Wu-Tang banger, 21st Century-style danger

Nick Baker

Raekwon’s sequel to the 1995 classic “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.” shows the Clan at its strongest in years

In 1995, Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon the Chef dropped “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.” which melded the hip-hop world with the world of Mafioso. Soon after, other artists like Jay-Z, Nas and Notorious B.I.G. found themselves in a role that was as much Tarantino or Scorsese as it was MC, trying to piece together story lines, themes and concepts into narratives of the world of cocaine, Cristal and criminal enterprise.

“Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Part II” could not have been released at a more appropriate time in the Chef’s career. At this point in the saga, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah are still riding the wave that took them to the top of the game 14 years ago.

They seem to have now comfortably backed away from the lives they were previously living, but by this point Raekwon can’t help but notice that those he passed the torch to are not living up to the standards of their predecessors.

This idea within the framework of the album applies in many ways to the MC’s situations in real life.

The album’s first proper track, “House of Flying Daggers,” reminds the ears what a Wu-Tang banger is supposed to sound like (despite, or maybe because, it is a J Dilla-giving-his-best-RZA-circa-1997-impression beat).

As Method Man states, “See these fans can’t resist the rush. They Wu-Tang for life, scarred for life, they can’t forget the cuts.”

“Sonny’s Missing” is where we first see the narrative element, as Raekwon graphically describes a brutal murder, while “Pyrex Visions” is a 55-second hazy guitar-driven dense stream of consciousness about cooking crack.

Tracks like “Cold Outside,” “Have Mercy,” and “Mean Streets” are less exciting, but are still solid in their own rights, as Raekwon brings some incredibly descriptive lyrics and cinematics to otherwise forgettable beats.

RZA finally makes his appearance on the sixth track, “Black Mozart,” with a beat that sounds exactly how RZA should sound in 2009, mixing minimal eeriness with modern soul, both of which seemed missing from Wu-Tang’s 2007 release “8 Diagrams.”

He also produces the album’s centerpiece, “New Wu,” and the half song/half skit “Fat Lady Sings,” and shows he is still responsible for the “Cuban Linx” sound.

In “Gihad,” Ghost shows off his classic swagger and swiftness, and “Penitentiary” sees Rae and Ghost bouncing back and forth on a haunting beat.

“Baggin’ Crack,” “Surgical Gloves” and “Canal Street” are among the Raekwon solo joints, all of which are vivid cinematic endeavors.

“Ason Jones” is the late, great J Dilla-produced tribute to the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard, as Raekwon shares stories with nostalgic rhymes and ODB audio clips.

Perhaps the least exciting tracks are the Dr. Dre-produced “Catalina” and “About Me,” which features an un-credited Busta Rhymes, both of which seem more like an uninspired means to have some semblance of collaboration between Raekwon and Dre.

A potentially awful track, “We Will Rob You,” with its hook borrowed from the Queen classic, is actually one of the most memorable and entertaining, as legendary Slick Rick delivers the hook and GZA and Masta Killa come on point.

The album concludes with the “Godfather”-like “Kiss the Ring,” basically a proclamation that seals the Wu Gambinos’ places as hip-hop godfathers, as if one was needed.

Maybe a reminder was all that was needed.

Either way, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Part II” is the best album to come out of the Wu-Tang camp since Ghostface’s 2000 “Supreme Clientele,” and is reminiscent of a time when the Wu-Tang Clan was the epitome of raw, dense, cinematic street hip-hop.

Contact features reporter Nick Baker at [email protected].

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Part I: 5 stars)