February 21, 2009

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


(Today’s Reader Review is brought to you by Leo, who decided to write about one of the two greatest Wu-Tang Clan solo albums, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (As for the other one, I'm still waiting for someone to write about Liquid Swords.) I have a feeling his opinion is going to be held by the majority of you two, but it’s about the journey, right?)

I began listening to the Wu-Tang Clan way back in the day (about 4 years ago). I started with Ol' Dirty Bastard’s Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. However, I ended up purchasing Chef Raekwon’s masterpiece Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… after becoming a fan of the crime stories told by Lloyd Banks (that’s kind of a bizarre stretch, and I’m sure most of you will agree), whom I also liked, thanks to a combination of my friends and the (obviously shitty) radio. Having listened to this album to death, I’d say this is still the finest Wu-Tang Clan solo album. Which means that it’s time for another spin.

1. STRIVING FOR PERFECTION
Not bad, as it gets the ball rolling.

2. KNUCKLEHEADZ (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & U-GOD)
A piano loop briskly reintroduces us to Raekwon, Ghostface and U-God (who, merrily, was missing for almost the entirety of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)). While all of the artists drop nice lines, U-God is pretty good here, although I’m aware that I should hate his guts. (Apparently U-God’s character is “killed” early on in the story as a way to allow the man to complete a prison bid. Seriously, did anybody really need a valid reason to “kill” U-God on a rap album? I would have also accepted “because it’s a day that ends with a –y”.)

3. KNOWLEDGE GOD (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Raekwon spins my favorite hip-hop story. The Rza sequences some Godfather-esque violins while Ghost and Rae take turns sniffing and breathing out of a brown lunch bag. It meshes pretty well.

4. CRIMIMOLOGY (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
The first single from the album is a flat-out Wu-banger. It sounds pretty good (which is probably why he’s calling it a Wu-banger, which it is), with the Scarface dialogue and trumpets. The beat seems to favour Ghost more so than Rae, but it doesn’t really distract from the song.

5. INCARCERATED SCARFACES
Pretty rubbish. (Really? I quite like this track.) The Rza sets the drum-machine on “auto” and Raekwon's three verses don't really add anything to the total product. It grows on you however, so there is hope. (I still like the fact that the girl from the “Ice Cream” video is seen sitting on the couch while everyone’s fucking around with their various weapons and paraphernalia sprawled out on the coffee table. I like to imagine that she just woke up after the events from the previously mentioned clip and just missed the ice cream truck back to downtown.)

6. RAINY DAYZ (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & BLUE RASPBERRY)
If you’re looking for the source of modern-day ringtone rap, look no further than this song, as the beat is awful. (Motherfucker, those are fighting words.) I don't mind the singer, though. It sounds nothing like anything on the album (which is why it’s so fucking good, but whatever), so there’s some variety! Don't blame Rae though, or Ghost (who puts on a brilliant starter). (Now I’m starting to understand how you two readers feel when I shit all over your favorite song. It cuts like a knife, it does.)

7. GUILLOTINE (SWORDSZ) (FEAT INSPECTAH DECK, GHOSTFACE KILLAH, & GZA/GENIUS)
The instrumental, which initially began as a teaser on the intro to Method Man’s Tical, is simply awesome. Inspectah Deck rips this completely, although Ghostface desperately tries to not be buried. (I thought Ghost actually had some of the best lines: “Collect jaws as souvenirs”? That shit is just the balls.) It makes me wonder how Deck’s album would have sounded had the mystical “Shaolin Flood” not occurred (I’m guessing he’s referring to the flood that fucked up all of Rza’s work in the basement of the Wu mansion in the early 1990s), but, yeah, Raekwon is outshined yet again.

8. CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE (REMIX) (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
After a long skit, in which Ghostface and Raekwon help kids with math, Rza reuses the "Can It Be All So Simple" beat. Now, I hate it when artists reuse beats, but this is so much better then the original, especially with Rae & Ghost shouting "Stop the violence!" (Here’s Max’s payback for “Rainy Dayz”: This song blows donkey dick. I’m not a fan of the original at all, but this remix battles for relevance every day of its life. Every single time I spin Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, this is the one song that I skip. Not only that, but I understand that this is the song that is blasted on repeat as a method of torturing prisoners in Gitmo. So there.)

9. SHARK N----S (BITERS)
A pretty ironic skit, considering that Rae and Ghost are biting from Kool G. Rap, depending on your perspective.

10. ICE WATER (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & CAPPADONNA)
This shit bangs. Obviously, this was recorded back in the days that Rza used to incorporate scratching into his work. (And for those of you who, somehow, hadn’t heard of Cappadonna on “Ice Cream”, this is actually an effective introduction to the world’s finest-dressed gypsy cab driver.)

