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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

8.6

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

"Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best, Okay?"

At the 1998 Grammys, when Ol' Dirty Bastard rushed the stage and declared his unhappiness about Puff Daddy beating out Wu-Tang Clan for the Hip-hop Album Of The Year award, it's highly doubtful he fully grasped the importance of his actions. That moment is often referenced (well, by me at least) as a 'line in the sand' for the genre - the end of the golden era of hip-hop and the commencement of it's pop-focused, commercially diluted bastardisation.

"Suge Knight the building, take the town over"

With only a few months before the end of hip-hop's most disappointing decade, a ridiculously awesome record such as this packs an even harder punch. The Mafioso style - which flourished in the mid-90s as a successful metaphorical link between hip-hop's inflated ego and the blatant criminal activity of the Italian mob - is at the heart of this release and is perfectly complimented by Raekwon's gritty delivery, heavy reliance on street slang and twisted tails of everyday drug dilemmas.

"Our troops need to leave Iraq, and rap niggas need to go on strike, so we can get more cash"

Even though the subject matter is clearly defined - over-dramatised stories of making crack vials, dodging 'narcs' and the blurred lines between ghetto realism, high-flying criminal life and earning a living in the entertainment industry - the record doesn't get bogged down in repeating itself like many other releases of this sub-genre, including the original 1995 Cuban Linx. There is plenty of variety this time around, fueled in part by the impressive - and more importantly suitable - amount of guest appearances. This, combined with the almost faultless production from big name hitters such as RZA, Erick Sermon, Dr. Dre, J Dilla and Pete Rock, makes for a record that literally overflows with ideas and varying styles.

"Already nutted on the side of her mouth, side of her face and hair like Somethin' About Mary"

It seems only right that Ghostface is credited on the record's cover. He is just as responsible for the success of Cuban Linx 2 as the Iron Chef himself. While there isn't a single wasted guest spot on the record (even Slick Rick playing Slick Rick works), Ghost nails it on every verse he steps up to rap on.

"Eight million stories..."

A well-executed (ie. not a Puffy 80s revival 'ballad') Ol' Dirty Bastard memorial, a humorous 'cover' of Queen's We Will Rock You and even a sped up sample of Elton John's Yellow Brick Road to close out the record. This certainly isn't what would be classified as an archetypal hip-hop release.

Best of all? Unlike the majority of hip-hop records that decide to test their creative limit, it all works. It's wacky and bizarre, but not silly. Raekwon has a serious look on his face throughout, whether he is telling folks to be quiet because he is trying to cook up a fresh batch of crack, or riding straight man to Ghostface, Busta or RZA's light-hearted tom-foolery. For the most part, Raekwon isn't the factor that makes this album such a winner, but his consistent metronomic flow is the glue that holds it all together.

This record recaptures the creative freedom of the genre's golden era, yet doesn't waste any time on sentimentalism. The attention to detail, Raekwon's multi-layered lyrics, the smart guest appearance decisions and even the way in which the album is constructed as a single piece of music, is remarkable. Although this record doesn't completely erase the past decade of embarrassing wackness, it does show that the fading genre still has plenty some life left in it.

Filed Under
Record Reviews
Raekwon
Wu-Tang Clan

 

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Comments

josh.o

Awesome revi3w!

1 decade ago

Jonny Yes Yes

on sale for $5 (!!!) at Amazon

1 decade ago

(nobody)

Quote: "Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. You know what I mean? Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best, Okay?"

At the 1998 Grammys, when Ol' Dirty Bastard rushed the stage and declared his unhappiness about Puff Daddy beating out Wu-Tang Clan for the Hip-hop Album Of The Year award, it's highly doubtful he fully grasped the importance of his actions. That moment is often referenced (well, by me at least) as a 'line in the sand' for the genre - the end of the golden era of hip-hop and the commencement of it's pop-focused, commercially diluted bastardisation.

Couldn't have put it better.

1 decade ago

(nobody)

hip-hops most disappointing decade?

have you been living under a rock?

1 decade ago

Jonny Yes Yes

in comparison to the 90s, the 80s and even that little bit of the 70s it's definitely been the least creative.. (imho)

1 decade ago

flukazoid

Loved the writing for this review Jonny, nice work.

