With 2009's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, Raekwon managed to conjure a satisfying sequel to one of rap's most hallowed albums. The pressure's off now, and on Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang, Rae sounds at ease — as loquacious as ever, unfurling martial-arts-movie allusions and street-crime narratives in a weave of internal rhymes. ("Lightin' Phillies/Fly-by Willies/Can't come through unless your vehicle 300 chain, silly.") RZA, the production sensei behind Wu-Tang, is absent, but Scram Jones, Bronze Nazareth and others evoke his claustrophobic soundscapes. It's a classic Raekwon record; it sounds like no one else because it sounds so stubbornly like 1995 — still behind the times, and still ahead of the competition.
From The Archives Issue 1127: March 31, 2011