Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

Posted September 9, 2009
Tags: Raekwon,

What makes an album a classic? Endurance: one year, ten years, twenty years later it’s still...

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II Album Review

What makes an album a classic? Endurance: one year, ten years, twenty years later it’s still as fresh as the first time it blessed your eardrums. What makes an album a classic? Intensity: even after thousands of listens, it still hits you hard, if not even harder as you learn every note and memorize every word. What makes an album a classic? Impact: you can’t talk about hip-hop, or even your life, without talking about that album. Run-DMC’s Raising Hell is a classic. NWA’s Straight Outta Compton is a classic. And, especially when it comes to that raw New York sound, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is a classic.

Now, an unbelievable 14 years after The Chef first dropped his gritty masterpiece, Raekwon is back with the sequel, Only Built for Cuban Linx Pt. 2. Sequels are almost never as good as the originals, but Cuban Linx 2 comes shockingly close. Raekwon uses his ballistic lyrical ability and an all-star roster of producers to paint a picture of urban life that’s equal parts violent beauty and beautiful violence. It hasn’t been an easy road for Raekwon and Cuban Linx 2, the album was originally slated to come out in 2006, but after his last two albums fell victim to label politics Raekwon was determined to wait until the time was right. Well now’s the time, and f**k me if it wasn’t worth every minute of the wait.

Without ever sounding stuck in the past, Raekwon resurrects the same gritty style on Cuban Linx 2 that he destroyed the world with in ’95, starting with the hypnotizing New Wu. Over expert production from RZA that seamlessly combines doo-wop vocals with classic boom-bap percussion, Rae, Method Man and Ghostface separate the rap men from the boys, making New Wu everything Clan fans have been waiting for. For his part, Ghostface is a nearly constant presence on the album, putting in work on six tracks. Some have said that Rae is Wu-Tang’s best storyteller, but while I’d have to give that title to Ghost, with their legendary powers combined they’re the most dangerous duo in rap. The pair are absolutely devastating on 10 Bricks and I’ve been replaying Gihad obsessively for days now. From Masta Killa to Inspectah Deck to GZA nearly every killa bee makes an appearance on Cuban Linx 2. In other words, this is the Wu-Tang album we were all hoping 8 Diagrams would be.

It’s not surprising that the Raekwon’s Wu-Tang brethren appear on such an epic album, but to his credit the Chef also mixes in some new ingredients. The most unexpected pairing on Cuban Linx 2 is undoubtedly the tracks Dr. Dre contributes, starting with the soulful Catalina. Complete with Dre’s trademark piano lines and a chorus from the street’s favorite singer Lyfe Jennings, Catalina fuses Raekwon’s style with a west coast sensibility that works dramatically well. The equally thumping About Me is probably the album’s weak link, thanks to a disappointingly subdued guest verse from Busta, but that’s saying more about how great the rest of the album is than any failing on About Me’s part. Also outside the box are the tracks from J Dilla, including the album highlight House of Flying Daggers and the ODB tribute Ason Jones, and Rae absolutely slaughters The Alchemist assisted Surgical Gloves. On Cuban Linx 2 Raekwon lets just enough new blood in to keep the album’s heart pumping without ever losing sight of the past. There’s a reason they call Raekwon the Chef. Ok, another reason they call him the Chef.

I have nothing negative to say about this album. I just don’t - and if you do, f**k you. At first glance I was worried the album’s 22 tracks would be too much, but there’s not a minute of filler to be found on all of Cuban Linx 2. Similarly, a glance at the massive guest list might lead the uninitiated to think there’s not enough Raekwon on the album, but there’s never a doubt whose album Cuban Linx 2 is. The man consistently dominates posse cuts, like the pounding Broken Safety, and shines when left alone on the track, like on the brutal street tale Sonny’s Missing. At this rate Cuban Linx 3 should drop sometime in 2023, but given Raekwon’s track record, I’m more than willing to wait. Let’s just hope hip-hop doesn’t have to wait that long for another album this close to perfection.

DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins

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Posted September 9, 2009
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