DISCLAIMER: Trust, I'm well aware of the epic irony at work here, seeing as how I know absolutely nothing of being rich, black, or any combination thereof. Stay close...
It's no secret that Raekwon resuscitated his career after finally making good on his promise to release 2009's 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2'. Most of us assumed the often delayed sequel would be a disgrace to the Wu legacy—a blatant attempt to attach the legendary Purple Tape franchise to a half-ass LP saddled with second string Wu affiliates. Fortunately, Shallah shocked the world by delivering a follow-up worthy enough to carry on the name of it's predecessor. However, there was a key ingredient the sequel failed to inherit from the original—a collaborative effort with Nas Escobar. Fast forward to January 2011, rap-nerds far and wide rejoiced when the tracklist for 'Shaolin vs Wu-Tang'revealed Nas would contribute to 'Rich and Black'. Extra points should be awarded for not reaching for some type of "club-banger", or trying to pull off an unnecessary tribute to an era long gone. There is no formula for a "hit" at work here—no hook, no soul sample, no Alex Da Kid beat, no trend chasing, no nonsense. 'Rich and Black' is just straight up, uncut hip-hop. Despite Nas incorporating lyrics recycled from J Love's 'Desert Eagle Mouthpieces' two years prior over a nearly identical Sean C & LV instrumental, the two legends go back and forth, verse for verse, elevating their respective game each time the mic is passed.
What I really admire about this recording, pushing it to the top of my annual list, is it works for every conceivable scenario. Preparing for a long day's work? Need to get to the ol' adrenaline pumping on your way to punch someone's face in? Looking for the perfect tune to scare the old white people at the traffic light? Searching for a celebratory anthem to blast in the seven passenger minivan while shuffling a little league baseball team to Dairy Queen after a victory? You already know. 'Rich and Black' is truly a song for all seasons.
So while the reunion is indeed belated, and certainly not as essential as 'Verbal Intercourse', it's the polar opposite of what you would hear on your local "blazing hip-hop and R&B" radio station, and that's good enough for me.