By Rob Markman, with reporting by FLX
Real Spit: Raekwon isn’t ready to be boxed in just yet. The 18-year rap vet, who started with Wu-Tang Clan in 1993, first became known for his multi-syllabic, kung fu-inspired rap style, but has since evolved sonically. Who could forget the Chef’s mafia-themed crime sagas on his 1995 classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ...? Last year, Rae took things back to the block on Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, and now he is looking to conquer the digital space with his latest mixtape, which he offered as a free download on New Year’s Day.
“This mixtape right here is called Unexpected Victory. I call it the Unexpected because it’s unexpected on what I’m gonna give y’all, and on top of it, it’s gonna be victorious,” the Chef explained to Mixtape Daily. “I feel good. I feel like I can take a dive in something and be professional with it and really watch it grow, and that’s what I wanted to do with this mixtape right here.”
The 17-track mix bangs from start to finish. Opening with a dramatic violin-laden instrumental, Rae launches into the slow-rolling, sophisticated “Just a Toast.” Over the Mark Henry-produced gem, the Staten Island, New York, MC reminds listeners of his drug-laced street background as well as his prowess on the mic when he spits, “Powerful when giving coke out/ You know they call me Sugar Ray, the Chef, the G.O.A.T.’s out.”
Busta Rhymes shows up on the lavishly laid “MTV Cribs.” An ode to the good life, Rae and the Dungeon Dragon throw a nod to the classic MTV show while displaying their own brand of rich living. Raekwon’s not-so-humble abode features a 360-degree spinning wall unit, a see-through refrigerator and a tub full of ice. Not to be outdone, Bussa Buss’ castle boasts crystal chandeliers, an Alaskan polar bear rug and a casino in the basement, and a rare painting of Jean-Michel Basquiat feeding fruit to Madonna. Can’t say we saw that one coming.
“It’s called Unexpected because anything that I give y’all this time is gonna be unexpected,” Rae said. “It’s gonna be like, ’Oh sh–, he jumped into a new world, he jumped into a new chamber.’ ” As if we’ve never heard him before.
Joints to Check For
» “This Sh– Hard” – “It’s this joint with L.E.P. Bogus Boys, they my n—as from Chicago that came through and represented on this track. It’s called ’This Sh– Hard.’ ”
» “Luxury Rap” – “It’s a smooth, smooth, slow-flow type of beat. I like to rhyme on all kinda beats. I like to really test my sword and challenge all different kinds of things.”
“A Pinebox Story” is another gem. Rae, a master storyteller, lays a murder mystery atop a soulful 9th Wonder production. He’s great alone, but there, Lex Diamonds recruits plenty of lyrical assassins. His new artist JD Era rides shotgun on a number of tracks, while Mobb Deep, Capone, Noreaga, Vado, L.E.P. Bogus Boys and Fred the Godson provide ample backup.