These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
Have you ever watched a sequel before you saw the original? That’s how it was for me with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… I thoroughly enjoyed part two when it came out in 2009, and three years later I came back to check out the OG version. Ready, set, review.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is like a kung-fu flick meets a mob movie meets The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Raekwon and Ghostace Killah- the latter who plays Snoop to Rae’s Dre here- spin a web of hood tales mixed with Mafioso lore. The beats are creeping and cinematic, but Raekwon spits enough NY rhymes to maintain a feel of realness throughout. Peep “Criminology”:
As I came of age listening to the likes of 50 Cent and T.I., coke rap is nothing new to me. What saves Rae and Ghost from getting lost in the mix to my contemporary ears is the detail and care they put into their rhymes, injecting them with real life people and events.
“Cousin Reek, almost got hit with fourteen/Chill pa, the god’ll be a star when you come home/Light bones and let you rock my 3G stone.”
This kind of realism is rife throughout the album, setting Rae and Ghost apart from rappers talking about that work on their faces.
The album’s co-star Ghostface murders every track he’s on, but make no mistake; Raekwon stays with him every step of the way. The two feed off each other’s energy to make many of the tracks memorable. Nas shows up for a memorable performance on “Verbal Intercourse” and several Wu members and Wu-affiliated friends show up along the way to kick mean 16′s.
There was only one problem I had with this album. *Waits for Wu-Tang Killa Bees to swarm.* It was too long. At 18 tracks, there were some songs that I feel should have been cut off the album to make it more focused. Sometimes, Raekwon’s crime tales lose their sting in the depths of the album.
Still, it hardly matters. Almost every track on this album is repeat-worthy, and Raekwon and co. bring it lyrically every time. RZA produces the album in its entirety, and is in top form here. The beats are without a doubt hardcore hip-hop, but RZA brings it beyond boom bap with music that could easily be found in Kung-Fu flicks and other creative tunes. Each beat weaves in and out of the lyrics very well, never overshadowing the lyrics but providing the perfect backdrop for Rae’s chilling narratives.
I’ll ask the same question about this album as I have for many previous albums in this series. Is it relevant? Oh, yeah. Last time I checked, crime was still present, and this is crime rap in top form. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…? Nah. It’s also built for those who like great hip-hop.
Classics Revisited: 2Pac – Me Against The World
Classics Revisited: Genius/Gza – Liquid Swords
Classics Revisited: Nas – Illmatic
Classics Revisited: The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die
Classics Revisited: Common – Resurrection
Classics Revisited: Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
Classics Revisited: Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (’36 Chambers’)
Classics Revisited: A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
Classics Revisited: Gang Starr – Daily Operation
Classics Revisited: Main Source – Breaking Atoms
Classics Revisited: A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
Classics Revisited: Geto Boys – We Can’t Be Stopped
Classics Revisited: Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth – Funky Technician
Classics Revisited: Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Classics Revisited: De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising
Classics Revisited: Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Classics Revisited: Slick Rick – The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick
Classics Revisited: Big Daddy Kane – Long Live The Kane
Classics Revisited: Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Classics Revisited: NWA – Straight Outta Compton
Classics Revisited: Eric B & Rakim – Paid In Full