April 16, 2007

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


I don't think that anyone really expected Raekwon the Chef to be the third out of the Wu-Tang solo gate. Method Man had the charisma, Ol' Dirty Bastard had the crazy factor working for him, and The Genius/Gza was the best lyricist. So in 1995, when Raekwon's first single, "Criminology/Glaciers of Ice", dropped, I was shocked. Shocked that it existed, sure, but shocked as it actually sounded really fucking good, since Raekwon never really stood out to me on the group debut.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... is considered to be one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums, and one of the best rap albums ever made. (I rank it as number 2 on the solo album list, right behind Gza's Liquid Swords.) The Rza, who produced the entire fucking album (I just wish he would do this again, soon!), refined his sonic textures to give Raekwon some cinematic beats to rhyme to, as opposed to the dusty drums of Tical, or the padded-cell craziness of Ol' Dirty's debut. Raekwon, for his part, recruited fellow Clan member Ghostface Killah to take part in his drug odyssey, which just so happened to introduce the Mafioso craze to New York-based hip hop. This movement lasted for exactly one song, after which the Wu abandoned the concept, but other artists soon ran it into the ground.

1. STRIVING FOR PERFECTION
Rap album intro. I give this album a pass, since it sounds so theatrical that I assume Raekwon meant this to be a concept album.

2. KNUCKLEHEADZ (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & U-GOD)
Still hate U-God.

3. KNOWLEDGE GOD
I highly doubt that Rae and Ghost were sniffing coke like that in the booth for real, but you never know.

4. CRIMINOLOGY (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Even though I'm the rare hip hop fan who thinks Scarface is fucking overrated, I'll concede that the sample from the movie used here is the fucking shit. This song rocks.

5. INCARCERATED SCARFACES
I remember watching the video for this song and noticing that the chick sitting on the couch is the same girl from the "Ice Cream" video, except she has a pillow on her lap as if she were hiding something. Was it a gun? Drugs? Was she just not wearing anything underneath? My adolescent mind raced at the time; now, I realize that she's obviously covering up her collection of Fraggles.

6. RAINY DAYZ (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & BLUE RASPBERRY)
Lots of samples from John Woo's The Killer here. This song is the most cinematic effort Rza has produced to date (well, for a song that's not part of a score). Awesome track.

7. GUILLOTINE (SWORDZ) (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, INSPECTAH DECK, & THE GENIUS/GZA)
Raekwon and friends (every Saturday morning on CBS!) rock over the beat that introduced Method Man's solo album Tical. This shit sounds as fresh today as it did twelve years ago.

8. CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE (REMIX) (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Hated the original, hate the remix.

9. SHARK N----S (BITERS)
A skit where Ghost offers up his diatribe against rappers who bite from other rappers, be it lyrical styles, album covers, whatever. This skit probably didn't start the beef between Biggie and the Wu, but it didn't help matters, either.

10. ICE WATER (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & CAPPADONNA)
Back when Cappadonna still sounded good on the mic, well before he started driving a gypsy cab and talking shit about The Rza.

11. GLACIERS OF ICE (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, MASTA KILLA, BLUE RASPBERRY, & 62ND ASSASSIN)
The first actual Raekwon solo song I had ever heard. Sounds fucking fantastic, even today.

12. VERBAL INTERCOURSE (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & NAS)
Nas carries the distinction of being the first artist from outside the camp to appear on an actual Wu-related album, and for good reason.

13. WISDOM BODY (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
It sounds as if the record skips when Ghost raps his opening rhymes, and this has happened on both copies of this album I've owned. Notice how this doesn't really tell you anything about the song.

14. SPOT RUSHERZ
This song is okay, I suppose; it's not as good as the four songs that preceded it, though.

15. ICE CREAM (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, CAPPADONNA, & METHOD MAN)
Raekwon and friends beat Kelis to the punch in the "songs about breasts" category. This song is still fucking great.

16. WU-GAMBINOS (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, METHOD MAN, THE RZA, & MASTA KILLA)
Meth's verse trumps everyone else's here, but consider that this collaborative effort is a grade-A masterpiece, and that makes his victory that much sweeter.

17. HEAVEN & HELL (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Meh.

The following track is listed as a CD-only bonus track:

18. NORTH STAR (JEWELZ) (FEAT POPPA WU)
Doesn't fit in the rest of the album's sequence, but by no means is this a bad song.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... surprised the shit out of me back in 1995, although we all know (now) that Raekwon is one of the best spitters in the group. Thanks to his insistence on including Ghostface Killah on damn near every song, Wu fans all over now fiend for their increasingly-rare collaborative efforts. This album is fucking fantastic.

