Sequel meets hype
September 28, 2009 —
Sequels to a classic rarely yield favorable results. The finished product either falls short of the original or is exposed as a shortcut to rake in easy cash.
Fourteen years after the release of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon shows it’s possible to produce a sequel on the level of its predecessor with Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt II.
The album comes nearly four years after talks of the project first surfaced, putting to rest speculation that the album was more of fallacy than reality.
To understand the expectations Pt. II faced, one must grasp the impact of the original.
Arguably one of the defining hip-hop albums of the 1990s, Only Built ignited the Mafioso-themed rap movement.
The first-person point of view that characterized the majority of rap gave way to grandiose narratives told through a cast of alter-egos.
Pt. II maintains this formula and thrives on a cohesion rarely seen with most hip-hop albums today.
That this is accomplished in spite of a 22-track listing shows the precision in which Raekwon crafted the album.
Despite contributions from more than 10 producers, Pt. II retains a uniformed sound that only accentuates the cinematic-like experience a full listen provides.
Strategically placed samples from films, Wu-Tang albums, and vintage soul songs recreate the brooding soundscape Wu-Tang leader RZA popularized during the 1990s.
The album reunites the Raekwon- Ghostface Killah tandem that helped bump Only Built to classic status. Though 14 years older, neither rapper misses a step, from either a lyrical or delivery perspective.
Neither money nor notoriety has removed their desire to provide gritty tales about the environment of their youth.
On “Cold World,” Ghostface examines the depths man can sink to from economic and social struggles. “Me and son had beef, I had to murk him. We supposed to be brothers / Cause he came home fronting, feeling like that I owe him something,” he recalls.
Most of Pt. II seems to embrace the lifestyle the protagonist of Only Built was trying to escape. The narratives prevent glorification through attention to the underbelly of this lifestyle.
Whereas most hip-hop albums now feel like a mish-mash of readymade singles and filler, Pt. II embraces the classic concept album.
Frequent radio play and Top 10 singles aren’t on Raekwon’s agenda and Pt. II is stronger for it.