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Recreating Zeitgeist: The Problem With OB4CL2

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At some point in the past bunch of years, Raekwon, and company bought into the idea of 90s New York hip-hop pushed by weren’t-even-there nostalgics and not you know, what it actually sounded like. Because rap got kinda fruity, New York rap was been retrofitted into being nothing but hard-ass aggression and tough-talk. No knowledge. No insight. Just pithy, gritty storytelling. Timbs and 40s. “Cracks and weed”. Sprinkle in some Kung-Fu samples, some Killer clips and resurrect Papa Wu and you’re there. Not that all those things weren’t a part of Cuban Linx’s success, but that’s not all there was.

And yeah, occasionally, the sheer ugliness of the details boils over and the Wu’s veteran status–heard in their voices even–works for them, like they’re aged soldiers and all the shit and violence they saw and occasionally implemented is flashing before their eyes at 38–the weight of it all heavy upon them–but that byproduct of the shit-talk isn’t investigated any further. That, coupled with the lack of a narrative makes the whole thing pretty toothless. Lots of stomping around but not much more.

The overdose of tough-guy rhymers, each digging as deep as they can and dredging up the most fucked-up images they can (but one of many examples: “They found a two year old, strangled to death/with a love daddy t-shirt/ in a bag at the top of the steps”) to really no end at all is depressing–just not in the intended “shit’s real” sense. This shit’s not real.

Not that these guys should be “above” anybody or anything, but there’s something very telling about tossing on some guest-spots from way more conventional street rappers like Beanie Sigel and Styles P and pretending they share an aesthetic. Rae and Ghost are like those guys, but they’re also way more tripped-out. They’ve conveniently forgotten about that and that’s the tough part. 90s rap’s being rewritten here. Like one of those concerts where a 60s guitarist, a 70s butt-rocker, and an 80s virtuoso share a bill: It makes sense but it doesn’t.

Maybe it’s the surprisingly wizened words of BP3 echoing even as I try to move my way through Cuban Linx 2, but there’s something kinda sad about Cuban Linx 2. Sad the way real street dudes at 40 are. Mean-mugging their way through life, be it a guy they’re about to beat the ass of (probably for like $22 dollars) or the clerk who asked for an ID along with their credit card when they bought Guitar Hero 5. Cubax Linx 2 is street dudes turned superstars bending over backwards to sound like street dudes again and doing an okay job and patting themselves way too hard on the back for doing so.

further reading/viewing:
-”The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (A.K.A How M.O.P Won)” from Unkut
-Clip of Wu Tang in Japan from The Show

Written by Brandon

September 11th, 2009 at 4:03 am

Posted in Raekwon, Wu Tang

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