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Get your old man on

Raekwon finds new success by sticking to what always worked

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At this point in Raekwon’s career, he was ready to be wrapped away with the many other hip-hop artists who at one time defined eras and created classics only to then taint their legacy by making projects that gave the impression of foolhardy old men attempting to keep up with the kids. (The results are always far from gracious: See any Ice-T album after O.G.: Original Gangsta, or KRS-One regressing from coining thundering anthems of the golden era to recording The Sneak Attack, which may contain 2001’s most limp-dog collection of rap beats.)

Rap’s momentum is naturally with the youth – these days, Odd Future, Wiz Khalifa and Lil B sum up the scene. But Raekwon’s recent grandstand against the popular tide offers a new hope for veteran rappers. Chuck D used to be fond of saying that Public Enemy should aspire to be hip-hop’s version of the Rolling Stones. He meant that he envisioned a future where the band would tour the world long after its recorded prime thanks to the enduring power of its hits. Raekwon has added a subtle twist to the formula by making new but similar-sounding hits. (That’s if you can ever call a song as pared-down and brutal as “Incarcerated Scarfaces” a “hit.”) Cuban Linx ... Pt. IIand Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang are familiar listening experiences for Wu-Tang disciples: Songs are prefaced with kung-fu flick vocal samples, the crucial tone of the album is one of mystical menace and the guest artists never stray beyond the inner circle – there’s no attempt to shoehorn Nicki Minaj into the proceedings. And, for Raekwon’s fans, the formula works. By openly acknowledging that his reputation is based on his past, Raekwon has managed to keep himself relevant today.

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