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  • Lex Diamond Story - Review

    RAEKWON
    LEX DIAMOND STORY (Universal)
    DECEMBER 2003


    It's the consensus in hip-hop that Raekwon's 1995 debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was one of the greatest rap albums ever dropped. Any fan looking to build a collection of classics needs this amongst them. With the praise piled on it from all corners of the hip-hop landscape, it was definitely going to be difficult to follow-up. Immobilarity was meant to build on OB4CL's success and be another classic LP, but as is often seen with emcees with classic debuts, people build too many expectations and are inevitably let down when the they find the second is not a Part-II of the classic first.

    I find myself in the minority, in that I don't regard Immobilarity as such a disappointment as many others. It was damaged by shaky production in some places, but Rae's lyrical capacity didn't erode or diminish for this LP. People were hoping for an album that sounded similar to OBC4L, and were disappointed when they didn't get one. My review isn't on this album though (however if you have it in your collection, I recommend an open-minded re-listen).

    Last year saw the release of The Lex Diamond Story, which once again was held up against the yardstick of OB4CL. Many peoples' expectations of The Chef had diminished after the perceived inferiority of Immobilarity (as well as hip-hop's general lack of patience with the whole Wu family), and so it didn't get as much shine before its release. When the advances were sent out, the first reviews were mixed. The retail reviews basically came to the conclusion that it was better than Immobilarity, but still a far cry from OB4CL. Even the most hardcore Wu heads dismissed the album and it was, as the sophomore release, criminally slept-on.

    As a die-hard Ghostface fan and a great fan of the Raekwon/Ghostface partnership, I was disappointed to find Starks on only two tracks. The other Wu guest spots were encouraging, as I'm always on the look for Masta Killa verses, and Meth has a habit of coming strong on guest appearances.

    1. The Lex Diamond Intro
    We are introduced to the character of Lex Diamond, a Mafia-style crime boss in a spoken-word intro. Skeptics at this point prepare themselves for the same old Mafioso cliches which have been employed again-and-again in hip-hop. Raekwon's not off to a great start.

    2. Pit Bull Fights
    An energetic jump-off, and the memories of a poor intro are dispelled quickly. This is reminiscent of early Wu material, grimy, with Rae's characteristic flow and gritty lyrics sitting well on the horns of the beat. A criticism of this is just as we begin to really feel it, the track ends - Rae would have done well to make this track longer than two minutes.

    3. Hitman Salary (Skit)
    Another skit, which unfortunately offers nothing to the album, serving only to make it disjointed.

    4. King Of Kings (featuring Havoc)
    A blazing track, one of the better ones on the album. Havoc stops by, and the two trade lyrics over laid-back trombones. Neither of them disappoint, the track really grows on you, and after a few listens is especially standout. This one doesn't suffer the same duration problems as Pit Bull Fights, at almost double its length. The track culminates in what many perceived to be a Jay-Z diss ("Not the S-dot-Carters, no disrespect, but respect me..."), which in the context of the verse is simply Rae in full flow, priding himself in his own style.

    5. Missing Watch (featuring Ghostface)
    Sick. Large expectations come with Raekwon-Ghostface collabos. Both emcees absolutely kill it, in a witty and creative track. Raekwon tells a story of how he loses his pride-and-joy (an iced-up watch) in a club, and then the duo search frantically, getting in confrontations with several people on a mission to locate it. As the tension builds, insults are thrown, egos are bruised, shots are fired, and quickly the whole scene becomes chaos. The lyrics and story are top-notch.

    6. All Over Again
    Outstanding. The sped-up soul sample is similar to recent Kanye songs, with Raekwon telling the story of coming up, recalling early Wu days, as well as speaking a little piece on the ill state of his home neighbourhoods. A very personal, socially-conscious, reminiscing track ("This is on some Can It Be/Cream shit, right here.."), which is additionally is lyrically top-notch.

