14 years ago, while New York had a tight headlock on rap, Wu Tang’s own Raekwon blew everything in the game out of the water with his debut release Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Dubbed The Purple Tape, the album has been deemed a classic in all standards when it came to Mafia rap. The slower production and the use of horns and strings played the album out like the soundtrack for an Italian Mafia flick.
The only problem with delivering a classic right out the gate is making sure the following project is able to live up to its predecessor. Unfortunately for Rae, two albums in the form of Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story couldn’t hold a candle to what he was able to build in 1995. It seemed as though the rapper might have dug himself far too deep, but what better way to top something than make a sequel to further build on it. Sequels in itself are hard to come by in terms of toppling the original, but at this point, Rae has been backed into a corner and had to do what he does best. 2007 was meant to see the return, but push backs put doubt in the actual existence of the new tape, but doubters have been silenced. Right now, it’s all or nothing for the fourth album. With Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II, the Chef dons his apron and returns to the kitchen.
“The Pyrex is bubblin’/the stove is broke, f%#k it use the flame from the oven/the famous dozen/about to hit the streets, they buzzin’/break it down yo’, chop it like he raided your luggage”. – Pyrex Vision
On the original, it ended with “North Star (Jewels)” and that is exactly where the second half begins. From the start fans will have the feel of the sequel as the exact same beat is used as the credits rolled from Part 1. “Return Of The North Star” opens the album with words from Papa Wu giving wisdom to Rae to take heed and keep a close eye on the tricks of the game and those that lie and try to cheat him out of his money. Asking for a couple of hundred, Papa Wu tells Rae of his vision with the Chef achieving greatness as it is now his time.
“Watch the liar, watch the cheat, watch the thief.”
Making an abrupt shift into 6th gear, Rae is joined by his Wu Tang brothers on the cut “House of Flying Daggers.” Accompanied by kung-fu samples and the sound of swords, the track has everything that is reminiscent of when the men from Staten Island were doing it big in the 90s and shows that 8 Diagrams was not the end all be all. Hard hitting rhymes as well as thumping production from the militant drums showcase Rae, Ghostface, Inspectah Deck and Method Man in their purest form.
Method Man reminds fans exactly why he was the first release from the Clan as he spits vicious bars that weren’t as evident in Blackout! 2. No matter how much time passes, the dust can always be brushed off.
“Man, ya ni**as ain’t Shyte to us, still a pistol bust /Split your melon like I split the Dutch /Got a lot of piff to puff, and I ain’t come for fisticuffs /Or for the cop that wanna clip the cuffs /Man, is Staten in this bi&%h or what, don’t get it twisted, we /Twist it up and even mixed with dust /See these fans can’t resist the rush, they Wu-Tang for life /Scarred for life, they can’t forget the cuts.”
Just like the first time, Tony Starks plays wingman as he is heavily featured on the sequel bringing his own fine art of storytelling into the fray to continue the crime story. “Cold Outside” tells a tale of the cold harsh streets of New York. They narrate the realities of the city as though they are sitting beside a window watching everything happen and they can do nothing to stop it.
“They found a 2-year-old strangled to death/ With a ‘Love Daddy’ shirt on and a bag on the top of the steps/ Police blowing ni**as narcs and judges/Me and son had beef/ I had to merk him we suppose to be brothers/ Cause he came home fronting feelin’ like that I owe him something/ Cause I’m getting money, drive a little somethin’ somethin’/ Lenae got AIDS with 5 kids smoked out/ House is brick/ Bills haven’t been paid in days.” – Ghostface
Soaked with features, sometimes is becomes harder for Raekwon to have time to breathe and flex his muscle on his own project. With one verse tracks such as “Baggin Crack” and “Fat Lady Sings” Rae is able to go in by himself as he transitions the tracks. Who would have ever thought that interludes could become so significant again? The fact that listeners have to pay attention to the “skits” shows what type of story the Chef is creating as he weaves through the pages.
Don’t think for a second, though, that the Chef can’t dig his knife in when he is alongside others on a track. Teaming up with members of the L.O.X. on “Broken Safety, Rae shows us why he runs the kitchen no matter who else may be cooking with him. Above all else, no matter how far a person is taken from the streets, the streets can never be taken from the person. Who better to showcase that then with the likes of Jadakss and the hardest out, Styles P.
Paying tribute to the late ODB, “Ason Jones” serves as a moment for the Chef to take some time out to reflect on the days with Dirty and remember the true friend that was the first to actually keep it real. To add onto the soulful beat, clips of interviews from the Dirty One are played where he speaks on his life and parts of his upbringing.
“Yo let’s toast to the fallen, long forgotten/ Ayo, if ni**as can hear me then roll up some broccoli/Ason, the heart of a lion/ A purified mind/ The way he did it with a mic and some wine/ I would never forget the days we used to sit back/ Days I’ll be all up in the crib holding the lima/I just miss this ni**a/ And now I understand the meaning of love when I kiss the ni**a.”
Whoever chose to put their hands on this knew that they had to come right in regards to production. Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Erick Sermon and others make sure that they continue the sound established in the first. The biggest surprise is that RZA feels as though he is all over the album, when in fact he only has two cuts. All of the producers have clearly done their research especially the late J DIlla who seems to be a chameleon as he is able to restore the raw instrumentals of the Wu.
Although some may think that 9 featured artists is overkill as Rae only spits solo on 7 of the tracks, each feature is not wasted as they all play as pieces to put together the puzzle. Enlisting the likes of Styles P, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes and Beanie Sigel helps to maintain the grittiness as they deliver hardcore rhymes to keep your ears pumping and yearning for more.
“Night time toast, gorillas in boats, three boats/Realers is killa, gangsta feel notes/Hibernation yo, switch up, liver nation, fly information/Vivid vacation, deliberation moments/Move like ’91 Romans, cloning everything/ Gents only, the rent’s on the stove, I’m in Rome/Maxed out, Amex style, my team brand bandits/Make a move and get blown off the planet, baby/Hold that cannon, just understand we got the whole Shyte/Padlocked down, my ni**as won’t have it.” – New Wu
As nothing in the world is perfect, the second outing has its flaws and minor cracks in its armor. Some tracks, such as “Surgical Gloves,” although not a bad song, doesn’t fit the overall concept of the album and could have been saved for a mixtape. Filler songs like this also add weight to the product, as the album has 22 cuts on it. It’s clear that the Chef was trying to have no missteps this time around, but the trimming of certain songs would have left the album in its rawest form.
In particular, “Kiss The Ring,” which is like a celebration to “The Chef,” is cool… But in comparison to the ending of the original, Part 2’s close is too happy and it’s as if the chapter is finally closed. With Part 1, you were left fiending for more criminology rap. You just wanted more bars like:
“My flow wicked, Miami money movin in ridickly/Geico on the arm, froze rose gold wit me/Take baths with white women, lingerie see-through/Takin trips to Iran, my Spanish ni**a people/Sellin drugs to Flatbush, call my ni**a Seisu.”-10 Bricks
One thing is evident and that is the fact that Raekwon will never topple what was and still is The Purple Tape. No matter what he does, the bar was set too high to achieve what was his debut. With this release, however, he does show that he can come pretty damn close as the sequel is a formidable entry that shows that the Chef runs drug and Mafioso rap, hands down.