It took a little over a decade, but Raekwon finally released a follow-up to his classic debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. I rounded up your friendly TRU Brain Trust for a special purple session. Grab a seat, roll up a fat one, and join the conversation.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II may be a follow-up to Raekwon’s 1995 opus, but Ghostface’s Fishscale–-2006’s best hip hop album–is a more appropriate counterpart, both in style and substance. Featuring a lengthy tracklisting full of gritty street narratives, eclectic backdrops and OB4CL-era reflections (Shaolin vs. Lama and The Killer snippets abound), Rae’s long-awaited release is the definition of a great album: engaging from start to finish. The key word here is “consistency”, as the Chef and his crew cook up a brew of staple Wu-Bangas (“New Wu” is a classic) and pleasant surprises (Slick Rick, The Lox and Beanie Sigel fit into this album like a glove). Retrospectively, if Dr. Dre had single-handedly spearheaded this project, the result would have felt artificial for Rae’s innate tendencies (Busta Rhymes’ The Big Bang comes to mind). Like Fishscale, OB4CLII works so well because although it utilizes help from a wide array of producers, their varied styles are fused as such to create a seamless, uniform-though-never boring experience. “Kiss the Ring” or kiss the Chef: OB4CL2 is sustenance for my famished yearning for “real” hip hop. 4.5/5
The newest installment of the Cuban Linx series assures us that people still care about total album craftsmanship. The production is a perfect blend of old styles and new tactics that almost begged Raekwon to show some bit of maturation from the previous project. However, the Icewater ringleader remained true to (archaic) form and returned like a man with Alzheimer’s who comes back years later to finish a story from 1995. But Mrs. Vanfossen taught me in 10th grade that the difference in the way that you tell the story makes the distinction between liar and a laureate regardless to it’s factual veracity. And the Chef’s storytelling is the stuff of legend. OB4CL2 is the rare lyrical exception to the rule that sequel cannot match up to the quality of the predecessor.
Fourteen years after Raekwon’s solo opus Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, the Chef hand-delivers another serving of criminology rap cooked almost to perfection. Heaters from Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, J Dilla and RZA among others lay the foundation for Rae’s vivid imagery and descriptive narratives. Partner-in-rhyme Ghostface and various guest spots bolster OB4CL2, a disc that’s equal parts a mid-90’s Staten Island project hallway and a modern-day international cartel gathering. Either way, the outcome is similar: raw material chopped up, packaged and transported directly to the fiends.. Satisfaction guaranteed.
I know it’s a couple of months from November but whatever it was that kept Cuban Linx 2 from being released earlier: label infighting, differences in musical direction, scheduling conflicts or a combination thereof, I’ve got to admit I’m thankful for. The beats are solid, creative and they give the entire project that Wu-style sound. Rae flows effortlessly over his project and, thankfully, he hasn’t lost his chops for storytelling. My biggest issue is that he stuck to old content – rapping about drugs, guns and the hood life when he’s been out of that scene for years. He should have taken a queue from Jay-Z and rapped about looking at the game from the top.
If anyone was looking forward to OB4CL2, it was me, due to the purple’s tape classic status. I had fears that it would disappoint, but it didn’t. From beat selection and actual song lyrics to features, Raekwon completely and thoroughly killed this CD and had me longing for the good ole days of the ’90’s when the Wu first came out. OB4CL2 isnt better than the original, but its an excellent sequel that shows why Rae and the Wu are still revelant in hip hop today. My only complaint? Ghostface should’ve been featured on more than 5 songs.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 is indescribably new yet familiar. It’s a potpourri of early Wu-Tang rawness, dark concepts, criminology raps, and stylishly anti-modern production. Rae is in top form here, spitting rapid-fire rhymes that force his guests to work twice as hard on every track just to match his intensity. Whereas the original which sounded more like a collaborative album, Rae is in the driver’s seat here. It’s not as fresh as the OG, but it’s a certified Wu banga.
While there’s no obvious storyline the track sequencing on ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… PT 2′ builds the flow of a classic gangster movie. There’s the street dealings, the action scenes, the money, the downfall leading to a heavy loss and jail time, followed by reuniting with friends, tying up loose ends and a triumphant return. Songs smoothly segway into each other to add to the cinematic feel (For instance ‘Sonny’s Missing’ to ‘Pyrex Vision’ to ‘Cold Outside’) and most importantly, they’re all bangers. Ringtone rappers take notice, this is how you build an album. You’re not going to find anything new under Hip-Hop’s sun on ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… PT 2′ but who in his right mind complains about that when the old is done so exquisitely?