BUY OR BURN? Why bother asking?
BUY THIS SHIT. If you're not a Wu fan, it may or may not convert you, but you will appreciate the cinematic soundscapes and the storytelling abilities of the Chef.

BEST TRACKS: "Rainy Dayz"; "Ice Cream"; "Glaciers Of Ice"; "Guillotinez (Swordz)"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Method Man - Tical
The Genius - Words From A Genius
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return To The 36 Chambers (The Dirty Version)
Nas - Illmatic

17 comments:

  1. I get chills down my spine when I listen to this album. This is my favorite album of all time. When I listen to any song on this cd, I just sit in awe in how incredible it is. It has the nicest production I have had the privilege of listening to. By the way, Ghost's verse on "Criminology" doesn't just rock, it kicks my ass, and the ass of anyone in listening distance. That fuckin verse changed the game. I never liked "Ice Cream" that much and I agree that the bonus tracks don't really fit. When I went to go buy this album in the summer of 95, the clerk said I was too young, so I went the next day and bought it. It was amazing then, and it's amazing now. "Rainy Days" reintroduced me to this album. There are very few albums where you can listen to it for months, then years later, pick it up and listen to it again like its the first time. Masterpiece.

    ReplyDelete
  2. hell yeah, buy, buy, buy, this is my all time favorite too, Reakwon and Ghostface changed the game with this, just as the almighty Wu had done previously. Dope review tooaltough maybe a little harsh on you hatred for CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE, although its not their greatest track, it still better then 99% of whats out there now!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Since you hit this one right on the head, I guess Liquid Swords is next, right? Right?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Definitely dropped out of nowhere with that 'Glaciers of Ice' and stunned me. That CD made it a good summer for me! What happened to raw beats and rhymes like this? And didn't Rae and Ghost do an interview about how they went to Aruba or Barbados to write the 'darts' for this album?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, they went to Cancun I believe. There is a XXL issue with a retrospective of this album that mentions this, amazing read. I know of at least two songs that jacked beats from this album Alicia Keys "Girlfriend" jacked "Brooklyn Zoo" and just recently Ne-yo and Fabolous "Make Me Better" jacked "Rainy Dayz". This album will be analyzed, listened to and stolen from for decades. Even though the Alicia Keys song seemed more like an Old Dirty tribute.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is a fucking great album, my only beef with it is that one of the songs (cant remember which one) has police siren on it, and it has damn near caused me to shit my drawers thinking i was getting pulled over after seeing a cop behind me. So other then that its a classic for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yep- nail on the head on this one... except for it being second to Liquid Swords (which doesn't age well AT ALL IMO), but yep- Cuban Linx was the height of Wu's dominance. At this point, these guys could do no wrong... well, until that Forever thing came out two years later. I still get in the zone when listening to this album.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Best of all time. Can only be appreciated after a bottle of wine. Over there, over there, right over there. One of funniewt things I've ever heard in my life.

    ReplyDelete
  9. AnonymousMay 07, 2008

    fantastic if your a tru wu fan on a whole just a great album as adie hard hip hop fan...

    mr.childs...

    ReplyDelete
  10. I remember buying this on tape when it first came out back in 95... back when there was a selection of great albums! I wasn't that old but remember this being a surprise release, but not as surprising as how great this was. Still got the tape, it's also the only album I've bought twice - had to get the CD! What happened to Wu?! What the fuck happened to hip hop?

    ReplyDelete
  11. One of the best albums ever. 3rd best album from the Wu.

    ReplyDelete
  12. AnonymousJuly 17, 2009

    alright i know u said that u hated the original verison of "can it be all so simple" but dude come on the remix outshines the original

    ReplyDelete
  13. you spelled popa wu wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Best closing tracks ever!! and what a way to keep the momentum going.. it's true no one ever thought this guy would be 3rd in line out of the group.. i just got this album a few weeks ago as i heard about cuban linx 2 coming out which i was gonna get but figured i'd better get this one so definitely a buy.. peace..

    ReplyDelete
  15. Finally one of the few that say liquid swords is better

    ReplyDelete
  16. Why Meth wasn't featured on group photo on inlay booklet?

    ReplyDelete
  17. AnonymousJuly 24, 2015

    Love this album!

    Although it's not the best Wu solo, not by a long shot. I share this blogger's opinion in giving that honor to Liquid Swords, no fucking contest.

    ReplyDelete