Raekwon (Only Built for Cuban Linx…Part II)
It’s been fourteen years since the platinum selling, solo debut of Raekwon’s street classic Only Built for Cuban Linx, and as the years passed many fans must have wondered if the much anticipated follow up would ever actually materialize. Raekwon’s fourth studio album was originally announced in late 2005 when it was stated that Busta Rhymes would executively produce the album, and subsequently went through a series of production changes and hold ups. For a time, it was understood that RZA was a joint executive producer along with Busta Rhymes, whose position was seemingly solidified when Raekwon signed a contract with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, who Rhymes was also signed to. The deal was structured with the understanding that Part II would be a joint venture between Wu Tang and Aftermath, but the two parties inevitably separated when Dr. Dre became artistically tied up with his much anticipated Detox project. By 2008, RZA had been named executive producer and it was announced that the album would be jointly released on Icewater Records (Raekwon’s own label) and EMI. By 2009 Raekwon announced that Busta Rhymes would no longer be credited as an executive producer, and a spring release date was announced, though the album would be readdressed and reworked after it became apparent that many of the original tracks had been leaked.
For all the problems and executive fiascos that seemed to occur throughout the four years, the final project is actually exceptional. Though die-hards may argue Part I is better, few can discount the phenomenal production value and the slew of guest appearances that reads like a hip-hop A-list dreamed of in an enthusiast’s head. Producers such as Pete Rock, J Dilla, Dr. Dre, RZA, The Alchemist, and even Marley Marl grace the album with their presence. Some of the rap game’s most noted lyricists wreck the mic in an all too predictable fashion. Much of the Wu Tang reunites (RZA, GZA, Method Man, Masta Killa, Inspectah Dech, Ghostface Killa) offer chillingly cold, brutal, street inspired rhymes that simply describe, without glorifying, crack sales, broke black males, and subsequent violence (“Pyrex Vision,” “Gihad”). Other guest lyricists include Jadakiss, Styles P, Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes, and Beanie Sigel to name a few. Standout tracks include the RZA produced “Black Mozart,” “New Wu” featuring Ghostface and Method Man, “Ason Jones,” a tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and the Dre produced, bass bumping “About Me” featuring Busta Rhymes. For hip-hop fans infatuated with creative and complex flows, this is a must hear. For those who believe they appreciate rap, Cuban Linx Part II should not disappoint – it is 22 tracks of phenomenal production.