Discography Check: Raekwon

By @TrueGodImmortal

The Wu-Tang Clan is one of the greatest groups of all time and it has spawned some of the best rappers of our time. Ghostface Killah stands as the greatest, Method Man stands as the most popular overall, but one of the most iconic members of The Wu remains to be none other than Raekwon. Known as The Chef, Rae is one of the most notable hip hop names, with his name living in infamy due to the classic debut in his catalog. With that in mind, I figured it would be a good idea to take a look back at his discography and look at all of the solo albums that he has released over the years. Does he have an album better than his debut, or even one comparable to it? Let's take a look.

*Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)

-The ultimate album. The ultimate album from the Wu. The ultimate album from Raekwon. The ultimate album in general from New York hip hop if you ask me. There is a small group of ultimate albums in hip hop, and without question, OB4CL is definitely on that list. With Ghostface as the co-pilot for this album and RZA as the producer, the album shines with a cohesion unlike many albums before it. Raekwon is at his best lyrically here, as is Ghostface and they make sure to serve up a cinematic listening experience with this album. The features are top notch of course, as Masta Killa, Nas, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, and GZA all provide amazing verses to the album. From "Criminology" to "Knowledge God" to "Verbal Intercourse" to "Ice Cream" to "Rainy Dayz" to pretty much the entire album, OB4CL shines as one of the all time legendary hip hop releases. This is Raekwon's magnum opus without question.

*Immobilarity (1999)

-This album is actually one of the most forgotten albums in hip hop history, at least in terms of sophomore albums that follow a classic. We all remember Supreme Clientele, we all remember It Was Written, we all remember ATLiens, hell we even remember Vol. 1...In My Lifetime, but many people forgot Immobilarity the second it released and with good reason sadly. The album is a step down for Rae following one of the greatest albums ever, with no Ghostface on the project and no RZA production. Perhaps this cohesion of the first was impossible to replicate, but something about this album just feel empty. The production isn't bad here, but it lacks the flare that RZA brought to Raekwon's tracks, and the tracklist runs a little bit too long. Tracks like "Sneakers", "Heart To Heart", and "100 Rounds" are solid, but the overall tracklist just does very little for me as a listener. Is Immobilarity his worst album? Absolutely.

*The Lex Diamond Story (2003)

-The third album from The Chef was good, a step up from his sophomore work, but it still did very little for me as a listener. It was better than his second project but still a few steps down from the first album. Production wise, RZA is missing from the album, but Rae makes up for that with solid production from some top tier beatmakers like Emile, DJ Khalil, Hangman 3, and EZ Elpee. The features are very Wu-Tang centered, as Method Man, Cappadonna, Masta Killa, Ghostface, and Inspectah Deck show support for their Wu brother, while Havoc, Fat Joe, Capone, and Sheek Louch also contribute to the album. The highlights here include "Musketeers Of Pig Alley", "Robbery", "Clientele Kidd", and "King Of Kings". While this is a solid album, it is a project where you know Rae can do much better, but he just doesn't seem inspired like that here .

*Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 (2009)

-The sequel to one of the most legendary albums of all time is the second best project in the catalog of Rae. It is not exactly on the same level of his debut, but it is a notch below, which for him is better than the other two projects he released previously. With RZA back in the fold and Ghostface assisting once again, that same nostalgic feel was in place, but with an updated sound as well. Rae delivers one of the greatest rosters of producers ever assembled here with J. Dilla, The Alchemist, Marley Marl, Pete Rock, Scram Jones, Erick Sermon, Mathematics, and Dr. Dre contributing to this album in addition to RZA. This is what carries the album honestly, as the production is as flawless as it can get for an album, but some of the features also are top notch, as GZA, Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, Styles P, and Beanie Sigel are all featured in this one. The highlights here are plentiful with tracks like "House Of Flying Daggers", "Pyrex Vision", "Black Mozart", "New Wu", "Have Mercy", "Catalina", and more being great listens from start to finish. OB4CL 2 isn't a classic, but it is damn close to being one, and although it isn't a better album than the first edition, it is a surprisingly more well rounded project.

*Wu-Massacre w/ Ghostface Killah and Method Man (2010)

-Anytime you put the three most popular members of The Wu together for an album, the result has to be interesting. Luckily for Rae, combining with Ghost and Meth for a short project allowed him to bounce creative ideas and tracks off of his brothers. As a result, we get an album with solid production from Mathematics, Ty Fyffe, Scram Jones, and of course, RZA. The features are mostly minimal with almost only Wu related members contributing to the project, with Sheek Louch being the only name that isn't rooted in the Wu brand. Tracks like "Our Dreams", "Meth vs Chef 2", "Gunshowers", and "Dangerous" all provide a nostalgic vibe that showcases why the Wu Tang Clan was and still is nothing to fuck with.

*Shaolin vs Wu-Tang (2011)

-Rae was putting out a lot of music during this period, which was almost out of character for him in a way, but regardless, this was the most consistent period of his career, some 15 years after his solo debut took over the hip hop world. This album is actually very solid, a slight step down from OB4CL 2, but a slight step up from Wu-Massacre. Production is once again a standout here, as we see top tier names like Scram Jones, Erick Sermon, Evidence, The Alchemist, and more contribute to the album. Some of the songs here sound like they were OB4CL 2 leftovers, with features from Method Man, Rick Ross, Black Thought, Jim Jones, Nas, and Lloyd Banks, among others. The best tracks on this album are "Last Trip To Scotland", "Molasses", "Rich & Black", and "Silver Rings". Rae delivers a solid album from start to finish, and continues his streak of solid work.
*Fly International Luxurious Art (2015)

-I was pretty late on this album, but I'm glad I eventually got hip to it. Rae had been gone for 4 years from making solo albums after his consistent run, and the world was ready for a new release. However, this album doesn't have the same vibes or quality that his consistent streak did, despite being a decent project overall. Production is hit or miss surprisingly here, with the usage of Jerry Wonda on production seeming like a bad idea, since those are the worst songs here. There are bright spots however, as tracks like "Nautilus", "Revory", and "Live To Die" are standout tracks. All in all, Rae tries to fit in a little too much with the rest of the game on this album instead of doing what he does best, and he loses his way at times. This is still a decent listen, but can go in the pile with Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story as opposed to OB4CL 2 and Shaolin vs Wu-Tang.

*The Wild (2017)

-After a small setback musically with his previous album, Rae managed to get back on track with this project, released just last year. It was a solid album, with better and more consistent production and much more cohesion than the last release. With sounds from Frank G, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and more, Rae has more production that fits his style here, and his features are minimal this go round, allowing for his lyrics to standout. The most notable features are Lil Wayne, Cee-Lo, and Andra Day, all of which serve their purpose, but I'll be honest, the worst feature comes from G-Eazy. He doesn't belong on a Raekwon album and yet.... here he is. Aside from that, there are solid tracks like "Visiting Hour", "My Corner", "Marvin", and more, which all helped round out this album. Will Raekwon ever capture the same glory he had on his first album or even the sequel? That remains to be seen, but if his last two projects are an indicator, I wouldn't count on it.



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