Sach O: Reflections on Only Built for Cuban Linx 2: Part 1

In which Sach O goes apeshit over a rap album. 1. If you don’t get chills down your spine the first time you hear “Return of the Northstar,” it’s safe to say that years of bitching...
By    September 8, 2009


In which Sach O goes apeshit over a rap album.

1. If you don’t get chills down your spine the first time you hear “Return of the Northstar,” it’s safe to say that years of bitching about rap on the internet have eroded any joy your procure from listening to music.

2. So…what HAS Poppa Wu been doing for the past 10 years? It was the little things like his appearances from 95-97 that gave heft to Wu-Tang’s mix of drug-selling and five percenterisms. The Clan needs him around like the Dungeon Fam needs Big Rube.
3. “A trick is a Liar…and a Liar is a thief… trust me baby…now gimme a couple hundred.” Solid advice.

4. Not too many albums have the gravitas to start with a two and half minute skit but here we are. Emcees talking about selling crack over this>Emcees rapping about selling crack over preset synths and 808 claps.

5. And suddenly we’re in the middle of a kung fu flick! HAAIII-YAAA!!!

6. Funny how things come together, Ghostface got Dilla beats for Fishscale through MF Doom in 2006, while Rae was getting an entirely different set of production from the man through Busta Rhymes. Not knocking “Whip me with a Strap” but Rae definitely got the choice cuts.

7. This is a spaghetti western soundtrack sample right? Those whistles are a dead giveaway. Producers need to get up on those records, every time someone loops one the results are fantastic.

8. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a rap beat with that drum pattern. Talk about stripping it down, it sounds like a bunch of snares until you realize that Dilla was still programming all the kicks to his crazy internal metronome that none of us can follow. Producers know what I’m talking about.

9. Inspectah Deck gets a ton of face time and his voice doesn’t break on this album, which is nice. He doesn’t get in a ton of memorable lines but he’s one of those guys who can rap his grocery list and still come off. Actually, “angel hair with the lobster sauce” might actually BE his grocery list.

10. Speaking of Deck’s vocals, this album is devoid of the puzzling sloppiness that’s plagued a lot of Wu releases this decade. It’s extremely well crafted. (Maybe too much so?)

11. It’s hard to call who gets the best verse on House of Flying Daggers. My first instinct is to give it to Rae who sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth. Whoa, remember when he was rapping half asleep a couple of years ago?

12. On the other hand, Ghostface sounds like he’s taking this album as an excuse to go superthug in the best way possible. Give the man credit: there’s definitely an attempt to bring back the uncouth, unsophisticated brilliance of his pre-97 steez on this album. The sheer percussive force of the “humiliate, brutalize, ruger pop, pulverize” couplet packs more energy per syllable than most rappers’ best verses.

13. Method Man’s “scarred for life they can’t forget the cuts” line has a similar effect but unlike Ghost, Meth can’t seem to recapture the magic of his 90’s persona. It’s strange that a guy who was supposedly so resistant to being marketed as a smooth pretty boy rapper all but abandoned the scary, threatening imagery of his early days sometime around Blackout. Then again, the man can still twist syllables like origami. Verdict: all emcees acquit themselves nicely.

14. I guess now’s the time to admit that I didn’t bother with Pete Rock’s last album so the fact that “Sonny’s Dead” recycles a beat doesn’t really phase me. That’s what you get for putting Jim Jones and Green lantern on your album.

15. Plus, Raekwon always delivers over Pete Rock. Check the catalogue: “The Game,” “Sneakers,” “Kids that’s Rich,” “R.A.G.U,” “Dogs of War,” “The PJs.”They should consider teaming up for a full-length, I haven’t heard anything about that Smif-N-Wessun/Pete collabo in a minute.

16. The fact that they’re switching from Shaw Brothers samples to John Woo dialogue is sort of disjointed. I guess no more so than throwing tracks like “C.R.E.A.M” and “M.E.T.H.O.D Man” back to back.

17. Sonny’s Dead is a crime story rapped from the third person. I feel it’s important to point this out because that’s something that 99% of emcees today wouldn’t think of doing. Rae’s character is out of the equation so there’s zero boasting and no opportunity to hide a lack of ideas behind funny punch lines, he has to keep the rhyme moving on the strength of the narrative.

18. It’s amazing how much more interesting that makes the material. Rae could have bragged about owning Gucci kicks which would have been pointless and played out, instead he name drops them to point out that the victim in his story was rocking muddied 900$ kicks with a champion hoodie. That detail isn’t essential the story but it adds a lot of depth. That’s how you rap about Gucci (man).

19. And the skit at the end positions Rae and his crew as overhearing all of this in the next room where they’re busy cooking up crack. Smooth.

20. On Kilo, Ghostface gets Shareefa to go to the store for him. Raekwon’s runner of choice on “Pyrex Vision” is Langston.

21. 90% of the time, this kind of flow doesn’t work (see: Nas’ Cagney voice, Eminem’s accents) but Rae uses a mumbly flow to represent his thoughts while he’s mixing up. It’s an elegantly restrained way to showcase the monotony and desperation inherent in the crack trade and makes the song a lot more vivid than the aforementioned Kilo not to mention the litany of other bombastic trap-raps from the past decade.

22. Apparently Raekwon’s secret ingredient is milk. Please ponder the ramifications of a couple of million (white) people learning this.

23. Now this loop I recognize, I just don’t care because OC’s song goes for a totally different effect. Shout out to Marley Marl, this is his Knowledge God.

MP3: Raekwon ft. Cappadonna & Ghostface-”Ten Bricks”
MP3: Raekwon ft. Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck-”House of Flying Daggers”

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