Imagine a bright star in the sky, a meteor heading toward a broken landscape, toward a place where streetlights shine their pale hue, offering a dim recollection of the long road that commercial hip hop has taken. This is a release that comes around once a generation, an event long waited for; the sequel to the world-renowned and original ‘Cuban Linx’ album.

Dust off your memories of early Wu-Tang because the rawness is back on Raekwon’s latest project “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part II”. Insanely high production values are brought into focus, the mythical sound of the crew’s early albums has been re-created. Here they build on the monumental weight of collaborations that every rap fiend needs to hear, all the rappers execute their deliveries with precision flow, indelible lyrics and scorching studio productions. The debate between followers of Wu will be: is it better than the original? For the rest of the hip-hop world, you will have to ask: has the best album of the decade just dropped?’

Wu-Tang have returned to the fold, storming the battleground of commercial rap, turning the game once again to face themselves and to recognise the real. Swarming like hundreds of Samurai descending into combat, this album shows how sharp the Wu-Tang sword style still is. “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part II” will draw you further into their vibe than ever before. Raekwon has been at the molten forge, working the finest samples into swords that form the many features and fresh beats, flawlessly layered together in the distinctive Wu-Tang style, and those cuts go deep.

Raekwon and Ghostface Killah form the epicentre of this project, but like a tornado all of the forces of Wu combine, with GZA, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killah, Method Man, Cappadonna, RZA and Busta Rhymes amongst others dropping some of the illest verses so far known to rap. The productions and samples are resonant with the core beliefs in sound that seamlessly transmit the legendary narratives of the New York rap crew.

This album takes those who listen right back into the Wu-Tang’s pioneering work “Enter the Wu: 36 Chambers”, “Forever”, and at points it reaches the high-water marks of GZA’s legendary “Liquid Swords” series. This album is not a re-invention, more a renaissance of the great era in the mid-nineties. They may rap with similar conceits, but their new takes have developed with age and wisdom, unfolding verse by verse throughout all of their lyrics. Although fifteen years since the original and classic “Cuban Linx Part 1” it can be clearly heard that they are honing and mastering the verbal styles they arrived with.

Across the album’s 24 tracks it is safe to say it starts at great heights, it keeps improving and peaks in the final tracks, a genuine achievement in pacing. With varying flavours all across the production boards, there are favourites for everyone. The only question I am left with is where is the vinyl release?

With an upcoming UK & Ireland tour, Raekwon and RZA will be ripping stages across the country, not to mention the forthcoming book, “The Tao of Wu”, set to be released on 20th October. They are still forming the art today, proving in shows and albums that commercial interests create a landscape that artistry shines its light upon.

Whether old or new to Wu-Tang, follow this Cuban Linx to own a slice of hip hop history.

Reviewed by J-Bodes

Buy Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II

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