21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
An awesome Wu release,
This review is from: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Audio CD)
Every hip hop fan knows the Wu Tang Story, but for the uninformed, here is a brief summary. Circa 1995, 5 MCs release solo albums and they are all fantastic. They wait a few years and they release another group LP, it's a touch self-indulgent and the fans begin to revolt. Then they each release another and they're mostly pretty bad. That's the story so far. Now rewind to 1995, Raekwon (along with substantial help from Ghostface Killah) releases what is critically considered by many Wu Tang fans to be the best album of the lot, and one of the best hip hop albums ever released.
'... Cuban Links' wasn't particularly sought after upon release. Compared to Ghostface's staccato, Method Man's stoned bassy voice and ODB's crazy shouting, Raekwon seemed to get a little lost in the mix during '... 36 Chambers'. He's certainly the Wu member who performs the least guest spots. A combination of this led to this LP receiving a slightly muted reception when it was initially released. It didn't take long for the hip hop community to realise what a classic LP this is.
With their first solo releases, each of the Wu members adopted different personas, which was part of their appeal. While Gza's gimmick was the interspersed 'Shogun Assassin' samples, ODB's behaved and sounded like he had just escaped the lunatic asylum and Ghostface's inimitable staccato made him sound totally original, Raekwon's persona is that of the urban gangster.
The gangster rap / Mafioso imagery was nothing new in 1995, Kool G Rap (amongst others) had popularised the idea a few years earlier, but it had not reached the saturation point that it currently has. However, there had not been an LP that had so successfully blended such imagery with the music. It is the track 'Criminology' that gives us the first taster. It begins with a sample from the Al Pacino movie 'Scarface' and is a typically brash expose of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah's (who features heavily on many of the tracks) gangster credentials, "Call me dough snatcher / just the brother for the rapture / I hang glide, holding on strong / hard to capture" Raekwon spits. Elsewhere, the Wu anthem, 'Wu Gambinos' has each Wu member (and guest rapper Nas) adopt a 'gambino' persona as a (perhaps typical) story of crime is told. It's one of the most successful posse tracks to find its way onto a solo Wu release. Method Man's opening statement sums the sentiment up perfectly, "Wu come to get you / now they've got guns / I be the first to set off s**t, last to run / Wu roll together as one / I call my brothers Sun cos they shine like one."
Rza's production is typically (for the time) innovative. On 'Ice Water' an odd chant is coupled with some slow scratching to great effect. Meanwhile, the Gladys Knight and The Pips sampling 'Can It All Be So Simple' glistens with emotion and 'North Star' takes Barry White's soul classic 'Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby' and turns it into something altogether darker.
It paints a pretty grim picture, and the one thing that prevents this being a five star classic in this writer's opinion is that it's a bit too turgid to sit through in one listen. In comparison to Ghostface or Gza's first major releases, it just doesn't have enough lively tracks. I realise that Raekwon wasn't aiming to make a party album, but at seventy-three minutes long, it can be a drag to sit through in one go. I wish Amazon would allow half marks, because giving 4 seems harsh, but I can't give it five with a clear conscience.
This album is most definitely worthy of a purchase. Today every new Wu LP is heavily anticipated, but for the wrong reasons - old fans tune in to hear if the group have come anywhere near to close to their old quality. Back in 1995, it seemed like the cycle of quality could never end. '... Cuban Linx' is one of the best cuts the Wu will ever produce, and if 'Immobilarity' is anything to go by, it seems certain to be the best LP carrying the Raekwon name for a long, long time.
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Initial post: 6 Sep 2009, 11:21:22 BST
R. russell says:
Raekwon lost in the mix on 36 chambers? You don't know what you're talking about son. Trying to come across all knowledge and factual... but really all very subjective viewpoints.... don't even mention Cappadonnas killa wu debut. Fool.
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