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Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II

[EMI/Ice H2O; 2009]

By ; September 16, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

After two lackluster releases, several pushbacks, one lapsed contract with Aftermath, and a Detox-sized layover, the sequel to Raekwon’s seminal Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is finally upon us. 1995’s Cuban Linx was the epitome of so-called “mafioso rap,” influencing everyone from Jay-Z to Notorious B.I.G. to Nas. The formula was fairly simple, but it worked: RZA painted the background with his slow and harrowing strings, horns, and piano loops, laced with samples from kung-fu movies of course, while Raekwon, often accompanied by Wu-mate Ghostface Killah, applied the thug’s approach to storytelling. The result was a mob tale in the form of a hip-hop album. 2009’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II suceeds where Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story failed because it doesn’t stray to far from the original’s formula.

Raekwon’s last two releases featured no production from RZA, and the number of appearances from Ghostface on those albums ranged from little to none. Cuban Linx II corrects that error, featuring with Ghost on a total of seven tracks, and placing RZA in the executive producer’s spot.

Technically, RZA produced only two tracks on Cuban Linx II (“Black Mozart” and “New Wu”), but this album flourishes thanks to him–not directly due to his production on a mere two tracks, but because of his influence. If Cuban Linx II proves anything, it’s RZA’s mark on the face on hip-hop. Yes, the production team is very impressive and features the likes of Necro, Erick Sermon, The Alchemist, Scram Jones, Dr. Dre (who actually at one point wanted to release Cuban Linx… Pt. II on his own label, Aftermath), the late J Dilla, Marley Marl, and of course RZA. But oddly enough a majority of the tracks have a similar vibe to the original Cuban Linx, often to the point where it would be easy to assume that RZA is the sole producer.

The album opens with up with “Return Of The North Star,” practically a continuation of the original Cuban Linx‘s closer, “North Star Jewels.” It’s a nice ode to original album and sets the mood, bringing us right back to 1995. But then right of the gate is J Dilla’s furious “House of Flying Daggers.” After a brief opening chorus by GZA which recreates the hook from 36 Chamber‘s “Clan In Da Front,” Inspectah Deck explodes with a verse greater than anything he’s delivered in the past 10 years. Additional verses are layed down by Raekwon, Ghostface, and Method Man, but they’re somehow overshadowed by Deck’s two minutes of fame.

“Gihad” displays the Raekwon/Ghostface duo at its finest. Raekwon controls the first half of the song with two hard hitting verses and a very captivating hook which detail his dirty work. Ghost manages to be even more memorable with his tale on the other side of town about how he shames a white woman and her boyfriend, in which has to be the most vivid and graphic verse outside of a Kool Keith album. It’s just too bad that the sample in the beggining of the song that was included on a leaked version was cut from the album.

“We Will Rob You” brings Slick Rick to the table and has him parodying his classic track “Children’s Story” in the intro and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” in the chorus. GZA however manages to steal the spotlight with a verse perhaps more notable than anything on his 2008 solo release Pro Tools. “About Me” brings on the original executive producer, Busta Rhymes. It comes as a bit of a surprise seeing that he’s uncredited on the back cover, but his verse and additions to the hook are welcomed by the piano workings of Dr. Dre.

At the end of the day, Only 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II proves more than just a hastily named album with a rehashed cover. It is a true sequel that encompasses the sound of rap in 1995, while leaving the legacy of the original unscathed. Only 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II is indeed the finest Wu-Tang release since Ghostface Killah’s 2001 release Supreme Clientele. Fans of the original may be left desiring a Nas’ collaboration, perhaps a sequel to “Verbal Intercourse,” but perhaps Nas’ contributions would be detrimental. After all, Only 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II further proves how mistaken Nas was; how can hip hop be dead if Wu-Tang is forever?


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