So it’s been 15 years since “the purple tape” dropped and set Hip Hop history. For those who either were not into Hip Hop back then or all about getting CDs and not tapes, that reference to the classic “Only Built 4 Cuban Links” album by Raekwon holds no weight to you. But for the rest of the Hip Hop world that album changed the way we viewed Hip Hop and changed the game in general. Jay-Z may never say it but Rae opened the door for Jigga and so many others to bring that hustle game to the rap world. Yeah I know Ice-T, G. Rap and a small group of other artists did it before Rae, but Rae just made it feel right. “Only Built 4 Cuban Links” was the first real cinematic, concept themed album to drop on such a gangsta level. Characters died (U-God) on this masterpiece and backed by The Rza, the sound was pure gutter.
Now we have the return of Raekwon after a couple of bad (not by his own doing completely) albums to bring us what the fans have been waiting for since we first heard “the purple tape.” This album is the biggest Wu project since Ghostface gave us “Supreme Clientele”, which was in 2000. Damn that was 2000? “Only built 4 Cuban Links 2” is nothing but a hustler’s soundtrack plain and simple. Unlike its predecessor there is no “Ice Cream” type track to lighten the mood. Instead what you get at times is a nice “one and done” verse that doesn’t come off incomplete but just relays the point of the album, continuing with the concept first and not worrying about trying to do the standard formatted way of song making. Matter of fact there are 3 songs that have a shit load of talking for what goes on for close to a minute, but it helps build the momentum for the song to rock hard as hell at you. I know some are pissed Rza didn’t do a lot of production on here but the thing is Rae was really the first to venture out of the Wu for production on an album, again bad choice back then. Now we have a collection of producers that make real Hip Hop music coming in and just somehow form a cohesive project despite their different styles. You have Pete Rock, Marley Marl, Alchemist, Erick Sermon (yeah the green- eyed bandit is on there and produced the one verse wonder that is “Baggin Crack”, got to love that title), Scram Jones, Dilla, Necro, BT, Allah Justice, Allah Mathematics, Dr Dre and Icewater Productions who I read somewhere is the son of The Gza.
This is truly a New York Hip Hop album. I know Rae might have been just happy he was releasing his album the same week as Jay and with them both being New Yorkers, wanting to show love by saying they were bringing New York back. The truth is Jay had two New Yorkers on his album, Mary J and Alicia Keys. Rae is just the opposite, outside of Beanie Sigel and Lyfe Jennings on tracks and Dilla, Alchemist and Dre on the beats everyone who has a hand in the project are New Yorkers. Kiss and Styles P connect on a track and it’s fitting they show up on this project since they are the closet thing to R.A.G.U (Rae and Ghost united) Hip Hop has. No cameos at all were added for the purpose of sales on this project. The Busta feature is sick as fuck, but I find that when Busta and Rae connect it’s good, not Rae and Ghost good but good. “Catalina” produced by Dr Dre features Lyfe on the hook is just boring and doesn’t really fit on this album at all.
I will go out on a limb and say this is the best album of the year for no real reason then that we as fans have no idea what was hot just six months ago. This is a internet album meaning it’s only making it’s rounds due to those who have downloaded it legal or illegal. I haven’t come across people who have bought the hard copy and I stopped reading so-called Hip Hop magazines years ago so I have no idea how much they love it. I will say this is the closest we as fans will get to Hip Hop not concerned with air play and BET, while still having a true to it’s core vibe running through the album. Now since Rae seems to be back on his toes and Ghost is as good as he always is maybe that R.A.G.U album can come before another ten years pass?