On this day, March 7, in hip-hop history...

Ice H20/EMI
Ice H20/EMI

2011: Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon dropped his fifth studio solo album Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang on March 7, 2011.

Coming off the success of 2009's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II and 2010's Wu-Massacre with Method Man and Ghostface Killah, Raekwon was on a creative hot streak and showed no signs of slowing down.

Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang is a significant one in The Chef's catalog partly because of the controversy surrounding it. Though by the new millennium Wu-Tang was known for it's sinister, gutter sound—thanks to RZA's production skills—Raekwon wanted to take his fifth studio album in a different artistic direction. Shaolin was originally meant to be a Wu-Tang Clan group album, until Rae decided to tweak things and keep it for himself. Raekwon spoke with Vibe prior to the album's release and said Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Black Thought would all be giving artistic direction, but RZA would not. "RZA doesn’t have to be on every album," said Raekwon. "I wanted to give some other producers a chance. It’s not about beef. We can stand on our own."

Though it's a standout in the Wu's overall discography, the album didn't feature that many Wu-Tang artists. Nas, Havoc, Black Thought, Lloyd Banks and Rick Ross all make guest appearances on the 17-track project and Raekwon himself served as executive producer.

This new artistic direction proved to be a hit with fans and critics alike. The album debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, moving 29,000 in the first week. Propelled by the singles "Butter Knives," "Rock n Roll" and "Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang," rap critics commended the Chef for his streetwise storytelling and strategic sampling of greats like Issac Hayes, Ann Peebles and Curtis Mayfield.

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