Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II

Review Scale:

1, 1.5= (Travesty, Abysmal)

2, 2.5= (Waste of Time, Below Average)

3, 3.5= (Average, Above Average)

4, 4.5= (Superior... Likely a top release of the year, Near Classic... Some minor flaws)

5= (Classic)

Much like Dr. Dre's Detox and Guns & Roses' Chinese Democracy, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II has attained a near mythical status. If you don't know the story about the first Cuban Linx..., you should. It is one of the best Hip Hop CD's of all time, and it single-handedly created the genre known as mafioso rap. Almost every Hip Hop song about hustling and drug dealing, post 1995, was most likely influenced by Cuban Linx.... Many debate whether it is the greatest album in the Wu-Tang discography, which is quite an honor considering other albums like GZA's Liquid Swords and Wu-Tang's first album, Enter the 36 Chambers, are also referenced as classics. However, Raekwon's efforts after the first Linx could be described as mediocre, at best. Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story lacked the fire of Rae's first album, and when word began to spread that he would attempt to make a Cuban Linx... Pt. II, fans were skeptical to say the least. Many feared he was no longer capable of making an album of that calibur, and in the process ruin the legacy of his 1995 classic. Well, I'm happy to say that those fears can be put to bed. Cuban Linx II is the best album of 2009, and one of the best of the decade. That may seem like a BOLD proclamation, but trust me, it is certainly worthy of that praise.

For this sequel, Rae enlisted some of Hip Hop's finest producers including, RZA, The Alchemist, J Dilla, Pete Rock, and Dr. Dre. Everyone does their part, especially Dilla who provides the rousing "House of Flying Daggers," and the head-nodder "10 Bricks." However, the most important contribution comes from Rae's partner in crime, Ghostface Killah. Just like the first Linx, Ghostface 'guest stars' as the slick talking Tony Starks. Once again, he does not disappoint. Making appearances on six tracks, he steals the show a few times, most notably on the wildly entertaining track, "Gihad." After one of Rae's standard crime stories, Ghost goes on one the most bizarre rants I've heard in some time. Long story short, he gets 'a little something' from his son's girl, his son walks in on them, and all kinds of fisticuffs ensue. I don't want to spoil it, so you'll just have to listen to it for yourself, but trust me- it is hilarious.

One notable part of Cuban Linx II is the number of non-Wu-Tang affiliated features. Jadakiss and Styles P show up on the raucous "Broken Safety," which is as vicious as it sounds. Jada spits some memorable lines including, "niggas in the yard got this on repeat, black, fuck saving Hip Hop we bringin' the streets back." Not to be outdone, Styles comes out swinging, "I used to move brown rectangles, roll you a blunt, then smoke you with death's angel." Another one of the finer moments comes when Beanie Sigel comes through on "Have Mercy." Beanie's voice, along with his lyrics, describe a man who has been beaten down and battered. You can feel his pain as he rhymes, "my days getting shorter, my nights getting longer, my cell getting smaller, my son getting taller. I exercise my mind, my body getting stronger, but my blood getting colder, heart getting harder." Even Lyfe Jennings comes through with a great hook on the Dr. Dre produced banger, "Catalina." Surprisingly, Dre's clean and glossy mixes work well with the rest of the album, which is quite grimy to say the least.

As I said before, there are very few flaws on this album, but I do have some minor gripes. It is a little disappointing to hear so many familiar beats and/or samples. If you listen to a lot of Hip Hop, you may have heard all of the Dilla tracks already ("10 Bricks"= "The Red" by Jaylib, and "Ason Jones" and "House of Flying Daggers" are on other Dilla beat tapes), "Sonny's Missing" is the beat used for one of Pete Rock's songs "Questions," and there are a couple other examples that aren't worth mentioning. That said, Raekwon adds such a great flavor to these songs, that it almost doesn't matter if you've heard these tracks used elsewhere.

Verdict: 4.5/5

This is what every Wu-Tang and Hip Hop fan hoped for- raw, uncut music. Raekwon does not disappoint and delivers one of the best albums in recent memory. Is it as good as the original? Not quite, but it is unfair to compare the two. Cuban Linx II more than holds its own, and only adds to Rae's (and Wu-Tang's) legacy. This album is not for the faint of heart, and must be heard from start to finish to truly appreciate.

Highlights: "Gihad," "Broken Safety," "10 Bricks"

Skip These: "Baggin' Crack" (which isn't even that bad, it just doesn't stack up to the rest of the album)

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