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March 31, 2010 | by  | in Arts Music |
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Raekwon: Live at San Francisco Bathhouse, 21/03/10

Initially Raekwon was only scheduled to play one New Zealand show in Auckland, but when RZA managed to sell out the San Fran last month we can presume that word reached Raekwon’s promoters to book the venue. Hopefully it has now become apparent from these two shows that Wellington actually has a worthy fan base to fill up hip hop gigs—being stuck down here last year while Ghostface Killah played Auckland was pretty shit. But Raekwon made up for that. Not only was this a fulfilment of a lifelong goal to see a Wu member, I was even catching a Wu member who happened to be touring on the back of some seriously legit recent material.

As anybody even loosely attuned to this shit knows, Only Built For Cuban Linx pt. II was one of the most pleasing releases of 2009—it encapsulated everything I like about East Coast rap from the mid ‘90s—maybe even everything that white dudes like about hip hop in general. And I guess Raekwon’s show performed much the same purpose—it affirmed the strange endurance of the Wu Tang’s popularity over the last 17 years across a very diverse fan base.

First thing’s first, Raekwon’s rapping was something amazing to witness. Certainly his flow, stamina and charisma were undoubtedly from that of an all-time great, because if you’ve paid even modest attention to his tracks then you’ll know just how dense those lyrics are. It really wasn’t easy for me to rap along to in a white boy fashion. Likewise, nodding along to these tracks being blasted through a reasonable PA was also pretty sweet—the slicker recent material like the J-Dilla-produced ‘House of Flying Daggers’ and Dre-produced ‘About Me’ sounded massive. And I guess it should also be said that it was pretty sweet to attend an event which gave you the green light to spark up in the San Fran—not just any act has that kind of authority.

But a few things also prevented this show from being straight up brilliance for me. Firstly: if this show was an affirmation of the Wu’s popularity then it also proved what are obviously known to be the Wu classics in a manner that seemed just a little too safe. Am I annoyed by this? Not really, I had no desire to hear material from Raekwon’s two lesser loved albums, but knowing that RZA performed the same classics from Enter the Wu Tang for a similarly high price could seem a little extortionate. Secondly: the DJ merely played these backings from a laptop, and even then he didn’t even mix them well, if at all. Why would a rapper working with “the definition of exclusive shit” use such a crap DJ? It just doesn’t help to justify the $60 ticket. And thirdly: why on a Sunday? I think that’s self-explanatory. Beyond those complaints, well, I did just get to see one of the best rappers of all time touring on the back of an awesome album while simultaneously promoting the legacy of my favourite rap group. I think if I critique this any further then I am liable to get beat. Throw your Ws up.

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