August 01, 2022

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

Damn, where's Mr. T when you need him? This is the part where he's supposed to come in and bark, "I pity the fool who don't get down with Raekwon's shit!" If I were Catholic, I'd probably have to say a zillion Hail Mary's and another thousand whatchamacallits for being a nonbeliever of the might Chef's skills. But consider me born-again after tasting Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., his solo enchilada. It's banging. Who said that gangsta rappers are a West Coast phenomenon? Built builds an engrossing epic of cinematic proportions, complete with cocaine snorts, gun blasts, protecting the corner spot, sex-for-the-sport-of-it and, well, more gun blasts. Only this is all from a God's perspective. The dimension this adds to the proceedings is a dynamic one -- you get inside the minds of Lou Diamonds and Tony Starks (Raekwon and Ghostface's new aliases) and see the complexity of their plight (best exemplified in the astonishing "Criminology," the booming remix of "Can It Be," "Spot Rushers" and "Knowledge God"). Much like the main character of Cain in Menace II Society and Biggie in his Ready To Die odyssey, Rae is threatening, funny, calculated, arrogant, charismatic, talented, so on and so on. In other words, he's human and not some second-rate cartoon character posing as a thug. And Ghostface Killah, staying true to his name, is constantly lurking in the shadows, rhyming and shining on practically all of the tracks. The compelling, chest-swelling intro sets the stage lovely for the trip we are about to embark on. The talk of Rae and Ghost getting out of the game, as serene and sad music floats in the air, is in many ways the American dream personified -- getting yours at all costs. It feels like a scene right out of a movie and leaves you wide open for the incredible "Knuckleheads," a head-nodding jolt right out the gate. It cooks, as does the entire album, the best release from the Wu yet. Revisit the LP, cont'd below...

By the time you arrive at "Incarcerated Scarfaces," the concise and sharp rhyme schemes of the Chef ("I move rhymes like retail/Make sure shit sell/From where we at to my man's cell") have already proven themselves to be major-league talent. His words slice with precision, and the bloody mess is our enjoyment. The truly creepy structure of "Rainy Days" solidifies the RZA's status of auteur among amateurs as he orchestrates off-key singing from Blue Raspberry along with a nervous swirl of keys and sounds of children playing. The original Wu-Tang sound keeps growing (even if some of RZA's beats do sound similar -- but, hey, he has done five albums in the last two years) and has established itself as a driving force in Hip-Hop. Speaking of the family, fans know that the best cuts happen when the Killer Bees swarm together, and here we get four-star gems like "Guillotines," featuring the one-and-only Inspectah Deck (when is his album due?) and the Godfather of the Clan, the Genius, who always sews up these lyrical gang-bangs with words of wisdom. There's also "Wu Gambinos," which marches through toward the end of this saga and features Meth as well as Masta Killa (did someone say "record deal"?). Listening to cuts like these is reminiscent of the rush you got when somebody yelled out "Fight!" during lunch. And, at no extra cost, Nas Escobar, in top form, breaks the "members only" rule (you know, the "only Wu-related guest on the albums" directive) on the addictive "Verbal Intercourse." You also got the nastiest Wu joint ever, "Ice Cream." From the fly-on-the-wall details of the skits to the colorful descriptions of flashy gold links, Donna Karan gear and 9mms in the lyrics, Rae serves up a meal hotter than the watch on your wrist. The best shit of 1995 so far. - Rap Pages (October, 1995). I'll never get tired of this classic LP!