Wu-Tang's Raekwon Brings the Streets Back on His Long-Awaited Sequel to "Cuban Linx"

Raekwon

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Part II (EMI/Icewater)

Wu-Tang member Raekwon's long-awaited Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Part II is the sequel to a 15-year-old album. Moreover, it's been mired in production hell since 2005—by all rights it should be an incoherent, irrelevant bomb. Instead, though, it just sounds like a blast. The album's eclectic rush is encapsulated on the one-two punch of "Baggin Crack" and "Surgical Gloves." The first is an unmistakable Erick Sermon production, with the so-clumsily-cheesy-it's-cool vibe he perfected back in the day with EPMD. The second, produced by the Alchemist, comes from another planet—a deep, throbbing cut that couldn't be much more polished. Or, if that switch doesn't give you whiplash, check out "About Me" (also known as "N---a Me"). Raekwon opens by going on about coke, and then Busta Rhymes, of all people, waltzes into the track with a demented rap that starts at "heroin" before spiraling through "abdomen" and "halogen" to end up, improbably, with "King Solomon."

The whole CD is like that: familiar faces pop up in unlikely places; the usual topics and styles expand and stretch to take in everything from the borderline Cee-Lo-style pop of "Cold Outside" to Raekwon's heartfelt tribute to Ol' Dirty Bastard on "Ason Jones." In his guest spot on "Broken Safety," Jadakiss declares, "F--k saving hip-hop, we bringing the streets back," but the point of the album seems to be that you don't have to choose. You go back to go forward, you go forward to go back, and gangsta can mean anything, even goofy good times, or brotherhood, or love.