Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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RAEKWON: Forum, Kentish Town 18/03/2011


So the 18th March 2011 saw me rolling to one of my favourite live Hip Hop venues London’s HMV Forum, for the album tour of legendary Wu-Tang’s Raekwon (the Chef), promoting the release on 8th March of his solo album 'Shaolin vs Wu-Tang' (Ice H20) and performing cuts from his acclaimed cult classic album 'Only Built for Cuban Linx' (1995), and the follow up 'Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt II' (2009).

'Shaolin vs Wu-Tang', whilst the production talents of RZA are notably absent, boasts the production skills of the likes of Scram Jones, Mathematics, Havoc, Erick Sermon, Bronze Nazareth… Guests on the album include Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Kil-lah, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Lloyd Banks, Method Man, Havoc, Nas, and Rick Ross, among others, and appearing alongside him on the London leg of his tour were special guests ‘House of Flying Daggers’, ‘Incarcerated Scarfaces’, ‘Guillotine Swordz’, and ‘Glaciers of Ice’.

This latest album by Raekwon sold 29,000 copies in its first week, upholding The Chef’s status as an acclaimed solo artist from the infamous Hip Hop heavyweights, Wu-Tang on his fifth solo release. During the his cold delivery of the dark, eerie beats and sounds of the Wu alongside the trademark 70’s Kung Fu film samples, Raekwon amply delighted the headstrong hardcore Wu-Tang fans that flocked to show their stalwart support to a true hero of underground Hip Hop straight to London from the streets of Staten Island.

With Choice FM’s DJ 279 hyping up the arrival on-stage of the don himself with an impeccable selection of roaring 90’s classics, standardly including Snoop Dogg ‘s seminal ‘G Funk Intro’ from ‘Doggy Style’ in an ode to Nate Dogg. This was echoed by Raekwon who slipped effortlessly with his DJ into a 90’s interlude during his set, citing tracks such as this and other deceased heroes including Guru and of course Wu-Tang’s sadly lost Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

The venue was buzzing nicely earlier than expected with a hyped and dedicated Wu-Tang worshiping crowd of hardcore Hip Hop fans. The audience represented not only those who will have undoubtedly followed Raekwon throughout his career with Wu-Tang, but also those who will have been drawn in more recent years by the inimitable Wu-Tang styles, devices and impeccable rap delivery that we have come to rely on from the Clan.

Raekwon’s presence the minute he stepped on stage was palpable, prompting unified roars of appreciation and delight from all around the venue, with the usual crush of fans at the front getting close up to an all-time rap legend. The crowd was an interesting mix, and I couldn’t help noticing a far greater number of fellow- female rap fans than I’d expected, and definitely not ladies who were just ‘tagging along’ with their boyfriends. The attendance most definitely reflected a diversity of listenership that only a status such as that of the Wu-Tang can inspire!

Despite the stage-full of special guests, Raekwon’s performance was clearly the in-depth cameo that the crowd were craving as he dropped his flow and delivery with ease to chants of “Chef! Chef!” raging in the background! He moved effortlessly from new to classic material , whilst hosting almost single-handedly and giving a touching personal dialogue with the room. This is where the Forum comes into its own with a system that easily repped the beefy subs, dirty drums, spooky strings and soulful sampled intros of standout Raekwon /Wu Tang productions.

Raekwon is no fool and clearly knew exactly how to work the crowd into a frenzy of chanting and uproar whilst keeping his presence real and respectful. By his address he was clearly acutely aware of his standing in the scene and industry – “I’ve been doin this for 18 years!” he smiled – he knows that the stamp of authority that the Wu-Tang brings is as powerful in Hip Hop today as it was in 1995 when the highly acclaimed 'Only Built for Cuban Linx' was released.

The full force of his experience, skill and the clan behind him were as evident in this solo performance as they were when I saw Wu Tang In full Clan force at their Shepherd’s Bush gig in 2009. The critical and commercial success of his solo productions show a musical direction in Hip Hop that cannot be faulted and serve only to bolster the work of Wu-Tang as a brand. This performance was a close-up exposé of one of their key members whose perspective is energetic, real and highly entertaining!

The crowd was rapt from start to finish as Raekwon slammed down cult classics shamelessly one after the other. This audience knew exactly why they were there, what they wanted, and that their hero would have no hesitation in chopping the beats to messes with his lyrical dexterity and serving the album to them on a plate like only a true Chef can.

The floor went mad as Raekwon dropped his flows – stunning intro after stunning intro – chanting the words to classic tracks like Raekwon at the Forum

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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