1 decade ago

(nobody)

making a retrospective statement across decades is just setting yourself up for disappointment. it's impossible to make comparisons, particularly because the way music is being produced and distributed has transformed beyond our ability to measure it wholistically anymore. i don't really know what you mean by creative but if you can't see any creativity in Madlib - Quasimoto, Madvillain, Jaylib, J Dilla, Slum Village, J5, The Roots, Doom, Georgia Ann Muldrow and Dudley Perkins, Kanye West, Dilated Peoples, Missy Elliot and Timbaland, M.I.A., Hudson Mohawke, Pharoahe Monch, RJD2, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Sa-Ra, Ghostface, Jay-Z, 9th Wonder, OutKast - then i don't even really know how you define hip hop.

1 decade ago

flukazoid

But you can't escape the fact that most of those acts (with a few exceptions there) struggle to have the widespread cultural impact of the acts of bygone decades. Again, there are exceptions, but for the most part quality hip-hop has sunk to an under-the-radar status. Widespread culture recognizes today's hip-hop as the "comercially diluted basterdisation" (to quote Jonny) ... not much of the good stuff is rising to the surface.

That being said, I'm not the most qualified person to speak on this subject and I'll look forward to hearing what others have to say.

1 decade ago

(nobody)

yeah but that's the way it goes with everything. i mean you can say that no rock band will ever be bigger and have a greater impact than the beatles. or punk band bigger and better than the ramones. or that reggae died with bob marley. but just because rolling stone or pitchfork can say in retrospect that they were great doesn't mean that your favourite bands creating music today are less creative or less talented than those artists we can idolise from afar.

it's not like i'm the voice of hip-hop or anything, but music has changed and labels can't shove what is important down our throats anymore with press and marketing (particularly in Australia where we just filter hip-hop from America), so it is up to us to make hip-hop popular. it is just a shame when people miss out on what is happening right under their nose and those artists, particularly in the case of J Dilla, do struggle to make a 'cultural' impact when they're lightyears ahead of their time.

1 decade ago

Jonny Yes Yes

heya soph.. all good stuff being raised in this discussion.. especially compared to all the bots/fuckheads over in that BDO thread.. :)

i actually started responding to your original comments.. but flukazoid has pretty much nailed it.. and your response is also spot on with what i was thinking for my rebuttal..

i do think the changing form of music consumption has definitely affected how it is treated as an artform.. but i also find it's interesting that, for the first time in the history of the genre, the public's viewpoint of those 'winning' hip-hop (ie. kanye, t-pain etc) is at the other end of the spectrum to those who are actually pushing the genre forward (ie. the artists you rightfully listed, soph)..

the failure for styles of hip-hop, like the production work of J-Dilla, to crossover into the public spectrum might be because of the changing business model/climate of music but also because of the way in which (real) hip-hop is once again pushing back away from mainstream culture, and becoming more of an underground movement... in many ways this signifies that it is heading back to it's roots..

i think the point i was originally trying to make was that this record is designed for mass consumption - it's by a well-established artist, who is well respected and had a fairly successful career (although definitely hit and miss) - yet it still feels creatively free and genuinely innovative...

but as said this is all just opinion.. and i am really happy this discussion is happening.. so i look forward to some more ideas being thrown around on this topic..

1 decade ago

matthickey

if we are measuring hip hop's success failure by the degree to which the most innovative artists have achieved mainstream success then, yes, this decade has been a failure. it's hard to call it completely disappointing when there has been a heap of rad stuff put out though. i agree that the failure is not so much within hip hop and it's producers but within the industry and its business models.

it's not surprising that those making the most money aren't the most successful. you could say the same has happened to electronic music over the last decade. it's what happens when channel v and nova jump on the bandwagon.

besides, this decade has saul williams. 'nuff said.

1 decade ago

(nobody)

you know what, i think hip-hop has been really influential on a subconscious level in that it is accessible to everyone now. i really don't think we would even be having this conversation last decade on an indie rock music blog. i mean you listen to something that's just come out like Hudson Mohawke's 'Butter' and i can't imagine a Glaswegian teenager pulling off IDM sounding hip-hop ten years ago. I mean hip-hop is the pulse of this decade, it isn't something separate and significant in the way it was when wu-tang or biggie were starting out. I mean OutKast, Missy Elliot and Kanye West (or at least his first few albums) have made really creative and interesting popular music in contrast to Shania Twain and the Backstreet Boys or something.

1 decade ago

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