Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Hip-Hop Classic Revisited: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...

In the mid-to-late-90s just about everyone even tangentially involved with the Wu-Tang Clan had a solo project in the works. The groundbreaking group had revolutionized hip-hop with their debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and while still very much a unit, the nine individual members were determined to prove themselves as viable solo artists. Of this first wave of Wu solo projects, there were two undisputed masterpieces: Liquid Swords (1995), by GZA, and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), by Raekwon the Chef.

Imagine Brian De Palma's Scarface crossed with a '70s blaxploitation flick filmed on the New York borough of Staten Island and you'll have some idea of what to expect from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Raekwon crafted a hard-edged, powerfully realized crime saga, made even more frighteningly real by the imposing presence of fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah. This cinematic narrative style was virtually unheard of at that time, but proved to be hugely influential, its mark unmistakable on the work of fellow artists such as Nas (who appears on the track "Verbal Intercourse"), Notorious B.I.G., and Jay-Z.

Raekwon's debut set the bar so high that his subsequent solo work almost invariably disappointed his hardcore fan base, and his repeated hints at a possible sequel to Cuban Linx were difficult to credit as the years passed. And yet, fourteen years later, on September 8th, 2009, Raekwon made good on his promise. Not just a worthy followup to the original album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II is a startling work of art that reaffirms Raekwon's greatest strengths: his intricate storytelling and his ability to choose complimentary collaborators. Ghostface is back and is no less intense in his role as Raekwon's foil, and producers Alchemist, Dr. Dre, Marley Marl, Pete Rock, and Erik Sermon lend their considerable talent to the project. (Track #2, "House of Flying Daggers", features beats by the late J Dilla, whose particular genius is still being felt three years after his early death.)

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx - Raekwon
Find it in the catalog!

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II - Raekwon
Find it in the catalog!