I finally got a check from work today, which combined with the last (and probably final) unemployment check I recieved (and then spent most of) brought my bank account to like 400 dollars. Though I know I should be saving every cent I make (at least what I don’t put toward my student loans) I couldn’t resist going on a bit of a spending spree, culminating in a long-delayed purchase of Raekwon’s OB4CL2. Yes, that’s right—while most of you reading this probably can’t remember the last time you paid for music, I dipped into my woefully inadequate savings today to drop 18.99+tax on a CD I could have easily downloaded for free. I’m not sure if that makes me noble or an idiot, but I do feel happy to have supported my neighborhood music store (I see you, Joe!) as well as Shallah Raekwon, who more than deserves my twenty dollars for having done the impossible and meeting—hell, surpassing—the staggering expectations for his perpetually-delayed, damn-near mythical fourth album. Simply put, Cuban Linx 2 is incredible, and I say this having had only part of today to digest its 22 tracks.
However, all credit does not go to Rae alone. While the Chef’s presence certainly holds the project together, as with most Wu-Tang solo albums (particularly the early releases to which OB4CL2 pays tribute) Rae’s latest offering is really a family affair. Ghostface lends his energetic and often hilarious presence to six of the album’s tracks, while Meth, GZA, Cappa, Masta Killa, and a scene-stealing Inspectah Deck all pop up throughout, often more than once. Even RZA, whom Rae infamously labeled a “hip-hop hippie” during the 8 Diagrams sessions, contributes three tracks, each of which bangs. With soundbytes from Old Dirty featured on the touching “Ason Jones,” that leaves only one Wu member MIA. Which begs the question:
Where the fuck is U-God?
The emcee also known as Baby Huey has always had a complicated relationship with the Clan. A prison bid prevented him from appearing on much of 36 Chambers, and he was the second-to-last group member to release a solo album (1999’s Golden Arms Redemption, whose commercial failure he would later blame on The RZA.) Tensions between the Abbot and U-God would come to a head in early 2008, when the emcee sued Wu-Tang Music Corp for $170,000 in unpaid royalty fees. He later claimed he was being followed and that his life was in danger as a result of the suit.
As if his professional problems weren’t enough, U-Godzilla has also long suffered the ridicule of Wu-Tang fans, many of whom will never forgive him for the puzzling “Black Shampoo,” or his strip club video, the hilariously ill-advised “Bump.” Still, I’ve never really understood the hate directed at Huey in Youtube comments and Amazon reviews; sure, he’s a lesser Wu member, but he’s certainly no weaker than Masta Killa or Cappadonna. In fact, I’d say he’s a better rapper than both the aforementioned, and a Wu album wouldn’t be the same without his gruff voice and free-association rhymes. Plus, by all accounts he just dropped an extremely dope solo album (the brilliantly-titled Dopium), despite having no input at all from the RZA. With Cuban Linx II serving as a sort of 8 Diagrams replacement for fans who couldn’t get with RZA’s eclectic sounds, it seems only natural that the whole Clan should be in attendance. So what went down? Dopium heavily features the Wu, including Rae, so there seems to be no validity to reports of Huey’s leaving the Clan. And while things may remain icy between Golden Arms and the RZA, the days of RZA’s dominating all musical decisions have long since passed (again, he produced three of 22 tracks.) So U-God’s absence from OB4CL2 remains a mystery. Let’s hope the next Wu-Tang album (if there ever is one) features the whole Clan, or at least what’s left of it. With Dirty gone, the group can’t stand to lose another member, especially when his replacement would surely be Streetlife. No offense to Meth’s protege, but I’m just not ready to accept such a thing.