By: Adam Kelly | The Duquesne Duke
Raekwon is a hip-hop pioneer, being a mainstay in the music industry as both a solo artist and a group member for about as long as the genre has been prevalent. The 45-year-old, who was previously a member of the Wu-Tang Clan in the 1990s, puts his skills back to work on Fly International Luxurious Art, released Tuesday.
Through the 20 years Raekwon has been fine-tuning his craft, he has stayed true to a classic hip-hop vibe of a simple snare beat and a straightforward, poetic flow. Fly International Luxurious Art is no different, as this album is sonically a throwback rap album. Raekwon maintains a simple flow with beats that aren’t too over the top throughout its 45-minute runtime.
Conceptually, Fly International Luxurious Art is about Raekwon using his money to book expensive trips around the world. There are brief interludes in between tracks featuring the rapper discussing trips to Abu Dhabi and Monte Carlo. On the opening track, Raekwon is shouting “Versace sprinkler showers” and “suede walls.” It is unclear whether he already owns these things or just wants them. Either way, “Intro” sets the stage for the theme of luxury that prevails throughout the album.
Perhaps the album’s best track is “I Got Money” which features a catchy, tropical beat and a strong contribution from one of today’s top rappers, A$AP Rocky. The “money equals sunny days” verse will make this song fitting for a summer soundtrack.
The longest song on the album, “Wall to Wall” (just over five minutes) features rap veteran Busta Rhymes along with Raekwon spitting some old school verses. However, French Montana surprisingly steals the show on the track, providing a melodic contribution that hip-hop fans will surely want to sing along to. The hook is shockingly addictive, and further illustrates the luxurious persona that Raekwon is going for on this album.
The best comparison to Raekwon’s sound would be to fellow vets from the ‘90s such as Nas or Ice Cube. These rappers were more concerned with making their lyrics heard and understood than a focus on production, and Raekwon seems to be no different. Old-school rappers like this attempt to illustrate and attribute the dangerous lifestyle that has come hand-in-hand with the luxury of being rich and famous.
While this album is by no means a far cry from the topics of luxury and violence that are prevalent in most rap music, Raekwon provides a distinguished, hard-hitting flavor that demands the respect of contemporaries.
In fact, most of the features on the album such as A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Snoop Dogg and Rick Ross have found success with a rap style far different than that of Raekwon’s. However, what is impressive is how they have adjusted their flow for this album in order to fit Raekwon’s classic style. These features hold a strong presence on the album, without burying Raekwon by making you forget it’s his track.
That is what makes the album sound cohesive and consistent. There isn’t five or six different styles of rapping being laid out on top of over-produced beats. Rather, this is a smooth and carefully crafted piece of Art.
Without having to succumb to a change in style, Fly International Luxurious Art shows that Raekwon’s music still contends with the best of today’s rap and deserves high accolades.