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September 21, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II


Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II has been a long time coming.

That Raekwon was planning a follow-up to his 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, was announced in 2005. Since then, rumoured disputes between and withdrawals of collaborators, changes to assigned record labels and producers, and repeated postponements of its release date ensured that anticipation for the promised album almost reached the dizzying heights of that for Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy. However, while the latter was largely considered anti-climatic, Pt. II not only meets expectations, but exceeds them: it complements, rather than replicates its predecessor, while meriting the same critical acclaim.

As one would expect, the chief difference between the original Cuban Linx and its sequel is in production: the enormous advances in technology that have occurred since 1995 are obvious in the clean, full-bodied sound of Pt. II, which is almost the polar opposite of the gritty and minimalist quality of Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, released in 1993. This aside, the album isn’t so far removed from what Raekwon was creating as part of the Wu in the mid-90s. Moments of dialogue from the martial arts flick The Killer allude to the inclusion of Shaolin & Wu Tang on 36 Chambers, and the movement between guest verses is so effortless, it’s as though Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck et al were appearing as part of a balanced collective, rather than supporting Raekwon’s solo effort.

The relevance of Pt. II is partly due to the assortment of producers (including Pete Rock, Dr Dre, the late J Dilla and ‘executive producer’ RZA) who lent their talents to the album: the 22 tracks were each overseen by one producer, allowing them to play to their individual strengths while simultaneously avoiding a clash of egos. Raekwon’s delivery is considered and deliberate: he weights his words as he moves between narrative and reflection, and although Pt. II is not as cohesive thematically as its predecessor, ‘We Will Rob You’ and the grisly ‘Sonny’s Missing’ reiterate his talent for storytelling. The instrumentation itself also establishes tension. The meditative opener, ‘Return of The North Star’, backs words of wisdom from Papa Wu with strings from Barry White’s ‘Mellow Mood Pt. I’, and then abruptly cuts away to the phrase, “Nobody is going to save you now”. This acts by way of introduction to the relentless, apocalyptic throb of ‘House of Flying Daggers’, which sees Ghostface, the Inspectah, Method Man and GZA at their most venomous, marking a return to form for the collective last seen on 8 Diagrams.

Raekwon began Only Built 4 Cuban Linx with ‘Striving For Perfection’, and if that’s how he defines his work ethic, it’s unsurprising that it took as long as it did for ‘the Chef’ to cook up its follow-up. His passion and attention to detail are apparent in each track: perfection is a lofty goal, but he’s come damn well close enough.


About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

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  1. Costas says:

    This album is possibly the best Wu record since Liquid Swords. Although Fishscale is great. Ghosts verses on this are superb.

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