raekwon_350ARTIST: Raekwon

ALBUM: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt II

SOUNDS LIKE: Superhero Rap, son!

FUN FACT: Busta Rhymes was originally tapped as an executive producer.

WHY COMPLEX IS CO-SIGNING IT: Because we promised y'all that whichever album got more votes in our Battle of the Rap Sequels post would become our Album of the Week. And the 'Net has spoken: The Chef's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt II is better than Jigga's Blueprint 3.. At least according to you, our readers. And we're gonna have to agree. While we think Blueprint 3 is a great piece of work, and like the fact that Jay made an album that can bump in BK barbershops as well as find rotation in Mayor Bloomberg's "Music Black People Like" playlist, it would have been better off being called Kingdom Come 2, as it doesn't really feel to have any connection to the 2001 opus. On the other hand, Raekwon's OB4CL2 completely takes us back to the Wu's grimey, dusty, gloriously grimy, shank to your neck, kilo in the duffle, glory days. And that's just the kind of rap album we needed to close out the first decade of the 2000's...

When we first heard about an actual sequel to Rae's 1995 classic, a couple details had us raising an eyebrow. First it was announced Rae was going to be releasing it through Aftermath Records which, if you've been keeping count, has dropped more artists than its released. Then we heard Rza was going to be minimally involved and that Busta Rhymes was going to be executive producing it. We were sure the album wasn't going to feel anything like the original. Thankfully, we were so fuckin' wrong. OB4CL2 clocks in at 22 tracks with a couple skits melded onto the ends of some tracks. From jump you get the old Wu feeling on "Return of the North Star" where Papa Wu drops some info about Raekwon and his past, something like a little primer for those just tuning in. From there, the album, like the original, plays like some gritty urban crime drama with Rae literally spitting out images onto a canvas that gets clearer as he proceeds. It's the best we've heard him rap in years. Fuck a punch line, Rae reminds us that rhyming is a tool to be used to convey a message, not the message it self. And all the other rappers he recruited for this event follow suit, appearing in top form. Especially Ghostface who sounds like he couldn't wait for this album to be made.

Although Rza only contributed three tracks to the project, his influence is still heavily felt. With OB4CL as a template, all the producers perfectly melded their sound to adhere to the sound that made the original such a classic. Every single beat on here bangs. Even the Necro (yes, Necro) produced "Gihad" sounds like vintage Wu. Dilla blesses him with three outstanding beats ("House of Flying Daggers", "Ason Jones" and "10 Bricks") and Dr. Dre comes through with production we're surprised he didn't save for Detox, or at least the next 50 album. It may have taken him over a decade to get us this highly anticipated sequel, but with the way New York rap has been looking lately, OB4CL2 couldn't have come at a better time.

KEY TRACKS:

"House of Flying Daggers" Feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, Method Man

"Ason Jones"

"About Me" Feat. Busta Rhymes