In 1995, Wu-Tang Clan emcee Raekwon released his tremendously great solo debut, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx." The album was so great, in fact, that ever since it came out it seems as if all anyone wants Rae to do is make another one just like it.
Such is the burden The Chef shares with the likes of GZA, Nas and Lauryn Hill. What do you do for an encore when you've arguably perfected an art form the first time around?
In the intervening 14 years, Raekwon put out only two more solo albums, both labored and ill-fitting as Rae struggled to prove he could thrive outside the shadow of his debut and its legendary producer, RZA. To an extent, Rae was at fault for going against the grain of what made him great; yet it was sad that so many listeners only wanted him to make another "Cuban Linx."
Well, after years of rumors and delays, that day has arrived. "Pt. II" may be the second best solo album Raekwon has made, but it's nowhere near as good as the original, which is fine since that's an insane standard for any artist. After long keeping the Clan at arm's length on his records, Rae finds spots for almost the entire crew here, as well as other proven vets like Beanie Sigel and Jadakiss.
By now every one of these emcees is wizened and free of illusions. Raekwon and his comrades meditate on the drug trade with startling vividness and clarity, absent the youthful exhilaration that helped make the first "Cuban Linx" so incendiary. Regardless of whether listeners have accepted it, Rae knows those days are gone forever.