[caption id="attachment_22814" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Raekwon headlines the Lyricist Lounge show at Celebrate Brooklyn in New York, July 2011. Photo: Al Pereira/WireImage"][/caption]
Ever since the tastefully solid 2009 sequel to his masterpiece Only Built For Cuban Linx..., Raekwon has occupied a comfortable stage of his career: Everything he releases falls far below his best efforts, but high enough that boring people can still get excited about it. Multiply this by the general indifference that sometimes goes into a freebee mixture, plus Rae's under-polished, unmixed and weed-carrier-laden Unexpected Victory might just inspire a less merciful critic to make light of the two inaccuracies in its title.
But smack in the middle of this mess of mediocrity sits "Silk." While Rae does his usual needlepoint image weaving ("hibachi pots / lemonade scotch"), his guests ultimately carry the track. Pete Rock's estranged and oft-underrated rhyme partner CL Smooth sounds more lively here than he has in a long while. And he's charming as he drops a classical CL malapropism ("… no telling which island I plan to inhibit"). Similarly, one time Roc A Fella benchwarmer Sauce Money makes the best of his sixty seconds, bringing life to his guns and death to his foes. And while the sonic qualities of a song called "Silk" that features a man named Smooth aren't difficult to predict, producer Scram Jones makes the best out of these quiet storm parameters by flipping a beat and hook that feel like Marvin Gaye. The difference between rap that is good enough and rap that is good is rarely so apparent. [Download Unexpected Victory at Datpiff.com]