwon appears ready to take a step back and look clearly at the life he raps about.
Raekwon adheres to a standard album format in this release, an increasingly unpopular decision in modern hip-hop. Mixtapes, playlists, and albums with fluid tracklists—or even titles—seem to be replacing the type of definitive album that Raekwon has chosen to release in The Wild. This is not inherently a bad decision, but the album feels slowed down by the intro, outro, and three skits sprinkled throughout. Moreover, despite the title, the “wild” as a concept is not particularly explored in depth throughout the album, and these skits do not contribute much more than a general atmosphere. A shorter version of the record without these tracks is also available, and benefits from a more streamlined structure.
On The Wild’s excellent third single, “My Corner,” Raekwon asks, “I seen it all, done it all and still doin’ it/ who gave you crime action stories, live from the bricks?” The line sums up the album as a whole. Raekwon returns on The Wild to flash the skills that he has developed and exhibited over the course of his career.
Voice’s Choices: “Marvin,” “This Is What It Comes Too,” “My Corner”