The Experienced Listener Presents: Unexpected Victory, by Raekwon

The Experienced Listener Presents:  Unexpected Victory, by Raekwon (DatPiff Exclusive!!)

…I can’t do this.  …Aight, let’s get it done.

Unexpected Victory by Raekwon

I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that when I listen to Raekwon— or to any of the Wu-Tang elites— that I understand every line they spit.  And I have no shame in admitting that, upon my eighth time listening to his Unexpected Victory mixtape, I STILL haven’t deciphered a lot of the wordplay.  Still, I consider myself a Raekwon fan.  Because I think that, even without successfully translating all the metaphors, I “get it”.  Listening to Raekwon is like looking at Impressionist art; most of what it is comes down to what it feels like as you hear it.

Raekwon spits vivid descriptions of his lifestyle from his perspective using the slang of his region.  So if you’re on the outside looking in and don’t have an active imagination, it might as well be Polynesian to you; this is part of the reason why most Southern listeners tune Raekwon’s verses out when they listen to OutKast’s Skew It on the Bar-B or Royal Flush (that and the fact that we’ve got the worst education systems in the nation; we shy away from big words).  Me, I’ve got the imagination (and the literacy), so I can make out images in the fog.  Still, I don’t live enough of the lifestyle to see the whole picture :-\

All that being said…  the intro track to Unexpected Victory actually has no vocals at all.  It’s an instrumental piece, and I love it because it really lets you know this is a Raekwon project.  Over time he seems to have adopted a motif of sorts; he always arrives on the scene accompanied by a violin section.  It helps to creates the Mafioso feel that Chef is so known for.  And, as I said previously, listening to Raekwon is all about extracting meaning from both word and feeling.  So it works.

To keep things from getting too lengthy, I’m gonna hop-skip Just a Toast and move right into The Brewery…This track is just lovely.  It sounds like a street sermon broadcasting live from a hi-jacked Mets stadium, complete with a gangsta on the pipe organ.  The actual rapping doesn’t even start until 1:21 into the track, but it’s all good because Raekwon’s lyrics capture of the energy of the beat:

Everybody angry; the Benzes is meaner/

B!tches is happy, casinos looks cleaner/

…The word is Chef is rockin tuxes now/

His main trooper; a Haitian nigga, buck this clown down/

…Operation money, let’s mail this/

Paper stepped up, now his gun game is real b!tch/

…Don’t make me kill ya man’s other man/

Just step off, real handsome Manson/

Featured MCs Ceazar-N-Reason display their talents in tow:


Get ‘em for the ransom; money in the mansion/

Always stay coordinated, my shit’s long awaited/

Ceaze; I make it bubble up like it’s carbonated/

Double up, right on the spot, you know I gotta make it/


Nigga all black wardrobe; the gat attack foes/

Sajak with the flow, I turn letters to dough/

And I personally just Iike this joint right here:

Ya’ll life is skim through, mine is a book you must get into/

Every line come like a missile/

Love to see a nice mixture of MC generations and styles.  A lot of MCs drop mixtapes where the featured artists are used as something to rely on; throughout this project, there’s a nice balance that doesn’t drown out Rae’s presence, yet gives appropriate spotlight to the other acts.

“As I sit beneath that old oak tree…”  When I hear this sample, the first thing that comes to mind is that old song Strange Fruit by Billie Holliday.  And though A Pinebox Story is far from slavery and lynching… both songs have definitely got grizzly and graphic in common.  Not for the faint of heart is this track.  Asside from the darkness, however, I love to see 9th Wonder and Raekwon collaborate; I dare say this track has the same level of chemistry we saw when 9th Wonder collaborated with Buckshot years ago on the Chemistry album.  Over the instrumental, Raekwon paints:

They did him extra dirty, stripped him, tied his hands to his pants/

…Them old school niggas left a victim/

His blood it wastes, broken arm cut him in his face/

I heard the chants:  “He gon be served like blood of lamb”/

Chokin ‘em, pokin ‘em, hittin em with all kinda knives/

Left ‘em soakin, we ain’t over, see the flies/

All in his mouth, he was out; they broke him up/

Knocked him out three times, it threw him in a slouch/

…Anybody else see the humor in referencing that old song Tiger Rag in this joint?  “Choke ‘em, poke ‘em, kick ‘em and soak ‘em”?  Doesn’t ring a bell?  Okay, maybe I’m sick in the head…  Anyway, this song is is pretty hardcore; if you have any questions, the receptionist is in the back.  In a way though, I’m sad that there’s only one verse to this track; I’d say it’s one of the best overall songs on the mixtape.  I think we’ll see 9th and Chef cross paths again soon…

