Pack Your Knives and Flow
So I feel like the conversation centering around Rae and the sequel is quickly burning itself out, and honestly after seeing him at S.O.B.'s Thursday night, the childlike joy he's getting from being relevant again, the love New York is showering him with, it makes me sad to be in the camp that's not head over heels in love with this album. Rae is obviously one of my favorite rappers of all time and no one is happier about the commercial success of this more or less good effort that obviously cost him large quantities of blood, sweat and tears. But.
Last night a friend and I were drunkenly discussing the album and I hit on a pretty interesting experiment. I started flipping back and forth between the two Cuban Linx albums on my iPod and it yielded some results that suggest a thought that previously hadn't occurred to me. A lot of the gripes concerning the album have to do with its intentional, single minded retro feel, more or less questions of philosophy. Last night suggested that for me it may just come down to the physical rapping. Now obviously in the course of 15 years flows are going to alter, mature, go off in different directions, etc. But to what effect?
Ghost for instance took his to a bizarre, experimental territory. He sings badly, accentuates everything and emotes heavily on nearly every bar. Rae seems to have withdrawn somewhat. His flow has become almost entirely devoid of personality or flourish of any kind, and not in that awesome, dead eyed, disaffected, menacing way that Pusha T and Young Buck (Once upon a time) are so great at. At his recent best on 8 Diagrams and most notably here on "New Wu" he achieves a confident leer with his cold, soberly spit threats and descrips. But for most of OB4CL 2 Rae sounds nearly listless, one comment I came across suggested he sounds like he's reading his rhymes and at times that's dead on. On "Pyrex Vision" it's intentionally softer but even then it provokes a particular disengagement, it's unexciting for the listener. Lyrically he's consistent but the energy is always lacking and at times he sounds like he's barely there. Contrasted with the angry, aggro young man Raekwon was in his early 20s it's particularly glaring. But don't take my word for it.
Knuckleheadz - Raekwon, Ghostface & U-God
Fat Lady Sings