11. GLACIERS OF ICE (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, MASTA KILLA, & 60 SECOND ASSASSIN)
Pretty good, but the beat sounds like a blend of "Guillotine (Swordz)" and "Ice Water". (Is that a bad thing?) The lyrics and vocals won’t keep your attention, but you’ll like this track anyway, even with an awkward Masta Killa verse. (Are you sure you think this is the best Wu-Tang solo album?)

12. VERBAL INTERCOURSE (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & NAS)
Fellow Five-Percenter Nasir Jones joins Wu-Tang, and everybody’s celebrating. At first, I really liked Raekwon's verse, but Ghostface is the real king of this track. The beat is at once Oriental (a word I fucking hate: it’s not like you can catch a flight to Orient-land: however, I’m leaving it in context to support Leo’s review), Mafioso, and confrontational.

13. WISDOM BODY (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
I swear, there must be an internet conspiracy to hate this track. Every reviewer finds something wrong with Ghost's verse (like me, for instance, when I wrote that “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”), but if you ask me, Tony Starks waltzes away with the song.

14. SPOT RUSHERZ
A return to piano, allowing Raekwon to show his strength in storytelling. This was a really sick track, if you’re not easily offended. I haven't read the lyrics, but does he shoot Ghostface at the end? (I’m assuming not, considering he pops up on almost every remaining song on the album.)

15. ICE CREAM (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH, METHOD MAN, & CAPPADONNA)
This takes a while to grow on you (really?), but it is a very beautiful Rza beat. Even Cappadonna can't manage to ruin this, although his lyrics are really fucking stupid. (Yeah, I would have to agree with that sentiment.) Unfortunately, Method Man sticks with hook duties on here, but he makes up for that on the next song. This stayed on the radio until about 1996.

16. WU-GAMBINOS (FEAT THE RZA, MASTA KILLA, GHOSTFACE KILLAH, & METHOD MAN)
A good posse cut, but I feel the beat works too hard to be atmospheric.

17. HEAVEN AND HELL (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & BLUE RASPBERRY)
BRILLIANT! Raekwon and Ghostface play off each other, weaving a 1994 classic track for listeners (this originally appeared on the soundtrack for Fresh). I found it interesting that their debut track together would end up being the last song on the album.

(Although, of course, if you own the CD version, you already know about the final bonus track.)

18. NORTH STAR (JEWELS) (FEAT POPPA WU)
An epilogue to the album, with an outro whose sole function is to leave you with a Raekwon solo. Pretty good.

FINAL THOUGHTS: And so, you have Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, the best Wu-Tang spin-off album. This stands tall amongst hip hop crime classics like Mobb Deep’s The Infamous (on which Raekwon also appears), The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready To Die (on which Method Man appeared on), and Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury (just kidding). This album set off the Mafioso movement (which would fuck up hip hop for several years afterward). Ironically, this is as much Ghost's album as Raekwon's, who is put to disgrace on most tracks. (I disagree, as Raekwon actually sounds awake on here.)

BUY OR BURN?: This is a buy. If you don't have money in these hard economic times, you should negotiate with your employer or something to get cash. (You may also find yourself selling your body to the night, but Max can only condone doing so up until the point that you can afford to purchase Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… After that, you’re on your fucking own.)

BEST TRACKS: “Guillotine (Swordz); “Heaven and Hell”; “Knowledge God”; “Ice Water”; “Spot Rusherz” (and also “Rainy Dayz”, “Glaciers of Ice”, “Criminology”, “Ice Cream”, and “Wu-Gambinos”, goddammit)

-Leo

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below, and for the curious, here’s a link to the original post.)

29 comments:

  1. I gave up after reading your analysis of Rainy Dayz...

    Are you a 50 Cent fan?

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  2. i fucking LOVE this album, although i'll have to say that liquid swords is better than this. "Ice Cream" is the only song that I can appreciate cappadonna (and "Winter Warz") and to me I think "Verbal Intercourse" is Nas' greatest verse EVER. I also like how in "Glaciers of Ice" Ghost teaches you how to 'freak' wallabees.

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  3. "I began listening to the Wu-Tang Clan way back in the day (about 4 years ago)"...

    "4 years ago" is "way back in the day"???. You should have listened to the album when it came out. I think you would deliver a completely different write up.

    Anyway, of course this is a buy. But the weakest song on the album is the outro. All the other songs are excellent.

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  4. Wtf you think Incarcerated Scarfaces is rubbish? Then you say it grows on you? So is it good or bad? Make up your mind kid.

