Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Review: Raekwon, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II"

“Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II”

It’s funny that when people who are held in high regard and hit a bit of a stumble are forced to go back to the well. Unfortunately, Wu-Tang’s gulliest member, Raekwon, has had to be that guy. Arguably, Rae has the strong solo album under his name, 1995’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” Featuring strong guest appearances from all the members of the Wu, as well as Nas, the street-dubbed Purple Tape is heralded as a hip-hop classics.

In subsequent years, Raekwon’s been chasing the strength of “Cuban Linx” and oftentimes with underwhelming results, as is such on “Immobility” and “The Lex Diamonds Story.” While Rae’s partner, Ghostface Killah, has become the most popular solo member of the Wu (Method Man notwithstanding), the Chef has toiled away regaining relevancy with a string of YouTube covers and signing with Dre’s Aftermath imprint.

Unsurprisingly, Dre dropped Raekwon (like he did with Rakim and Lord knows who else); undaunted, Raekwon formed his own label (Icewater) and put out the sequel to “Cuban Linx” himself.

Since 2006, tracks have slowly leaked online and many of them do not appear on this album, which is probably why “Cuban Linx II” sounds so fresh.

The album’s full opener, “House of Flying Daggers” is a return to form for the hungry Wu rappers going over a Dilla beat. The Pete Rock-produced “Sonny’s Missing” is complimented with Marley Marl’s interlude, “Pyrex Visions.”

The dreary Motown vibe of “Cold Outside” is one of the album’s strongest tracks with Suga Bang singing the hook. In fact, I would go as far to say that it’s the definitive moment of the record – Raekwon and Ghostface trading narrative barbs while the horns recall early RZA production techniques.

It’s too early to tell if “Cuban Linx II” will match the popularity and success of its predecessor, but it’s definitely one of the best hip-hop records that’s come out in sometime, as well one of the most gratifying Wu albums in general.

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