Raekwon
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt II


5.0
classic

Review

by Sobhi Youssef EMERITUS
September 10th, 2009 | 340 replies | 45,486 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Pyrex is bubbling, the stove is broke; fuck it, use the flame from the oven - the famous dozen about to hit the streets, they buzzing...

Although developed in the early 90s by Kool G Rap and improved by Scarface, so-called "Mafioso Rap" wasn't truly perfected until 1995 with Raekwon's Wu-Tang saturated Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. With the help of compatriots Ghostface and the RZA, The Chef made a genuine musical analogue to his handle - a stark tale of the New York powder game told from the eyes of a fish-frying (cocaine cooking), culinary mastermind. Widely considered a classic in many circles, this record not only bolstered the Wu-Tang legacy of the 90s, but also paved the way for many aspiring stars from a lyrical perspective (see Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, absolutely). Two solo duds, countless posse trainwrecks, and fourteen years later, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II has finally hit shelves to resounding critical acclaim. Hailed as the best Wu affiliated cut since Ghostface's Supreme Clientele (nine years ago), it's hard to believe such hyperbolic claims as a jaded hip-hop fanatic - especially considering New York's relative stagnation as of late. So is this praise warranted? In short, yes, and then some. Just give this a try as a short primer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR7kVnh3PlI

To find the root of why Cuban Linx II is a worthy follow-up one must make a quick jaunt back in time. The defining aspect of golden age Wu celebrity wasn't the Kung-Fu lore, lyricism, and definitely wasn't U-God. In fact, members U-God, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, and Masta Killa really were nothing singularly spectacular and sit passenger to the verbal gymnastics of GZA, Ghost, and Rae. The binding glue here (and one of the most genre shifting forces of the era) was the RZA's spectacular production. His beats were revolutionary in their employ of tension-building atmospherics; juxtaposed brilliantly with the ghetto-centric lyricism, the original Cuban Linx was undoubtedly the producer's defining moment. The sequel takes this knowledge into account with its strategic assortment of producers: arguably the hottest beatsmith right now in the late Dilla, NYC legend Pete Rock, new age RZA on a seemingly good day, Dre, Alchemist, and even the 'E' from EPMD lending a non-country fried interpretation of the 808. And where the original is a difficult piece to follow up from a composition perspective, the final mix turns out well and not only casts a spotlight on each and every verse, but demands applauds for its artistic cohesion amidst the multiple credits. From the heartbeat-come-rapocalypse of "House of Flying Daggers" to the foreboding horns of "Sonny's Missing" and the bubbling clarity of "Pyrex Vision", it's immediately apparent - we're not here merely to revisit the Purple Tape's "North Star" as much as to update the journey for the 21st century. The bass hits harder, the symphonic samples are sharper, and the mood pulses between dark...darker... and grit; RZA should be proud of this evolution (but probably wishes he didn't waste his life the past decade obsessed with Bobby Digital).

Every cut is worth its weight here; every lyrical performance is equally inspired as its production counterpart. While obvious that some Wu members are weaker than others, these guests turn in some of their best verses in years and truly build anticipation for another group joint... if approached with the same focus. Non-affiliates Jadakiss, Styles P, and the legendary Slick Rick further enhance Cuban Linx II with alternating perspectives of old and new New York icons. Most notably, the chemistry between Raekwon and Ghostface Killah is as much of a thing of beauty as ever - only this time around Ghost refrains from stealing the show completely. For some this might not be a good thing, as the Rae of 1999's Immobilarity and 2003's The Lex Diamond Story didn't exactly put on a show worth watching - but such misgivings are unnecessary this time around. When on the top of his game, The Chef decimates the mic with complex rhyme schemes, excellent alliteration, and overall lyricism that, for sake of comparison, fits more within the realm of DOOM especially on cuts like "Surgical Gloves" and "Canal Street". On the other hand, Rae proves he can still ride a hot beat-and-hook in the catchy Dre-produced island romp, "Catalina". He owns his record this time around (to favorable results), yet still puts on the best performance this side of 2000 when paired with Tony Starks; the pressure cooker steeped dissonance of "Penitentiary" is a steady, dynamic climb that builds in tension through each traded verse (not to mention the incredibly atmospheric, Blue Sky Black Death-esque beat from BT).

Likely no coincidence, most of the production has a cinematic feel, drawing heavily from theatrical scores and gangster flicks; RZA's post-good-record era is heavily influenced by this theme. It's a complete relief that, this time around, it's done well with near spaghetti western sweeping strings on cuts like Dilla's "10 Bricks", the foreboding symphony of "Mean Streets", and a preeminent gangster score closer in "Kiss the Ring". Everything about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II demands worship and solidifies Raekwon as one of history's best with a continuation that exceeds his original debut in every way imaginable. This is a more mature and intelligent Wu Tang and proves that one truly does improve their verbal skills with age.



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user ratings (533)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2009



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

can you change your rating so this pops up in best new music now?

kingsoby1
Emeritus
September 10th 2009



4950 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

np bro

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2009



20856 Comments


Sobhi with the big 5.0
Raekwon is his new hero

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2009



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

kingraekwon5

Transient
September 10th 2009



1461 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

okay so apparently i should listen to this already

pixiesfanyo
September 10th 2009



1222 Comments


its not a five, but it is much better than i anticipated. somewhere in the 3.5 - 4 realm.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
September 10th 2009



4950 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

my original rym review:

if you give this less than a 4, you're probably whiter than rice.

comeon jared w dillon dont be that guy

pixiesfanyo
September 10th 2009



1222 Comments


pretty white.

Skyler
September 10th 2009



1084 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this is neither west coast nor underground?

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
September 10th 2009



3766 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is 4 paragraphs good

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Roach
September 10th 2009



2149 Comments


Great review, album rules so hard.

Phantom
September 10th 2009



8930 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Oh wow you gave it a 1 in your soundoff when it was actually really a 5, how sneaky.

Great review. Album is sooo goodo.

kingsoby1
Emeritus
September 10th 2009



4950 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

every track is amazing except like a couple not worth even criticizing.

bastard
September 10th 2009



3435 Comments


great review dawgie

Tits McGee
September 10th 2009



1876 Comments


amazing album. I need to give it another go before I rate it, but I'm at about a 4-4.5. i'm thinking this may be the best Wu-Tang side project since Liquid Swords.

Streetvulture
September 10th 2009



361 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

great review man, this album deserves all the praise it's getting.
btw this review is quite a bit longer than most of the ones youve done recently

illmitch
September 10th 2009



5429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i honestly think this might be a classic. it's certainly my favorite wu album since the mid-90s (not counting ghost's recent stellar work). it's pretty damn tough to measure up to a giant like OB4CL, but this does it remarkably well, and almost matches its grandeur. it's tough to say - i'll have to give it and its predecessor many more listens - but i think it has the potential.

Waior
September 10th 2009



11451 Comments


Holy long review, classic rating.

Still can't cross over but hey.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2009



15732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album's fantastic, might bump with subsequent listens. waior don't be so white

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2009



6094 Comments


This easily demolishes the first Cuban Linx.



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