Not Just Another Rap Sequel
History has taught me to ignore rap sequels. Blueprint 2 was a letdown. Carnival II was mediocre. And let's not forget Twista's shoddy attempt to reenact his brilliant debut on Adrenaline Rush 2. In short, I've grown to dismiss rap sequels as marketing duds feigned to trick people into buying a mediocre reincarnation of an earlier masterwork. Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II turned that argument on its head.
1995's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... was a journey through the thrills, the violence, and the rote regimen that constitute a New York drug kingpin's life. It served as a manifesto that would shape the course of mafioso rap in the 90s. Cuban Linx was so grimy it oozed dirty Timbs and sewage. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II picks up where right where Pt. I left off.
New Wu Banga
Those Wu fans who turned on the Chef for alienating RZA on Immobilarity get their recompense on Cuban Linx 2, which sports two vintage RZA beats. J Dilla's RZA-esque production on "10 Bricks" and "House of Flying Daggers" bolsters the album's Shaolin vibe. "Ason Jones," a heartfelt tribute to ODB, is even more compelling when you realize that the beat comes from the late Dilla. Dre's "Catalina" is a head-knocker but it sounds out of place next to the dusty, soul-soaking bulk of the album.
The Ghost Factor
One of the biggest questions on everyone's mind prior to this album's release was Ghostface's involvement, so let's get that out of the way. There's a good reason Ghost appears on the cover of both Cuban Linx LPs: he was the most significant collaborator on the first installment.
Ghost's blustery delivery has always complemented Rae's poised flow. He wields the same sway here, spewing jaw-dropping rhymes on "Gihad" and "Cold Outside." On the latter G-Deini reminds us of his pedigree as a master narrator: "They found a two-year-old strangled to death, with a 'Love Daddy' shirt on." Later, on the same song, he castigates U.S. involvement in Iraq and drops references to "Satan" and "swastikas."
Despite Ghost's superb contribution, Rae holds down his forte here. In case anyone had doubts about the Chef's status as one of the greatest MCs of his era, this album effectively dispels those questions. Each song is laced with riveting, cinematic crime narratives, as his rapid-fire rhymes force guests to work twice as hard just to match his intensity. That's a task Inspectah Deck, Method Man, and others handled graciously on Cuban Linx 2. Jadakiss and Styles P provide respite from all the in-family features on "Broken Safety" while Slick Rick holds down hook duty on the comedic "We Will Rob You."
The Bottom Line on 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II'
Whereas the original Cuban Linx sounded more like a collaborative album, Rae is in the driver’s seat here. No, it’s not as fresh and cohesive as the original Cuban Linx (let's face it, few rap albums will ever be as good as the OG version), but the Chef has cooked up a certified Wu banga.Top Tracks
- "10 Bricks"
- "House of Flying Daggers"
- "Cold Outside"