Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II
review by G-Clef
The following is my overall review of this long-awaited album. In general I would like to express one disclaimer. This album, regardless of what anyone says or feels, in my opinion, should have been production managed by a master producer who really has a love and understanding for the goal of this project. Rza or someone qualified, should have been manditorially invited to at very least, oversee the whole project. Politics being as they are in these times, that was impossible I assume, but better than overseeing, this album absolutely should have been produced by The Rza himself, and he should have delegated any further production responsibilities to others he felt were qualified. It would have been nice to see Tru Master, 4th Disciple or other older Wu producers more involved. My main issue with alot of records being made today in this genre is the annoying presence of “emailed” verses and performances, as well as the “2-track” phenomenon that runs rampant today and cripples Hip-Hop music. Hip-Hop can be grimy like old Wu, but there was an art to making it, and that whole process is unfortunately being “skipped” today. Much of this album sounds like Rae and company just threw verses over two-track stereo mp3s, which gives OB4CL2 the feeling of being an “original mixtape” album, rather than a CLASSIC like the original was.
That being said, there were still some good performances and excellent tracks on here.
My detailed responses to what I heard as follows:
Sonny’s Missing – nice graphic drama beat, rae rides it like the old days. nice sound effects.
Pyrex Vision – nice little loop, ill intimate/nasal style by Rae creates a different mood.
Cold Outside – Suga sounds great on here! “religious with hammers” wow. ghost sounds like his old style on here. this song should be a wu-fan’s wet dream.,
Black Mozart – Rza did a nice job on this beat. His Godfather singing is off-key but hey its Hip-Hop. For the record, me and Goodfella Mike G did something like this with a hook back on his album in the mid 1990s, a song called Fredo’s Dead, peep that sometime!
Gilad – Glad to see Necro get one on here! He is a really greay, underrated producer. Ghost sounds crazy on this song.
New Wu – I didn’t know this song was a Rza beat, but I always liked it alot. Nothing else can be said about this great song.
Penitentiary – nice to hear 2 emcees doing routines again! props to Ghost & Rae for that. Beat is rugged.
Baggin Crack – beat is funky, but the EQ is annoying. these vocals like a few i have heard so far aren’t recorded in a good place or aren’t mixed right. gotta wonder if this album was created primarily with “two-tracks” and Rae just recording vocals over them, like many mixtapes today. Unfortunately that is not the best way to make great Hip-Hop in my opinion.
Surgical Gloves – Ill beat, well produced but did Rae just record over a two-track again? His vocals don’t blend with the quality production here at all. Ruins this for me honestly. Plus Rae’s pitch is off from the track too. This just sounds like a mismatch on several levels.
Broken Safety – Old break beat sound at the beginning is a turn off, but at least Scram chopped it up nice and varied it up. Again, vocals ain’t blending, sounds cheap. Sounds like another two-track mp3 song instead of a properly, fully produced and mixed one. Jada was his usual adequate self, Rae sounds dated after him though honestly, and his flow just drags.
Styles P comes in and its like an imeediate return to “today”, as he comes back with a style that appears to come from the future after Rae gets done. That beind said, Styles does his usual adequate thing but nothing to write home about. and then…Kung Fu sounds..? REALLY? Doesn’t fit, take that shit out of this one.
Canal Street – skit sounds weird, beat seems like two-track mp3. Its monotonous and broody, instead of being dramatic. Kick drums sound right but something’s missing.. maybe it needed a better bassline. Rae slow flowing over this mess doesn’t reall help. Snoozeville. Fast Forward.
Ason Jones – OBD tribute with nice stories. Probably the best tribute so far to Dirty. Nice beat but I would say a two-track again, not that Dilla is around to handle it.
Have Mercy – I don’t understand this Blue Raspberry acapella intro..it just sounds strange, and not in a good way. Blue can sing so this is obviously not her doing. I wish I could have heard these vocal parts in the right places. This project is starting to sound more like more like it really needed a Master Producer to work on it all and make sure everything was done right. Rza’s presence is sorely missed on this album in my opinion. That being said, decent track, Rae sounds good on this one. Beans rips it & is definitely the best cameo of this album by far. Blue could have been better utilized though, kinda disappointing.
10 Bricks – a great beat period. Sounds like Dilla was making secret Wu beats like he predicted the future. Good to hear a masterful beat. Rae didn’t catch my attention on this, but Cap, wow. Cap bodies this! He sounds like old Cappa. Maybe I will sign him? J/k and..here comes old style Ghost? OK! I am almost convinced, it’s 1995 again! I like the string sample that comes in at the beginning of Ghost’s verse. The EQ on Rae’s voice on the chorus is grating, not in the good “wu” way.
Fat Lady Sings – funny skit. beat is ok so is rae.
Catalina – I have now heard this Dre Beat on NY radio, which is encouraging, but it’s obviously a Dre rough mixdown with Rae vox on it. I wish we could hear this song mixed by Dre! Nice beat, I think Rae could have rocked it a lil better but its decent enough. Nice to hear Lyfe Jennings make his appearance.
We Will Rob You – rough beat, reminds me of old Wu feel. Rae rocks it right. Gza does his thing as usual, as does Masta Killa. The song sounds produced. Slick Rick should have done a verse, he sounds clear on the hook. Gza is only on this song? I think it would have been better to have Gza on a couple more at least.
About Me – Dope beat, I like the singing sample; reminds of old Wu a little, but much more new and clear. This track is like big, clear-sounding Wu, which is an idea I have had for years. Busta rips this track like crazy. This song, to my ears, was mixed BY Dre as an instrumental when Busta and Rae were on Aftermath for a minute… (Rae’s verse is obviously new or updated since he mentions being “anti-autotune”.) …so this is a valuable snapshot of that time period. It’s THE banger of this album.
Mean Streets – new style drums.. is this really Allah Math? But ok, its still decent. Good to hear Deck, but this is a little annoying and honestly boring. Fast Fowardable.
Kiss The Ring – interesting flip on this sample by Scram. He did his thing. this is Epic. Nice to hear new drum sounds too, but Rae is too monotone for it. He really needs to update his styles and vary up his cadence a little by now. Both the Deck hook and Rae are sounding really old school over this type of beat, kinda disappointing. Masta Killa … why is he rhyming totally out of pitch with this song? Makes me wonder what he was listening to when he laid this down. Obviously not this track. Maybe this whole song is really a remix? Who knows, but the beat keeps it at least enjoyable.
I liked Rae’s album. I only wish it was what it could have and should have been. Unfortunately the lesson here is, you can’t go back. Here’s to the future, and let’s hope this album creates enough buzz to put Rae heavily back on the map.
I give it 3 stars out of 5.