August 01, 2019

Raekwon "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" (August 1, 1995)

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is the sonic equivalent of a John Woo movie: tales filled with gunshots ("Glaciers of Ice"), assassins with their own special codes of morals ("Incarcerated Scarfaces"), and a beautiful woman mourning the loss of a lover caught up in the drama ("Rainy Dayz"). Woo believes in long takes shot in real time, with a seamless slow-motion pacing that turns even the most brutal depictions of violence into cinematic elegance. Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon's hard rock depictions of life in the street, as bolstered by The RZA's kinetic musical cinematography, function similarly: what's always set Wu-Tang apart from other rap groups is execution. The working adjective here is chaos -- by the truckload. In the same way that De La Soul's producer Prince Paul innovated sampling and multi-tracking, The RZA has taken the art form to new heights. Boogie-woogie piano lines clash with bone-crunching backbeats, banshee-like vocal wails compete with each other, all seasoned with gunshots, raindrops, dialogue from Woo's The Killer, and just about anything else you could imagine. But as impressive as the sonic mosaic is behind all 18 full-length tracks, the vocals are still the centerpiece. Like his lyrical predecessor Kool G. Rap, Raekwon paints pictures so vivid you smell the gunpowder and wipe the blood on your shirttails. (Click play and continue reading below...)

His solo pieces sparkle, like the hyperrealistic "Knowledge God" and haunting "Incarcerated Scarfaces," but he brings on enough of his boys to keep the mix exciting. Where most MCs are on some T-Rex king of the dinosaurs shit, Raekwon and the rest of his brethren are 'raptors, highly intelligent pack hunters who hit their verbal prey from every possible angle, as if they were one entity. Posse efforts like "Guillotine," "Ice Cream," and "Wu Gambinos" match and in some cases surpass anything on Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). On "Heaven & Hell" and "Rainy Dayz," where Rae and his best crime-partner Ghost Face Killer team up, they complement each other perfectly, like Don Vito Corleone and Luca Brasi, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or O.J. Simpson and Al Cowlings. - Spin Magazine (11/95). Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was released on August 1, 1995 via Loud.