Review Summary: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II is, essentially, a more theatrical, intelligent, sophisticated, clean-cut approach to gangsta rap.
It was momentous, it was anticipated, it was scrutinized. A member of the revered Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon released his cult classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
in 1995, and the album is still acclaimed to this day as a hip-hop classic. But after the intial hype died down, and four years after his solo effort, Chef released two substandard albums four years between one another.
Around six years after the unsatisfying The Lex Diamond Story
, Raekwon had announced that he would be releasing a follow-up to his underground classic. Reasonably so, a skeptical question arose. Many wondered whether or not this album would be a legitimate sequel to his debut, or a play off of name recognition that was merely on the same level of his two middle releases. Raekwon proved the haters wrong.
Now, that's not to say that this achieved the level of its predecessor, but it's still a great record. After all, how could it not be? With an all-star lineup consisting of Dr. Dre, Slick Rick, J Dilla, Pete Rock, and of course, the Clan, Raekwon was heavily equipped with all the firepower he could possibly ask for. The only doubt that could remain was, "would he capitalize on it?"
Capitalize, he did. A specialist in punchlines and crime narratives, Raekwon elaborately weaves tales of cinematic crack king criminality in a Mafioso fashion. A quasi-conceptual album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II
is a slight 3rd person narration of a seasoned crime boss who loves what he does. Complete with useful skits that actually catalyze the story and mob film samples, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II
succeeds in creating a movie-like atmosphere.
Needless to say, the dark, showmanly production assists in creating this environment. With slicing snares throughout and a black aurora emitting, the production screams out darkness. The midnight buzzing and daunting winds of "Black Mozart" craft an eerie soundscape, just as the dark church organs, rapid, immense pianos and sharp snares of "Surgical Gloves" create a suspenseful one.
However, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II
isn't without its flaws. At 22 tracks and 70:51 minutes, it's rather hefty and sprawling. inaccessible. In addition, the bite of the heavily-EQ'd snares can become irritating. And because of its cohesiveness and relative intelligence, the album requires attentive listening, as it isn't simply intended to be fun background noise. One could also make a case that the album requires a bit of background knowledge to be fully appreciated. Overall, this makes for a fairly inaccessible album, and it takes several plays before it can be totally enjoyed.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II
is, essentially, a more theatrical, intelligent, sophisticated, clean-cut approach to gangsta rap. If Eazy-E's Eazy-Duz-It
is the "Scarface" of hip-hop albums, then Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...II
is "The Godfather." It's not for those who want to see epic shootouts and illustrious lifestyles, it's for those who want to see great stories and intelligence. So if you aren't down for that, you're in trouble, because the Wu-Tang Clan ain't nothin' to *** wit.