Speaking of crossing paths, what do you get when you take a Raekwon, pair him up with a legendary C.L. Smooth, and put an old school classic Ronald Isley down as the common denominator on the track?  Produced by Scram Jones, Silk, attempts to do just that, and is appropriately titled; all ya gotta do is hear how the track creeps in on a slow record spin.  Only thing is, instead of Ron Isley, the track features singer Big B, whose style is comparable to Isley’s with just a little more hardness and intensity on this chorus:

I’ve been watchin’, I’ve been learnin’; it seems like I’ve been hustlin’ for yeeeaaars…/

Now that I’ve got my earnings; I wanna get away from heeeere…/

On top of that sundae, featured talent Sauce Money adds a solid verse to the mixture.

Hard to body; I’ve got them hammers that hate you/

…Extended clips that’s ungrateful/

Only thing I can promise is your exit won’t be graceful/

…I’m just hoping your necklace is tasteful/

Put you to sleep… that’s how I wake you/

…No alarm clock will ever wake you/

I stay out late night grinding for my payout/

I shot my way it; I’ll shoot my way out/

…This song is a movie, tambout DINE for a video.  (…Dine, dyin’.  Doing my lil part to kill the English language, lol.)

Singer Altrina Renee makes a special guest appearance on Track 7, That Good Good.  And oooooOUI this instrumental goes off!  It sounds like… a beehive orgy or sumn, lol.  The vibe is kinda like that old Truth Hurts track Contagious produced by Dr. Dre, so kudos again to the culinary expertise of Scram Jones and Blickstreet.  This is a nasty track.

……No, seriously.  It’s nasty.  Just wait ‘til Raekwon gets into it:

Female persuasion, Malaysian/

Most of them gulp Tobasco down, shoot game amazing

Coolin in a PF. Chang’s; ooh, let me see ya rings /

I got the moves, I know the rules, cool bang/

Hittin it, finger smell like p#ssy, take a smell/

Start lickin it; that’ll be the day I got some liquor in me…/

*Screech* …Uncomfortable, much?  Well, I can try to make things a little better:  at least the word ‘liquor’ in this context is a pun that plays on the phrase ‘lick her’.  Clever, right?… *awkward silence*  Anyway, my advice to Raekwon:  release this track.  Matter of fact, release a remix of it featuring Common, his style and creativity would go hard and complement the sound nicely.

Track 8, Luxury Rap, is one of those kinda unfair tracks.  By ‘unfair’ I mean that I’m southern, and the track starts off with 808 hats, claps, cowbells and cymbals.  Then the sample comes in, and it’s You Can’t Stop the Rain by Loose Ends??  …’Got me; if I was a smoker, I woulda lit up first time I heard this song.  One thing I can say from this track is that Fred Da Godson is gonna be a problem; he really goes flash grenade in here.  Peep:

Rae told me victory’s unexpected/ 

They hating on my chain; misery from a necklace/ 

See my YouTube, hear me spitting, know I’m reckless/ 

First nigga ever selling metaphors on Craig’s List/ 

Fresh shit, we on it, no matter what the joint/ 

You the Hornets, you lost Chris Paul… what’s your point/

The thing I love about Chinese Marines, track 9 from the Unexpected Victory mixtape, is that the title alone creates crazy imagery.  There’z a lot of ways to die, but getting merked by Chinese marines is just not a death scenario I would like to simulate.  Featuring the legendary Mobb Deep and over a beat that should’ve been on one of the games of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Raekwon delivers.  Nevermind the verse as a whole; certain lines jumped out at me and really created the perfect energy for a track like this:

Blow a nigga open, no demons…/


Invisible lead start flying; lick a head…/


Real as a roach; once the lights on, kill or be ghost…/

That’s straight artistry.  And it doesn’t hurt to have Havoc and Prodigy of Quiet Storm fame to add to the ambiance.  Havoc comes in:

Got the killers in the Benzes; canine senses/

Everything covered from the exits to the entrance/

Tone set.  Prodigy follows up:

You tacky like headrest TVs/

Your value dropped, you not worth these/

And I just love these lines here:

Smoke stack lightning; coming out the crack/

Black window:  that’s us getting high, letting things go/

One thing I would like to say about the overall Unexpected Victory mixtape is that it should remind a new generation why the older generation of MCs is so respected.  I’ll admit, most times when older MCs are featured on a project, they come with lackluster performances and hide behind their reputations.  On this mixtape, from CL to Busta to CNN to Mobb Deep, greatness is demonstrated.  It’s a little prematurely said for this review, but you’ll see the full extent of what I mean soon…

