Rating: 4 / 10
Classic hip hop albums only come very occasionally. You release a classic, the odds are that you won’t release a equally good follow up. It’s only logical. And so it comes to pass that Raekwon The Chef’s sophomore effort will not be as dope as “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”.
Now every real head knows lyrics are the most important factor in hip hop. Anyone who disagrees should shuffle back to mp3.com and stick a dick in their My First Sony. And most hip hop heads will know that Raekwon’s lyrics are some of the best lyrics today, his storytelling skills are always compelling and his flow’s always ill. But this album just proves the fact that lyrics alone cannot carry an album. Whether RZA was too busy studying his pocket kung fu bibles to produce or whatever the fuck, his replacements have embarassed Raekwon. Fine, give some newbies a shot on the producing spot, but at least screen them for a few seconds first. Since this album was released we’ve seen remarkably ill beats from previously unknown producers on Ghostface’s second album, so why was the same quality not enlisted back in 1999 for this joint?
The other gripe I have with this album is that Ghostface isn’t on it. Now I know what you’re thinking – “Dawg, you just want another “Cuban Linx”, well part 2’s on its way, Rae was doing something different for this album”. Well he wasn’t, it’s blatantly obvious. He’s just done the same old, same old but without Ghostface and the various other Gambinos who guested on “Cuban Linx”. The only Clansmen who pop up on “Immobilarity” are Method Man and Masta Killa, and they’re only there for a short time on one song each. Raekwon’s averagely skilled crew American Cream Team guest on two tracks, and don’t impress me much.
And don’t worry, the classic intro / interlude style of “Cuban Linx” remains on “Immobilarity”. For anyone not familiar with this phenonemon, these album filling oddities are basically eavesdropping Rae and his associates, and the motherfuckers catchphrase their way through them all. You know the deal : “Aiyyo son, the knowledge is negligible. Knaaamean??? The cats I roll with, you don’t even know son. We been here since, like, 1992, 1993 or some shit. We been putting shoes on tables for mad years, knaamean???”
Ignoring the mindless clicheing, we come to the actual tracks. The aforementioned blind-fly-on-the-wall bullshit fills most of the intro, and the first track is ‘Yae Yo’. This immediately shatters any presumption you may have had about this being another “Cuban Linx” – the beat is poor, really poor. Seriously, this is one of the finest MCs in the world, why has he got beats worse than the average Casio kid? The Cuban Mafioso lyrics are good though, and save the track from being a waste of time. Trauma takes over producing for ‘Casablanca’ and creates a simple but majestic orchestral backdrop to Raekwon’s storyline, this track would have fitted in well on “Cuban Linx”. Abstract skill-pushing banger ‘100 Rounds’ has a similar sounding beat to the previous track, but much more upbeat.
‘Jury’ featuring female singer Kim Stephens’ beautiful hook, is the dopest solo track I’ve ever heard from Rae. The emotional lyrics captivate and are straight from the heart, I feel I have to quote here…
“Wake up we running outta plans
The devil inside of him
Tricknology is in one hand
Future’s so far to see
The present’s how will it be
The past don’t even ask just believe
Looking in the dictionary
Trying to spell out hard words
Define ’em and design ’em
I shine and curve
Take this jewel in and conquer me
I blend it in wit ganja
Not for the babies it’s a mind sponsor
From the 17 million God raised
2 million lost slaved
19 million may we all praise”
And by no means is this a case of dope lyrics, not delivered well. C’mon, this is Raekwon we’re talking about. The flow is perfect, simple as that. Nowhere does he slip up and stop the smoothness of the words. The beat is by no means a masterpiece, and is very simple, but if there ever WAS a case of lyrics carrying a cut, this is it. ‘Real Life’ is pretty good, ‘The Table’ has a standout beautiful orchestral beat by Trauma. Masta Killa also guests for a criminally short time on this track, and it’s strange – the lyrics sound very Masta, the delivery sounds very Masta, but the voice is strangely off. Don’t know what the hell was going on that day, maybe he had a cold or some shit…
‘All I Got Is You Part 2’ is relaxed, smokey, laid-out lounge R&B rap with heartfelt lyrics and low crooning in the background. And the other tracks which stood out from the rest were ‘Fuck Them’ – this features a superb Meth hook, a oddball piano loop beat, and some wonderful verses, and ‘Sneakers’, produced with a very Illmatic world class feel by Pete Rock. This is top drawer work from Pete and stands out a mile from the rest, as if he was trying to demean all the newbies on “Immobilarity” on purpose. But sadly, just about the all other tracks on this are unremarkable. Which is sad, as Rae’s lyrics are always high quality, but it’s just that the structure of the songs and the beats weaken the whole experience. The first American Cream Team cut is blisteringly mediocre, but the second one ‘Raw’ which is based around a reworking of the ‘Winter Warz’ hook is hideous, with a despicably corny beat which sounds like what hell would be for someone who hates disco. It also has this unusual terrible quality – all hip hop beats are physically repetitive, but the trick is to get them to sound non-repetitive and not stand out as irritating. ‘Raw’s’ beat does the exact opposite.
A trip to hell would not prepare you for what lies after ‘Raw’, though. This track, ‘Pop Shit’, kicks in with some mumbling followed by a big bad ass drum. The melody of the actual beat then kicks in, and results in the same feeling you get when you’re in a silent crowded lift and someone breaks wind. The beat sounds like it has been created by the brain-damaged bastard child of Swizz Beatz and a bad German trance DJ with a cellphone ringtone generator. If the beat to DMX’s ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’was a person, ‘Pop Shit’ is what it would sound like after being beaten half to death with a shovel. Vo and Pop (who, perhaps uncoincendetally, produced ‘Raw’ and the very annoying ‘Heart To Heart’) should be hung for their crimes against hip hop. Fuck that, crimes against music. In fact, now I think about it, crimes against ears. This is THE worst beat I have EVER heard. Yes, worse than any of the drivel on mp3.com, worse than any of those abysmal Cash Money beats. And it’s not as if Rae’s lyrics save the day – he comes off sounding more like a bad Silkk The Shocker impersonator than anybody who should be in the Wu-Tang Clan.
It’s a real shame that Rae’s lyrics don’t get to shine on this record, cause they are 95% ill as fuck. Along with that three-way vision, that was what made “Cuban Linx” great – dope as hell atmospheric beats with tight ass lyrics and the contributions of the Gambinos – this however, has only one of these.