Review Summary: Coke Up In Da Dollar Bill sets expectations for hip-hop in 2010.
His debut Only Built for Cuban Linx
, was a blessing as well as a curse. A classic in many circles, OB4CL went gold, but also set the standard for which the rest of Rae’s discography would be subjected to. After releasing two albums following OB4CL that were considered to be disappointing, Raekwon released the much-hyped sequel, and it received rave reviews from the masses. But that was 2009, and with a new decade comes a new release, a New Year’s day present, Coke Up In Da Dollar Bill
is a contrast of light and dark - of the luxurious life of a celebrity and of the trying times of an esteemed Chef, and as any good chef would know, anything worth something is more than its individual parts. Coke Up In Da Dollar Bill is a perfect example of this. Dark Mafioso rap is assisted by light bravado rap – which would normally be considered filler – and the result is the tale of a cartel kingpin delivered by Raekwon.
The dark parts of the album are comprised of dreary beats made one way or another (whether it be the melancholy piano sample and twinkly synths of “The Set Up” or the rapid bloop synths and the occasional violent guitar strum of “Heat Rocks”); soulful brooding (or aggressive rapping); and tales of shooting, drug deals, and setups (“…the door opened, three niggas walked in…”). Conversely, the light side is made of upbeat, elevated instrumentals (take your pick of the female soul singer sample and siren synths of “Happy New Year” or the White Lines sample of the title track); uptempo flows, and indulging boasts (“The strawberry joint with tha glass of hen-…”).
The scarcity of punchlines and mixtape idiocies (DJ Scream’s shoutouts, DJ Whoo Kid’s played-out gun sounds and rewinding) is compensated by the storytelling and imagery. Raekwon is able to portray his image as that of a successful drug lord in such a short time, which is enough to propel this album to greatness. Coke Up In Da Dollar Bill
may not end up being the greatest album or mixtape of the decade, or even the year, but it sure sets the pace for 2010, much like OB4CL did his career.