'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Pt. II' Is a Satisfying Sequel to the Original


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'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Part II' Podcast

Bryan Gerhart talks about Raekwon's phenomenal 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Part II.'

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Perfection is a fickle bitch. One day it might shine down upon you, but don't get too comfortable; the next morning it'll cast a shadow you might never crawl out from under. Just ask Raekwon the Chef.

Following the Wu-Tang Clan's phenomenal 1994 debut- Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), an undisputed classic in the hip-hop canon-the group's mastermind producer RZA was hard at work putting together the first round of solo albums for the Shaolin MCs. By the next summer, both Method Man and the late Ol' Dirty Bastard had released critically applauded and financially successful LPs. The Clan was already riding high, but as the saying goes, "third time's a charm."

August 1995 saw the release of Raekwon's epic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ..., an album that would later be hailed not only as the arguable "best" of any Wu-Tang solo output but also as a perfect record of the genre. Unfortunately for the Chef, both albums he's cooked up since have been met with ho-hum (at best) reactions, and it seemed as though he might not ever be able to climb back on top of the pedestal he built for himself more than 14 years ago.

If the shadow of OB4CL has kept Raekwon in the dark since its release, it looks like the album's sequel, the appropriately titled Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Pt. II, might finally pull him back into the light.

The first part's concept was loose enough (the life and struggles of a drug mafioso) that Pt. II is able to pick up right where the Chef left off: on top of his game. Aside from a one-song tribute to fallen swordsman ODB ("Ason Jones"), we're presented with 22 tracks that return us to a world where white powder and green paper are the powerful king and queen, and Raekwon and co. are their loyal subjects. The themes might be repetitive; however, the album is anything but.

While RZA had full production duties on Pt. I, Pt. II displays a dizzying roster of 13 producers (J Dilla, Dr. Dre and of course, the RZA, to name a few), each with well-established and distinct takes on their craft. Rather than playing out as some sort of haphazard compilation, the album flows seamlessly. The myriad of producers didn't work together, but somehow they all managed to end up on the same page. If anything, this is what makes Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Pt. II so fantastic. It's like riding down a river; you're constantly in a different place, but you're still in the same body of water. Too many albums, extending beyond the hip-hop genre, but certainly not excluding it, get too comfortable in a single position. They're lakes. They might be nice lakes, and you might enjoy your time spent in them, but you're going nowhere.

From the bombastic album opener (the J Dilla-produced "House of Flying Daggers") until the pat-on-the-back closer ("Kiss The Ring"), Raekwon is joined by legions of guest stars, and these appearances too keep the album fresh. It's hard not to giggle like a schoolgirl when Slick Rick's familiar "Heeeeeere we go" opens the familiar thump, thump, clap of "We Will Rob You" (yes; like the Queen song), but Raekwon is able to hold his own when his friends don't join in. He clearly knows what he's doing, (demonstrated by the one-two loner punch of "Baggin' Crack" and "Surgical Gloves"), and it's refreshing that the self-aggrandizing nature so many rappers possess is actually backed up here with legitimate talent.

History will, unquestionably, and maybe unfairly, regard Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Pt. II as slightly less than its predecessor, but this is no reason to overlook the record. It's one of the finest examples of a hip-hop album in recent memory and lives up to its high-reaching title.

Plan a boating trip with Bryan at [email protected]

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