I don’t know what it is, but I love when members of the Wu go stuntmode.  Raekwon always grabs the PA system mic and starts giving instructions using the biggest words available at the moment.  Often, he starts using sentence structures that don’t exist; either that or he uses way too many consecutive adjectives, interrupted only by the occasional “nigga” and “shit”.   It’s comical, but it makes the track MTV Cribs into a pleasurable, mad pleasant listen.  Rae gives us a tour of his chatteau:

Ayo, Pyrex vision, gangsta intermission/

Snow fishin; over the stove, frozen glisten/

Wall unit, 360 spin, see the digital gem/

There’s the watch rack, right near the brims/

…Lavish?  Peep that second line; Chef’s referencing the cooking of crack and aligning the imagery with possession of expensive jewelry.  Can’t buy that.  But that’s nothing; did I mention Busta Rhymes is on the track?  Have some:

I welcome ya’ll in my crib: the fortress of I, self, lord, and master/

With Christian chandeliers lookin like satellite dishes from NASA/

If you actually get those two lines, trust me, those are the only two you need to see.  You’ve got references to both the Nation of Islam AND to Christianity; the average listener probably catches neither.  All the more to proof that this track is not to be slept on.  Moving right along…

I’m a BIG Noreaga fan, so when I heard the track Chupa Cabra featuring CNN (that’s Capone-N-Noreaga for the newbs), I found myself smiling.  And I’m happy to report that both he and Capone still got it, and quite possibly have gotten better with age.  Again, the production on this track shines; producer BT goes in hard with the boomin’ kick drum as a simple piano melody menaces the track.  I love how CNN uses the back-and-forth style verses; two of the best to ever do it.  Add Raekwon to the exchange, and it’s awin-win-win.  Take my word for it… unless yall want a 12-page review here.  Cuz I’ll do it.

Lastly, Styles P, JD Era, and Camoflauge, welcome to the mixtape.  Gangsta Cazals— this is just the track I needed to round out Unexpected Victory.  Styles P goes in first:

If you in the struggle then I know what you goin thru/

Nobody wanna be the body the bullet is blowin through/

…peep the shit that I’m showin you/

If he dress like a girl what type of man will he grow into/

…I’m like who done wrong/

In a New York club, no New York songs/

Got me stressed; fuck around and puff a Newport long/

If the young niggas is dumb niggas, who taught wrong/

If the old niggas is whack now, who thought wrong/

Whoever losin the fight, then, you fought wrong/

…Yup, that’s what I need.  Chef??

Ayo Shawshank redemption, cut through cement/

Over the Lil Kim p#ssy poster, exiting the gym/

Leather blazer carrot colored Timbs; I’m all in the gristle/

When it comes to project sh!t, I want in/

Feel the keys that I’m sending; emotionally frustrated/

From the paper, no ending, no beginning/

Wash ya mouth out with shells; then hop into motion/

Then headed to the Mauze in Cazals/

Arright aright, cool.  Camoflauge??

X-Ray vision how I see thru niggas…/

Edonton East, my whole block, Su Wu nigga/

Ice water torture son, you know how we do nigga

In the clubs rowdy screamin “Play more Wu nigga”/

And if the DJ frontin, I’ma shut it down

Niggas make it rain, me I bring the thunder around

I’m from the bottom of the slums, true story/

Niggas lookin out for dem less fortunate shorties, for real/

…That’s it; that’s that’s the look.  JD Era??

Fuck wit my family tree and get beat with the branches/

Green leaves reward penitentiary chances/

I came in, aimin’, fire spitter flaming/

Whole world sleepin but fuck it I ain’t complain/

…You a chipper talkin to a brick flipper/

Paper chasin limited edition kick nikka/

Hundred million dollars, that’s when I’ma stop/

Stop, drop, shut ‘em down, DMX, fuck the cops/

Cop block from the top, it just burns you to watch/

How I came from the dot, like a dot on your forehead/

*drops mic*

Back when I used to trade verses with an MC who goes by the name Cause of DEF, we once had a discussion.  I was trying to take my rhyme game to the next level, but I wasn’t using the full extent of my vocab (<—–pun).  My rationale was, I didn’t want to leave the audience behind, because not everybody was gonna be able to keep up.  But then C.O.D. gave me sumn to think about, and said that maybe, rather than me water my material down, the audience should be the ones raising their consciousnesses and intellects to keep up.  I think this is Raekwon’s philosophy in his creative craft:  Rae gotta do Rae, and if you don’t get it, then it’s on you to GO get it.

On that note, hit up Datpiff and go get Unexpected Victory; I see why they made this mixtape an exclusive release.  Well done.  And I left a few tracks off the review for you bums to uncover yaselves.

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