Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay-Z & Raekwon... My Thoughts

In the early to mid 90’s Hip Hop fans would have been ecstatic to be treated to new Jay-Z and Raekwon albums in the same month, let alone the same week. Today it generated a moderate amount of media attention and a whole lot of internet attention. Bloggers love the superstars and the legends. While Jay-Z may be a bit of both he showed the superstar side of himself a bit more than the legendary skills he took the thrown with. Raekwon on the other hand has never been one for big numbers or mainstream appeal. He has however always repped for the Wu Tang and maintained a loyal following – all of whom should be saluting the man right about now for delivering a suburb follow up album to an album that it could easily be said should have been left alone.

What makes Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 succeed is exactly where Blueprint 3 fails. While Raekwon didn’t go back to RZA entirely, he has the abbot doing what he does best – fitting the appropriate pieces where they should be. Getting Dilla to sound like vintage ’93 “Wu Tang Ain’t Nuthin to Fuck Wit” on the stunning “House of Flying Daggers” which also sees fellow W representers Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Method Man or Moss painting the perfect backdrop for Beanie Sigel to talk about the harsh reality of being a parent behind bars, the sound here is from the gutter. It’s the sound of despair. It’s the sound of the ghetto. Add the chilling narratives from Raekwon and company to tell the story and you have one haunting picture painted.

Jay-Z on the other hand says he is setting a trend, like the first Blueprint did. But what we get sounds more like Jay-Z following the trends he has normally been the leader of. Sure the Blueprint 3 is listenable. “Empire State of Mind” will be getting burn well into next year. But is this really what 2009 should be hearing from Jay-Z? Kingdom Come made more sense than this. His flow is still in tact, his lyrics are hit or miss but he never sounds comfortable. And why should he, this isn’t his lane. Let Kanye do ‘Ye and you do you. If 808s & Heartbreaks would have seen Mr. West rapping, I contend this is the album we would have been given.

The original Blueprint was heartfelt, from Jigga’s soul. Stories of his innocence being lost and triumphs claimed. Here it’s stories of grandeur and luxury without a shred of personality. This is the rich Shawn Carter doing what he has to do to keep the checks coming in and the masses (and bosses) happy. Where’s the passion Jay?

Raekwon has that hunger. He is frothing at the mouth to get heard. If you’ve been lucky enough to catch him solo or with the Clan over the last few years you have probably heard his rants towards the new generation and on the death of Hip Hop. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 is the soundtrack of history. It’s nostalgia for the reminiscent heads. It’s Hip Hop that will never be forgotten but may be on a path for under exposure.

Blueprint 3 has given Jay his 11th number one album and will certainly get him another platinum plaque. It’s going to provide him a sold out tour (I bought my ticket the day they went on sale) and probably a couple more number one hits. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 debuted at number 5, not bad for Rae, and will probably struggle to go gold. He won’t see much of an increase of attendance at his shows and he won’t be getting any hits from this album. I guess that has always been the difference between these two. Raekwon’s art has always come first while, for Jay-Z, money has always been first.

If you never saw the ridiculous commercial made to hype this album, check it out over at Too Much Language!

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