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Raekwon the Chef Has the Hip-Hop Recipe

RECORD RACK

August 20, 1995|Cheo H. Coker

RAEKWON THE CHEF

"Only Built for Cuban Linx . . ."

Loud/RCA

* * * *

In terms of rhyme content, cadence and sonic complexity, the debut solo effort by one of the strongest vocalists of the nine-member, Staten Island-based Wu-Tang Clan single-handedly resurrects East Coast-based hip-hop, much the same way Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" altered the West Coast rap sound.

"Cuban Linx," like Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" or De La Soul's "3 Feet High and Rising," breaks all of the rules of what a record should sound like: dirty beats that clang like utensils, rapid-fire rhymes mishmashed with vocal wails, heavy piano lines and sweeping, repeating bits of dialogue that sometimes bleed into the vocal tracks. It confounds and fascinates with each listen.

"Cuban Linx" is actually a Wu-Tang album disguised as a Raekwon solo. The posse efforts--including "Criminology" and "Wu-Gambinos"--match the level of anything on Wu-Tang's "Enter the 36 Chambers" and show Raekwon to be a street-scribe with cinematic ability.

But the most important element is the musical cohesion. Rza's production sensibilities, sometimes minimal, other times symphonic, pull the listener in despite the chaos. In a genre characterized by singles, "Cuban Linx" is a full-blown album where the big picture is just as moving as the compositional stylistic elements.

\o7 Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e\f7 x\o7 cellent).\f7

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