Release date: March 2011
Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang is the fifth studio album by American rapper and Wu-Tang Clan-member Raekwon, released March 8, 2011, on Ice H20 and EMI Records. Guests for the album include Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Killah, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Lloyd Banks, Method Man, Havoc, Nas, and Rick Ross, among others.
On December 7, 2010, Raekwon announced on the Shade 45 Morning Show that Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang is completed. The first street single "Butter Knives", produced by Bronze Nazareth, was released on December 8, 2010. The album's title track was released as the second single on January 11, 2011.
Due to the 8 Diagrams controversy, which took place in late 2007, Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang was initially planned to be a Wu-Tang Clan group album, minus production from RZA. Raekwon later revealed that it would instead be his fifth studio album, and as originally intended, would not feature contributions from RZA. In regards to this decision, Raekwon clarified in an interview with Vibe "RZA doesn't have to be on every album. I wanted to give some other producers a chance. It's not about beef."
When Raekwon was asked about the album in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he explained "It's not nothing derogatory towards Wu. It's just that Shaolin (i.e. Staten Island) is the place, Wu-Tang is the crew that came from that place. It's like me just going back to my history of being an emcee first, before I actually became part of Wu-Tang. I always give RZA that support as far as saying he brought Wu-Tang to the table. It was his philosophy. He picked certain dudes to be part of this group, and he said, 'This is what it's going to be called'. Before that, I was on the block. I was living in Shaolin. So this album just shows the street side of me, challenging the great side of Wu-Tang. Which is almost like how T.I. did T.I. vs. T.I.P. You're going to get sounds that relate to Wu-Tang. You're going to get sounds that relate to great Rae at his best shit, too. You're going to get a lot of animation as far as the skits are concerned. It's going to be a hot one. Everyone's going to love it."
Writing and recording for Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang began in early 2010, and finished later that year, with the album's completion being announced on December 7, 2010, on the Shade 45 Morning Show. Unlike Raekwon's previous album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang contains more collaborations from non Wu-Tang members, such as Nas, Havoc, Black Thought, Lloyd Banks, Rick Ross, Raheem DeVaughn, and Estelle. In regards to their collaboration, Lloyd Banks explained in an interview with Vibe magazine how he had Raekwon as a guest on his song "Sooner Or Later" (from the H.F.M. 2 album), stating "I had the beat for a minute, just rocking, vibing with it. I wrote about three verses to it and the sample, the beat—everything just reminded me of the Wu-Tang sound… So I was like, it's gotta be somebody from the Wu. And I really respect what Rae's been doing recently. He killed it." Soon after this collaboration, Raekwon offered Banks a spot on the Scram Jones produced track "Last Trip to Scotland". Banks explained "Soon as I heard Raekwon's verse it was on some storytelling shit, so I already knew what I had to do with it. Rae is one of the best at that, so his verse opened up my mind. It wasn't like I had a blank beat to go off of."
Although a number of artists such as Scoop DeVille, Pete Rock, and Kanye West were reported to have worked on the album at one time or another, their contributions did not surface on the final version. Although Erick Sermon is credited as producer, the track "Every Soldier in the Hood" was actually produced by Oh No.