If you don’t think Cuban Link is nice on the mic, go back and re-listen to “Off the Books.” Dude absolutely kills his verse, which is really saying something considering Pun rhymes first. Originally from Havana (he emigrated with his parents at age six) Cuban Link came up rapping with Pun and Triple Seis, and was kind of like the Cease to Pun’s Biggie (albeit much more talented.) Of course when Pun died, Link’s career fell into the hands of Fat Joe, with whom he apparently never had much of a relationship. For whatever reason (widespread bootlegging, monetary disputes with Joe), Link’s Atlantic debut was never released, and he pretty much disappeared before reemerging in 2005 with the self-released Chain Reaction. Cuba definitely got a raw deal (he’s one of many), but after listening to 24k I doubt the album would have done much even if Atlantic had released it. The lyrics are solid as usual, but most of the production is on some Tonka shit, and at 24 tracks the album feels bloated as hell. That said, there are definitely a few joints on here, particularly the banging “Men of Business.”
Cuban Link — “Men of Business” ft. Noreaga, Kool G. Rap, Lord Tariq and M.O.P.
What a fucking lineup! You never hear tracks like this on New York albums nowadays (at least not on major-label releases) mostly because NY emcees are busy recruiting whoever’s hot right now from the West or the South (or, in Jay-Z’s case, Drake, Kid Cudi, and MGMT), but in 2000 New York still ran shit, at least to some extent. A major-label posse track could still consist of six hard rhymers from the Big Apple (who weren’t just the main dude’s weed carriers) because NY artists were still relevant and considered commercially viable. Shit, G. Rap was the only dude on this track not signed to a major. I’m not saying that hip-hop shouldn’t grow, but I’d much rather hear these guys on a track together than, say, Gucci, O.J., Plies, and Rick Ross. I mean, wouldn’t everyone?
Anyway, back to the track: Nore’s at his best here, making up what he lacks in complexity with those trademark “did he just say that?” non-sequitors. Cuba comes off like Pun’s natural heir, while veterans G. Rap and M.O.P. do just what you would expect them to. The real surprise here is Lord Tariq, who I really only know from that “Uptown” song he did with Peter Gunz. I always thought of him as a one-hit wonder, but he actually kinda murks his verse. Makes you wonder why he just disappeared. The best thing about this track—and what sets it apart from so many other posse cuts—is that everyone’s shit is sharp. You can actually have an interesting argument about who came hardest, because a case can be made for each emcee. I can’t even remember the last time I could say that about a song.