Sunday, September 6, 2009



I’ll be the first to admit that the last few Wu-Tang related projects have left me kind of cold. Cold enough that when I was asked to review “Only Built For Cuban Links II” from original Wu-Tang member Raekown The Chef I was less than thrilled. The first Cuban Links is a classic Hip Hop album and easily one of the best of the solo Wu-Tang efforts. I fired up Cuban Links II and by the second song I was aware that this album was going to be a return to form from The Chef. For lack of a better term the recipe was right for Raekwon’s come back.

Raekwon doesn’t so much spit rhymes as he does sputter them. It’s as if the words formulate in his mind so quickly that his mouth can’t say them fast enough. Every verse feels like it’s about to fall apart as if at any moment Raekwon will blow it, throw down the mic and storm off. Instead each word seems to find a way to stay connected and that constant hyperbole rhyme style is what has separated him from his fellow Wu-Tang members. This isn’t the razor sharp delivery of Rza nor the laid back bong flow of Method Man, Raekown is a completely different beast and Cuban Links II captures that perfectly.

To put it in recipe form the Cuban Links II builds a hearty broth from basic but well orchestrated beats and then piles in the seasonings for flavor. Keyboards, sirens, guitars, bass, kung fu movie samples, all of it is poured into a pot and blended to perfection. With a basis like that it doesn’t take much for Raekwon to just sputter his rhymes out until he’s spent. Everything on this album has a certain punk rock desperation, a chaotic energy that’s strongly lacking in Hip Hop today.

The first real track on the album “House Of The Flying Daggers” wraps a hard and steady beat around a keyboard line that feel like it’s coming after you. From that type of tension the album slows down and gets almost creepy with the track “Sonny’s Missing”. What makes Cuban Links II so good is that it moves between peeks and valleys musically but never loses the ability to get your head bopping back and forth.

The album is strife with special guests as well, each adding their unique style to music that’s very much Raekwon. Too often when guests hit a record the music is changed up to fit their style. Raekwon has no time for that, he’s the chef, it’s his house and either rhyme with that or get the f**k out. Whether alongside his fellow Wu-Tang members, Beanie Siegel, Lyfe Jennings or Jadakiss everybody on this album has to push their flow a little harder to mix with the music.

Rza and Inspectah Deck do some of their best work in recent years on the track “Black Mozart”, one of my personal favorites. I’m also a sucker for any record with Slick Rick on it so when I stumbled on “We Will Rob You” and heard Slick singing the title to the tune of We Will Rock You by Queen I was totally signed up.

It’s hard to pick out all the great songs on this album mostly because they work so well as one solid piece of music. Cuban Links II is a true Hip Hop album, a creative triumph coming from a genre that mostly spits out boring pop hits. This is a grimy record that’s meant to be played in the street by the fans of Hip Hop who wait desperately for a change in what’s out there.

With Cuban Links II Raekown has managed to wring out what’s going on inside his brain and sift it through several producers including Rza, Marley Marl, J Dilla, Dr Dre and more. The result is an album that can stand proud with any of the other Wu-Tang offerings. If more albums come out like Cuban Links II we’ll all start to hear the faint heart beat of true Hip Hop beginning to get stronger.

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