Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Best Albums of 2009: 2. Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...II"

2. Raekwon “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II”

“Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II” is to Raekwon what “The Chronic 2001” was to Dr. Dre; though it would be virtually impossible to match the power and sheer freshness of the original, OB4CL2 is seriously as amazing as anyone could possibly want it to be, and gets as close as it ever could have gotten to besting the original. And that’s saying a lot.

Set up as a continuation of the first installment of the OB4CL series, we find Raekwon at the top of the drug game, left to survey its bittersweet smell of success and the damage it inflicts on everyone it touches. Nowhere is this motif more successful that the Ghostface Killah-assisted “Cold Outside,” undoubtedly the best rap song recorded in 2009. Over a rich bed of crying horns, and anchored by a haunting chorus from guest vocalist Suga Bang Bang, Rae and Ghost weave one of their most vivid and intricate webs of rhymes and imagery, with Ghostface vividly lamenting “They found a two year old strangled to death/With a “Love Daddy” shirt on in a bag on the top of the steps.” The attention to detail from Raekwon, Ghostface Killah (who, as with the original OB4CL, serves as Rae’s copilot throughout), and every guest emcee involved in the project easily places OB4CLII far above any other rap album of 2009, based solely on sheer lyricism alone.

Meanwhile, the production, supplied by the likes of RZA, Dr. Dre, J Dilla and The Alchemist to name a few, is impeccable, perfectly capturing the decadence, guilt and relentlessness conveyed in the subject matter. “Baggin Crack” literally sounds like someone taking a razor to a coke-covered mirror, the Dr. Dre-produced “Catalina” hits the jackpot with a fantastic chorus from Lyfe Jennings, and the grand finale, “Kiss The Ring,” features ridiculously fitting sampling of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” as Rae celebrates his ascent to the top once again.

Many tried, but nobody in the rap game did it better than Raekwon in 2009.

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