Raekwon | Pop review

Matter, London

From the moment he ambled on stage halfway through the first track, apologising for being drunk and asking to start again, Raekwon was anything but slick. Abruptly lurching out of raps mid-flow, he all but abandoned the conventions of live performance altogether.

Then there were the lengthy, free-associative between-song homilies. He bigged up fans who have stuck with his group, the Wu-Tang Clan, since their debut 16 years ago, re-rapped verses a cappella for anyone who might have missed their nuance, and explained that what he likes about Mafia movies is that characters "get hurt based on principles". At one point he praised the sound man, despite – or quite possibly because most of the backing tracks got separated out into wall-moving bass and metallic clanging, giving the show the sound of a building site overlaid with percussion patterns made by slamming broken car doors.

In other hands it would have been terrible, but the 39-year-old Corey Woods is as endearing as his performance was shambolic. One minute the rotund rapper was comparing himself to Muhammad Ali and Marvin Gaye, the next he was claiming to be "the flyest, chubbiest nigga you know". His charm and the slung-together-on-the-spot sloppiness resulted in a performance entirely in keeping with his obtuse but intuitively brilliant records.

The set drew heavily on the new Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt II – the best hip-hop album of 2009 so far – with Rae relishing his own staccato verbal flash-cuts and the chance to chew through some of his colleagues' meatier lines (such as Inspectah Deck's "I pop off like a mobster boss/ Angel hair with the lobster sauce" from House of Flying Daggers). Bull's eye.


Angus Batey

The GuardianTramp

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