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Raekwon, ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II’ (EMI)

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Raekwon’s classic 1995 solo debut, was an impressionistic tour through the thrilling highs, the solemn lows, the violent comedy, and the simmering boredom making up the life of a New York City drug dealer. Rae was hungry and at the height of his powers, riding some of the RZA’s hardest-knocking, most progressive production. Cuban Linx II — which features four contributions from the RZA — is more of a reenactment than a sequel.

Production has been handled buffet-style, with a gaggle of contributors (Alchemist, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre) ably providing variations on RZA’s creeping, caustic recipe. The late J Dilla, whose strings and bass stabs on “Flying Daggers” will make you miss him all over again, provides the most ear-catching tracks here. Raekwon still rhymes in rapid-fire spurts, on and off the beat, like a jamming machine gun. And while the songs may lack the original’s wild-eyed narrative, they still contain some of his most rewind-worthy bars in years. On Cuban Linx II, the Wu-Tang vet has grown old and weary and his thoughts drift both to the mortal coil (asking, “Bury me in Africa… with diamonds out of Syria”) and to his golden years (on “Walk With Me,” he sees himself aboard a “blue yacht…with a Commodores CD”).

Raekwon, the Cuban Linx narrator, is ready for retirement. But Raekwon, the MC, is finally ready to move on.