The Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon offers up his third solo CD with a gritty eloquence that evokes the best of the Wu canon. The MC, also known as the Chef, serves up crisp rhymes and hard couplets as he creates the gangster scenario of Lex Diamond. The 20 tracks are a mix of gangsta mythology, street science, Eastern philosophy, and evocative nostalgia. Raekwon sees the urban drama for what it is, and he never blinks. The songs are rough, hard-earned, and filled with menace and foreboding. He's helped out by a number of his Wu brethren, including Method Man (a deliriously salacious cameo in "Ice Cream Pt. 2"), Inspecta Deck, and Ghostface, who offers some of the disc's best verse on "Missing Watch" and "Clientele Kidd." Other guests include Havoc, Cappadonna, and Fat Joe, but the MCs never supersede the host; he is always appropriately front and center. The beats are created by a number of producers, and while RZA is not here, his presence is felt. The music is nothing but grimy, dank beats, dark atmosphere, and subtle R&B flourishes. The melodic "The Hood" takes its sharp hook from the gentle vocals of Tiffany Villarreal. Raekwon's return to his roots here is as close to a Wu-Tang record as we are going to get for a while, so feast on the Chef's street cuisine.
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