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  5. In response (stupidly) 1. Yes I love G-Unit, as well as the F-Unit. 2. Pretty new listener, but i've listened this stuff to death so escuse me finding cracks 3. Rainy Dayz could have easily been made by 9th Wonder on fruit loops.

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  6. the weakest song on the album is the review


    just kidding

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  7. This reviewer is on some serious drugs
    Max you have to keep him away from other reviews

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  8. Dude, you're insane. That Rainy Dayz beat is a freakin' masterpiece.

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  9. "This album set off the Mafioso movement..."

    I use this argument everytime I express my feelings for Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, it's lack of originality, and not being a total classic (IMO. RD is still an excellent album). Cuban Linx was/is CLASSIC in the sole fact that it's ORIGINAL.

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  10. Lol 3 things:

    -On Guillotine (Swordz), Ghost is saying "When I fuck I grab hair, collect drawers as souveneirs"
    -I don't think Nas is a 5 percenter
    -In this (http://www.scribd.com/doc/126285/The-Making-of-Only-Built-4-Cuban-Linx) XXL feature, Ghost says that the beginning of Wisdom Body kinda skips because they put another take over it (due to him being drunk at the time). [Also a good read, for those who haven't read it.]

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  11. The Rainy Dayz beat is one of the most bangin' beats of the '90's and kind of defines the sound on this album.

    FAIL!!!!!

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  12. You say this album is dope, but you pretty much take a dump on 75% of the songs.

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  13. 1. STRIVING FOR PERFECTION
    Not bad, as it gets the ball rolling.

    are you fuckin kidding me? step your "review" game up.

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  14. you know to you rainy dayz may be boring but to us,that shit fucking rocks,great storytelling but yet again theres no reason hating you,its your opinion anyway

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  15. RICK RUDEMay 08, 2009

    u are a complete PUSSYHOLE!! dont ever disrespect THE WU 0R SHALLAH RAEKWON AGAIN, U FUCKIN ALIEN HEAD!!

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  16. poor, poor review. The album's considered a classic for a reason, treat it with the respect it deserves.

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  17. too many bold statements that betray the reviewer's inexperience with hip hop. i'm not an old school listener either but if i were dropping trivia i'd do a bit more research...ringtone rap inspired by cuban linx?! RZA's flood making Deck's album suck...i think there were other contributing factors?

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  18. AnonymousJune 15, 2009

    for the love of god, dont let anyone do a "readers review" again unless they're as good as you and know what they're talking about. or at least a million times closer to being as good as you and knowing what they're talking about than this guy is

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  19. AnonymousJune 16, 2009

    what rainy dayz is crap to you??????? man even max out of all ppl likes it

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  20. Correction, anonymous: "man even max out of all ppl LOVES it". "Rainy Dayz" is the tits, and I can't fathom where he got the whole "ringtone rap origination" idea from. But to each his own.

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  21. First off: 'Incarcerated Scarfaces' is NOT rubbish.
    Second off: I don't understand how you can love 'Heaven & Hell', but hate 'Rainy Dayz'. They're both beautiful.

    "Proceed with caution as you enter the symphony, degrees of punishment increase intensely" ... awkward my ass; that shit was fire.

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  22. AnonymousJuly 16, 2009

    Awful review. Bangers from front to back. 4 yrs ago? Get off the site kid.

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  23. AnonymousJuly 25, 2009

    terrible review

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  24. AnonymousJuly 27, 2009

    this review sucked big time, max its time to get back to work, plz putting up al these reader reviews

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  25. I fucking hate Incarcerated Scarfaces too but seriously, Rainy Dayz sucks?

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  26. Hey max, great review, loving the site, I was eagerly anticipating your review of this album the day it dropped. I've listened to the album full through a few times already and its fucking awesome. Ason Jones almost had me in tears when I first heard it, same with Life Changes from 8 diagrams. Btw, have you heard of the project Blakroc? It's a collaboration coming out in November between blues rockers The Black Keys and a whole ensemble of rappers, Raekwon, The RZA, Mos Def, Noe, etc.. Just thought you might dig it

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  27. Ni66a you should to change your point of view and be more objetive. It seems like don't like any fucking tracks, when all the facking track are the real shit...

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  28. I don't care if this diatribe towards you is dead and gone, Leo, I'm gonna resurrect it right now. This review is fucking AWFUL. If you don't like the album, you don't like the album, but having the audacity to trash the whole album and then recommend a purchase? C'mon son!

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  29. Ice Water bangin? Lol Ice Water is the worst song on this album easily

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