PMD Album Review: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

So the internet is going crazy for the second installment of The Purple Tape. Raekwon’s 4th album is a sequel to his first and is being hailed as progression! After 14 years he decides to release OB4CL II with a plethora of features. I didn’t grow up on The Purple Tape so I wasn’t impressed by OB4CL II. It was tales of cocaine and hood life over slow-paced beats. While that was great in 1995 this is 2009. I’m not a Wu enthusiast and this review will give you the other side of the coin. We don’t need to bring hip hop back we need to move it forward.

“Return of the North Star” – Popa Wu starts off The Purple Tape with a few words of wisdom and encouragement for The Chef. Its my personal preference that intro’s are hyper-wordplay filled anthems for their perspective albums (circa Stillmatic) but The Chef is welcome to do what The Chef wishes.

“House of Flying Daggers” – In internet classic for one reason and one reason alone; name attraction! If this song was done by someone with no buzz the chorus would be criticized and even J.Dilla’s production would be questioned. Yes these five men have greatly contributed to hip hop but this is not a classic joint.This track is alright at best. After a few listens it would be in low rotation but defiantly not classic status!

“Sonny’s Missing” – Pete Rock’s leery production was used perfectly. Lex does this track justice albeit with no chorus. Made me wonder if Raekwon can hold a whole song by himself. Not in 1995 but now in 2009.

“Pyrex Vision” – 55 seconds. This track is 55 seconds you don’t get into it cause its too short. Feels like you skip this track every time the CD plays through. Wonder why it was even a separate track with a completely different beat. It doesn’t even link “Sonny’s Missing” to “Cold Outside”. Very bad placement.

“Cold Outside” – Dame Dash heard Kanye’s beats and wack raps and felt he could put Cam on some of the records and save the album. Guess he got that idea from Raekwon and Ghostface. Not saying Raekwon’s lyrics are wack cause they aren’t but Ghostface Killah saved this album (well made it respectable to me). The best tracks have him featured on them and people consider The Purple Tape as Rae and Ghost’s debut album. No coincidence his high energy is all over II. The production on this falls far from the RZA tree!

“The Black Mozart” – First I’d like to say I’ve never liked The RZA’s production but this track was alright. No I actually liked it and the vocals went with the track even though no one flowed on beat. Everything meshed. This is a good record although Raekwon doesn’t contribute a chorus again. We’re 6 tracks in and Raekwon hasn’t done one good chorus yet.

“Gihad” – The first chorus Rae does and its decent. This track brings me back to my previous point. Ghostface Killah shines more than Rae on this track and it just isn’t the high energy. Their contrasting styles go well together and this track provides a hip hop quotable “I don’t care your 25 nigga you still my son”! Notice Rae rhymes about something completely different than Ghostface Killah. Why’s the track called Gihad? These questions and confusion have always made me dislike like the Wu. Just cause you don’t understand them don’t mean they’re nice. It just means you don’t understand the bullshit they write. I will admit it was great flowing bullshit though.

“New Wu” – So we went from 50-11 members of the Wu to 4? I hope the other living members got the memo that they didn’t protect their respective necks. Nice mellow track done by the RZA. Nothing impressed me too much but this track didn’t suck. Ask yourself, is not sucking good enough now? Shouldn’t your favorite rapper wow you?

“Penitentiary” – The last 3 tracks featured Ghostface Killah. Love the volley style verses here but its still not stellar. I’m waiting to be impressed by this CD cause its herald as the return of real hip hop but I’m still not being impressed. I’m not gonna stamp mediocrity with my seal of approval and frankly I’m questioning other reviewers. Is it because I wasn’t raised on the purple tape? We’ll move on to something else.

“Baggin Crack” – Now this impressed me. I feel the setting. Its Shaolin’s version of The Wire with cocaine. In less than 2 minutes he cooked, bagged and negotiated the price on ki’s. Loved the Erick Sermon joint he picked and the subliminal he shot at ring tone rappers. The lyrics and visuals he pushes are incredible!

“Surgical Gloves” – No feature on this, add The Alchemist’s quirky track and these are just recipes for disaster. Well that is the mindset I came into the track with and Rae couldn’t possibly build on the previous track so I push play with lowered expectations. Cheers for lowered expectations because I was delightfully pleased. The approach was robbery and Rae’s storytelling ability flourishes through the track. I was surprised by the chorus. It went with the song and was better than decent, it was actually good. I would have paid .99 cents for the privilege of listening to this when I saw fit. Hymn stamps this track quality.

“Broken Safety” – Jadakiss accurately sums this track up in one line. “Fuck Hip Hop we bringing the streets back”. I think this was a Lox song they subtracted Sheek off and plugged Rae in. I’m not seeing Rae picking this Scram Jones joint and when you hear his vocals over it you understand. Though this was the right choice for Jada & Styles, Rae comes off foolish on it. He broke his 2 track streak with this joint. It was decent though.

“Canal Street” – “Its Time I See You” Yep Icewater totally jacked a Jadakiss track right after Rae features Jada. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed if it was placed elsewhere. Fitting its titled Canal street ’cause its just a bootleg of a Ruff Ryder gang track. Oh and btw the chorus sucked, again!

“Aason Jones” – Now this was a sample of “Everybody is a Star” from Sly &The Family Stone. Guess who else sampled this? The Roots. Another ripped track and I understand the sentiments but why couldn’t you pick another track? Black Thought did a better job on this and I’m biased of course but ‘kwon was heartfelt. I couldn’t get into this track either. R.I.P. to ODB and J.Dilla the producer of the track. Just a bad selection by Rae and his A&R.

