Ice H20 Records / EMPIRE

With his legacy sealed, Raekwon could lay back and relax. As a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, the Chef’s illustrious story—through classic songs such as "Incarcerated Scarfaces," "Can It All Be So Simple" and "Rainy Dayz," among others—has been part of the soundtrack to some of hip-hop’s most culturally impactful moments. Thanks to rappers like Rae and his profound wisdom on wax, a generation of street kids sought knowledge of self through literature from the Five Percent Nation, which taught that the Black man is god. And based on Rae’s latest studio album, The Wild, Shallah is still as hungry as ever.

With over 25 years in the rap game, how does a veteran MC win over an audience that's distracted by smartphone screens, SoundCloud and YouTube views? With Raekwon’s seventh solo LP, he wins by shying away from the soulful, yet dark production that he rapped over during his glory days. Here, on The Wild, the production—thanks to J.U.S.T.I.C.E. (Rick Ross), and J.Dot (ScHoolboy Q)—is light and caters to millennial hip-hop heads. But most importantly, the Chef’s lyrical prowess is still as sharp as it was 20 years ago. However, one doesn’t navigate over two decades making music without learning firsthand how to weather the storm. With a wise assortment of features from Lil Wayne, G-Eazy, Andra Day, P.U.R.E. and CeeLo Green on The Wild, the 11-track collection flirts with the new school without straying from his roots in mafioso rap.

The Wild may not chart as well as its current hip-hop competition, but it’s clear that that’s far from the reason why Raekwon wakes up in the morning. At this point in his life and career alike, his focus has shifted. Evidenced on several of his tracks, such as the autobiographical “Can’t You See,” produced by RoadsArt, the Staten Island native explains, “Now it’s all about good living, raising my children.”

However, acting his age doesn’t mean one should fault him either; it would be an extreme injustice to write off the 47-year-old as someone creating dad rap. We’re still talking about Raekwon here, someone who not only demands respect through his music but continues to earn it with every breath by way of consistently releasing polished tracks of quality and staying true to his authentic self as a taste-making creator.

As the Chef takes the spotlight on The Wild, he offers an array of wisdom, reflecting on the current state of hip-hop and humbly reminding everyone why he remains at the center of it, all these years later.

With tracks such as "This Is What It Comes Too," "Nothing" and "You Hear Me" pleasing his die-hard rap fans, and tracks like "Marvin," a vivid story detailing the life of the late legend Marvin Gaye, and his soulful collaboration with Andra Day, on the Mally the Martian-produced "Visiting Hour," Rae displays his multifaceted talents for a carefully constructed and well-rounded project. Tracks with Lil Wayne and G-Eazy speak to the fact that his mentorship has transcended multiple generations. Raekwon remains grounded, still eager to tread new waters, tell different stories and comfortably refine the respect long put on his name.

While The Wild does boast of Rae's longevity and luxury, he does so in a way that doesn't exclude those with a scarce bank accounts. He's welcoming fans to dine with him, and despite having built that table by hand and paid for the Cristal Rosé himself, Raekwon will be the first to remind you of those who came before him. Paying homage with gratitude to his Golden Age contemporaries that inspired him to turn his passion into his life's work, he reassures listeners that such goals aren't out of reach. Through his storytelling lyrics there are plenty of motivational reminders tucked into his new project and waiting to be discovered.

The Wild is a testament to the fact that older rappers do not have to follow current trends nor discredit the current generation of rappers to garner attention. As Rae has proved, all one has to do is make a solid hip-hop album. Raising his glass to that sentiment and more, it’s not up for debate. In the year 2017, Raekwon’s music is as worthy of a spin as it was 20 years ago.

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