It’s been 24 years since Raekwon, along with his fellow Wu Tang Clan members, emerged from the slums of Shaolin and established himself as hip-hop royalty.
On July 11, Raekwon, along with RVA mainstays DJ Lonnie B, Black Liquid and Noah-O, will perform at the midsized Broadberry for what promises to be one of the top hip-hop events of the summer.
The show provides an opportunity to see one of the great MCs from the all-time greatest hip-hop group in a more intimate setting. Raekwon’s refocused and refreshed musical output suggests that this will not be a warmed-over best-of concert but an evening with a consummate artist embarking on an exciting new phase of musical creation.
At 47, Raekwon still brings his iconic voice and lyrical detail to the world of hip-hop. But now, instead of bum rushing the mainstream from the margins, he’s pulling listeners back to the wilderness with his new album, “The Wild.” A blend of his legendary gritty street narratives with an updated sound that still honors his soul-sample-drenched early years, Raekwon proves that he’s still as dangerous on the mic as he’s ever been.
By jettisoning production from RZA and eschewing contributions from his most famous partner-in-rhyme, Ghostface Killah, Rae signals that he’s still modernizing his art. Instead, he features the production of Frank G., Dame Grease, Justice League, and a limited number of features, including Suffolk’s own Pure. By doing so, Raekwon creates musical space for himself to show why he should be in consideration as one of the best-ever MCs.
“The Wild” is a return to form after the maximalist bloat and outrageous boasts of the good life on his previous album, “Fly International Luxurious Art.” His latest is solid from start to finish, with two tracks, “Nothing” and “Marvin,” as particular standouts. On “Nothing,” Raekwon delivers a sinister rumination about the intersection of class, crime and fame: “You know we pop rappers down and them broke actors/ Tax athletes, yap you at the track meet.” “Marvin” uses his storytelling ability to deliver a soulful rendering of Marvin Gaye’s life and death.
“Raekwon helped me understand creating alternate universes or characters within my music,” says rapper Noah-O, describing Raekwon’s enduring impact and influence. “He wasn’t a typical skinny dude with tattoos, but he was fly stocky dude with a big chain. I copied the Wu’s whole swag growing up.”
Intalek, who recently opened for Oddisee at Strange Matter for the Cheats Movement, expands on Raekwon’s importance. “Raekwon and Wu Tang created a foundation for what other hip-hop groups follow to this day,” he says. “Personally, my music group ATI [Aspire to Inspire] is an eight-member hip-hop collective” in the mold of the Wu Tang Clan.
For Rae, being alone in the wild is as much an artistic decision as it is an existential one. How does a hip-hop lifer and legend from the 1990s create, promote and tour in 2017? In the national hip-hop moment of Migos, Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert, where there’s so much focus on the trappings of wealth and fame, an artist letting his work speak for itself feels almost heretical.
After the initial announcements of his new album and new tour, Raekwon parted ways with his press agent, making it all but impossible to talk to the rapper once the momentum of his tour took hold. Like some lonesome desert father of rap, Rae has taken his faith in hip-hop on the road for the faithful to follow.
Black Liquid promises that the show will be epic, saying, “My goal is to outperform Raekwon and make sure the crowd demands of him his very best.” He continues, “Some people would say I’m crazy for feeling this way. I’d say you’re crazy for staying at home and missing the chance to see it happen.” S
Raekwon performs at the Broadberry on Tuesday, July 11,with Stan Smith, DJ Lonnie B, Black Liquid, Noah O and Tennison (DJ Harrison and Tennishu). Tickets $30-$35. thebroadberry.com.