“Have Mercy” – Being Rae is nice. You can call up Beanie and have him kill you on your shit in half the bars. The chorus is alright. That’s a total of 3 in 15 tracks. One third of this albums choruses are better than mediocre. Do you see a theme developing? Can anyone out there really say choruses aren’t important?

“10 Bricks” – The resurface of Ghostface Killah! Another good Raekwon chorus but Cappadonna brings this joint down. I’m not impressed with Raekwon’s story telling because I’m looking for another dimension in his arsenal. Its track 16 and all he can do well is story tell? Yes some rappers can’t accomplish this but shouldn’t he be well rounded? Am I asking for too much? Cappadonna should stay in his cab.

“Fat Lady Sings” – Another story about violence and drugs. No chorus big surprise! This is visual but isn’t this an album and not a mixtape? Shouldn’t there be different aspects injected into an album?

“Catalina” – I thought maybe on this track produced by Dre, titled a womans name and featuring Lyfe Jennings Rae would talk about something else. I thought maybe, just maybe he’d talk about a woman. At least talk about something other than his love for money, drugs and jewelery. No such luck. I dub it a senseless feel good track. It could be on an East Coast version of The Chronic. I do enjoy constantly listening to it but would never cough up a dime for this track. This is a downloadable delight! BTW another good chorus but this one isn’t done by Raekwon!

“We Will Rob You” – What can I say about this track? If you like classic Wu shit then this track is for you. They have made it abundantly clear that if you don’t like this type of music they dont care. This is the show and they will not change it for anything. Call it artistic integrity, call it blind faith, call it whatever just as long as you understand I don’t co-sign it. Would have bet money this was a RZA track but it was conjured up by Karim, no doubt a RZA follower.

“About Me” – Rae has more Dre tracks than 50 cent. Its a nice mix of production on the album but the subject matter is all the same. Can’t call this track. Last of a bunch. Uptempo but yet not high energy which is a weird combination. Raekwon’s style is too nonchalant for all the hoopla.

“Mean Streets” – This is track 22. Its just too much to take in at one time. I’m tired of hearing this CD. Rae should have cut off some fat and had less features. I’m questioning how he’d do just by himself doing a chorus by himself. He’s a good rapper but in 2009 you need to bring more to the table. Raekwon did a better job than Ghostface on this track cause frankly Ghost was just rhyming to rhyme. Face might have hit the wall with too much material too fast. Inspectah Deck..what can you say? He’ll never live up to his “Forever” potential.

“Kiss the Ring” – Just absolutely pleased this shit is over. The last hooray on The Purple Tape’s second coming. Raekwon doesn’t tell a story for maybe the third time this whole disk. Its a welcomed change but too little too late. Rae’s voice and style blend well over this Scram Jones track while Masta Killa is off tempo. I often wonder how the producer feels after he gets something like this back. How does the mixer not catch it and try to merge the artist on tempo?

I know the self proclaimed “hip hop heads” and fellow bloggers either read this with rage or didn’t fully read the whole thing. They’ll comment and question my credibility and my knowledge of the history behind Rae and the Wu. I know the history. Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx laid down the foundation for works like Life after Death and Reasonable Doubt. OB4CL also opened the door for East Coast gangster rap and is acclaimed by many publications as one of the best albums of all time. I understand all of this and deem is ludicrous to have Raekwon as one of the best rappers of all time. OB4CL was obviously a joint effort with the RZA producing the structure of the album with Ghostface Killah on 15 of the 18 tracks. Raekwon rapped on only 1 solo track. Mind you on his album. I am grateful to Rae and the Wu for all there contributions to rap, too many to individually name, but I could never get into their 5 percenter jargon. Shifting from OB4CL to its sequel ,put out 14 years later, you have to pray rap has changed in those 14 years and its sad to say it hasn’t much. Yes it is important to pay homage to those that laid the foundation for us but they have to stop acting like they’re still 25 and poor. When’s the last time Rae’s cooked up some “fish”? When is the last time he’s even seen one of those stories he described in II let alone been apart of it? Since the Gambino gun ring arrests has any member of the Wu been linked to mafia activity? No. Yes this is entertainment but we have to walk a line and start portraying reality if even for a little bit for these kids. Doesn’t Wu-Tang love the kids? I also believe in 2009 you have to be versatile as a rapper. OB4CL II is a classic if put out say 1999 when rap needed it but rap is moving in another direction. Either get with it or get left behind. Old heads will pick up the album and love it. Some young kids will pick it up and like to visit the nostalgia but it isn’t 2009 rap.

This album is downloadable and an ok listen.

I thank the Wu for all their contributions but endorse a young dude. Keep hip hop alive ,cause if these old heads keep hoarding it; it will die when they die.

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One Response to “PMD Album Review: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II”

  1. S. Mathis Says:
    September 10th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Excellent choice for reviewing. I must admit that this is not a great album though I like it more since I loved the original ‘Purple Tape’. This one overall feels like more like an addendum to the original (sort of like an extra u get when u buy the deluxe package of OBFCL 1), then a actual sequel. This album is for those of us old enough to have appreciated and understand the impact of the first one. I figure u had to be in at least 11th grade in 1995 to have taken it in the right way at the time.

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