Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II

I finally got around to giving OB4CLII a good listen and will break it down for you people song-by-song:

The first track after the intro, “House of The Flying Daggers” featuring Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, & Method Man and produced by J Dilla (R.I.P.) is a classic Wu collaboration/battle track and is my favorite song on the album.  Each emcee attacks the beat with a fury that has been missing on nearly every Wu track this decade.  Check out the equally dope video.

Next track, “Sonny’s Missing,” produced by Pete Rock, brings the tempo down.  It is set over ominous, raw, gritty beats that marked the first generation of Wu releases over a decade ago and weaves the tale of a young dealer captured and tortured for information, but who remains loyal and is eventually killed for it.  Raekwon’s flow and delivery is straightforward on this song, not siding with either the young man or his captors.  Chef simply tells the story as it is, depicting a profoundly haunting picture of urban crime, and allows the listeners to form their own their own judgments.

“Pyrex Vision,” produced by legendary Queens producer Marley Marl, which maintains the slow flow from “Sonny’s Missing,” is a short (55 second) verse about cooking crack that transitions into the Ghostface-assisted “Cold Outside” a dark depiction of life in Shaolin (the Wu-Tank moniker for Staten Island).  Though the lyrics are solid, the sample choice isn’t the best for this particular song and fails to draw the listener into the lyrics.  This is quickly remedied by the RZA-produced “Black Mozart,” (featuring Inspectah Deck and RZA) a song that picks the tempo back of the album back up.  This song brings back the Enter the Wu-Tang-era RZA production that was marked, by gritty, sparse beats that helped set the background for classic Wu releases and helped emphasize the desperate situation that the original 9 members conveyed in their classic debut (something that was missing on 8 Diagrams).  It is this production that all three emcees seem most comfortable rhyming over and results in a near classic track.

Next up is “Gihad” with Ghostface Killah, a good track, but one that has a tough time standing out amongst the great tracks on the album.  The next track, “New Wu,” is one of the best on the album and finds each emcee at the best they’ve been in years (I love the chorus, short though it may be, by Method Man).

“Penitentiary” runs into the same problem as “Gihad” as it is good, but not great, but “Baggin’ Crack” gives Raekwon the platform to do what he does best (rhyme about the crime that he witnessed growing up in Staten Island in the 70s and 80s).

Next up is “Surgical Gloves,” set over Alchemist production, is one of the better tracks lyrically on the album, and probably the best song solely featuring Raekwon.

On “Broken Safety,” one of the few tracks featuring non-Wu Affiliates, Styles P offers the thesis of the album in the first verse, rhyming, “Niggas in the yard got this on repeat black/ Fuck saving hip hop, we bringing the streets back.”  In these two lines, he explains that the purpose of OB4CLII isn’t to save hip hop, but to bring it back to the early 90s raw and gritty sound that marked Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, and M.O.P. releases of that era.

“Canal Street” features great production by Icewater but Raekwon seems to be asleep on the track causing the song to border on skip-able.

The ODB tribute, “Ason Jones,” provides a needed change of pace for the album and is a very heartfelt song from an emcee that rarely lets down his guard on his tracks.  The album then lulls with the skip-able “Have Mercy,” the sub-par (aside from the Ghostface verse) “10 Bricks,” and the poorly produced, “The Fat Lady” before the Dr. Dre produced “Catalina” breaks the mold and puts the album back on track.

This is followed closely by booming “We Will Rob You,” featuring excellent verses from GZA and Masta Killa.

The album finishes strongly with the Busta Rhymes track “About Me” (one of the best verses I’ve heard from Busta in years), “Mean Streets,” and “Kiss the Ring.”

It’s easy to see why “Walk Wit Me” is a bonus track, not because it is necessarily a bad track, but because the lighter tone of the sample doesn’t fit the ominous feel of the rest of the album, but “The Badlands” featuring Ghostface, should have been included in the rest of the album.

At the end of the day, nothing could have lived up to the hype of four years of waiting along with the fact that the album is the sequel to a certified hip hop classic, but what ends up killing OB4CLII is it’s length.  At 22 tracks + 2 bonus tracks, the album maintains the same ominous tempo for the most of the album—something that takes its toll on the listener.  There are several classic songs like “House of the Flying Daggers,” “Black Mozart,” “New Wu,” “Surgical Gloves,” “Broken Safety,” and “Catalina” that get caught up in the midst of several good-but-not-great tracks that sound more or less the same.  Were the album to be cut down by five tracks or so, it would be a certified classic.  It is the second best Wu-Tang album of the decade (behind Ghost's Supreme Clientele) and Wu-Stans will be happy with the return to the old Wu sound, but will shake their heads at what could have been.


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