Raekwon at Venue, Vancouver, Sept 4 2015
– review by Taisuke Tanimura
The Wu-Tang Clan‘s career trajectory to date reminds me of the Big Bang. Exploding onto the scene in 1993, their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) reshaped the sonic landscape of rap with its gritty lo-fi production and street wise rhymes. Its status as one of the greatest rap albums of all time will never change, and the Wu-Tang’s place in rap history was cemented early on.
However, group cohesion was never their forte, and following the seminal debut the group splintered off into a myriad different solo and collaborative projects. The nine strong members initially kept the momentum going with some amazing albums such as Method Man‘s Tical, GZA/RZA‘s Liquid Swords, and of course Raekwon‘s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Since then, the Wu-Tang – independently and as a collective – have failed to reach the same heights as their early work, and have slowly faded away like stars flung into far corners of the galaxy.
Raekwon is one of the few who has continued to produce quality music. He raps about standard tropes like guns, money, and crime, but instead of empty braggadocio and posturing, he tells stories. His rhymes paint intricate portraits of characters entangled in all sorts of situations, often reading like a Martin Scorsese gangster movie. Both Nas and Jay-Z have cited Raekwon as an influence, and you can hear an undeniable similarity in Action Bronson‘s work as well.
On Friday night, Raekwon – who released his sixth studio album, Fly International Luxurious Art, last April – played to a full house in Vancouver. On stage with just his DJ and a very stoned homie, he played a bunch of classic material alongside a smattering of new stuff. He definitely knew what the crowd wanted, performing songs by other Wu-Tang members like Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and the entirety of “C.R.E.A.M.”
I am continuously impressed by the number of hardcore hip-hop fans in Vancouver – the crowd, both young and old, seemed to know all the words to every song. Despite a tired-looking Raekwon admitting he was tipsy and very stoned, each song was greeted with raucous cheers and furious head nodding. He covered a lot of ground in his hour long set, proving that at one of the true masters’ star is still shining brightly.