    7. Clientele Kids (featuring Fat Joe and Ghostface)
    After the first Ghostface collabo coming off as well as it does, I was expecting big things from this. A throwback to the Supreme Clientele sound, this is definitely one of the best tracks on the album. A definite banger, and after several listens you can really get into it. Although all three emcees shine, Ghostface slaughters the catchy beat with his characteristic nasty lyrics, inimitable flow and vulgar imagery.

    8. Smith Bros.
    It's confirmed that Raekwon is tired of OB4CL comparisons as he switches on an interviewer. This mini-skit then launches into another great track, as he flows brilliantly over a beat of dramatic-sounding strings, describing scenes of pre-36 Chambers days. The momentum of quality is picking up, and at this point it's difficult to understand why this album is so slept-on.

    9. Restaurant (Skit)
    An unmemorable skit, a conversation in a restaurant which didn't warrant the two minutes it was given. We're left wondering if the good portion of the album has finished already.

    10. Robbery (featuring Ice Water Inc.)
    The album's forward momentum is brought to an abrupt halt. This track is standard and unmemorable, a collection of unimpressive rappers describing how they're going to rob and kill you.

    11. Fuck You (Skit)
    Another out-of-place skit which compounds the fear that the dope section of the LP has wrapped up.

    12. Pa - Blow Escablow
    The LP quickly changes pace as another sick track is thrown at us - people comment that this sounds like it could have been on OB4CL. Another definite banger, the beat is minimalist and perfectly-suited to Rae's rhyme patterns. He skilfully tells the story of the fall-from-grace of a Colombian druglord, with a twist at the end (which should have been further expanded on). All in all, the prospects for the rest of the cut pick up.

    13. Musketeers of Pig Alley (featuring ft. Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck)
    The two guests are arguable the most slept-on Wu members, and the result is a great track. The beat, once again, is energetic and fits exactly over the three emcees' flows, creating a certified Wu Fam banger. The lyrics don't disappoint, and as expected, all three bring the heat. This track also falls into the duration trap, and as the song ends after three minutes, we're left wanting more.

    14. Ice Cream Pt 2 (featuring Method Man and Cappadonna)
    In stark contrast to the preceding track, this is a big disappointment. The original Ice Cream was a brilliant track, arguably a classic, but the beat for this is just plain horrible, and even a Meth guest spot can't save it. The beat really does ruin this song.

    15. The Hood (featuring Tiffany Villarreal)
    A feel-good, R&B/pop-type track which I don't think suits Rae's style. I'm guessing this was what The Chef had in mind for a first single, but I don't think it is carried out well. That said, the lyrical quality does not disappoint, and the subject matter is definitely a nice change from the gangsterish theme which very quickly becomes repetitive. After a few listens, the track does grow on you, but you can't help but feel this song was originally meant for Ja Rule. It's a good addition for variety, but not much else.

    16. Wild Chimpanzees (Skit)
    A witty skit, probably the only good skit on the album which is plagued by too many interludes.

    17. Planet Of The Apes (featuring Capone and Sheek Louch)
    Right back to top form. This track is what 'Robbery' tries to be, a great collab cut with thugged-out emcees dropping decent lyrics over a grimy beat. Don't look for anything jaw-droppingly original in this.

    18. Wyld In The Club (featuring Ultra Ice Water)
    Songs like this remind me of Bravehearts on a Nas track, dragging down the quality of the album. The beat is decent, though there are definitely better 'club-type' beats around. The track is rescued by Raekwon's verse, which comes too late to save it becoming anything more than a generic posse cut.

    19. Once Upon A Time (featuring Tekitha)
    This is a great closing track, with a haunting and eerie beat, and Raekwon steadily delivering trademark high-quality lyrics. Tekitha provides brilliantly fitting vocals to go with the mood of the song, and the album's last song leaves us on a high note.

    20. The Lex Diamond Story (Outro)
    We return to the repetitive skit material for the outro. It's an attempt at going full-circle, but just serves to remind us of the poor-quality skits littering the LP.

    Raekwon is one of those rare emcees you can count on to never produce poor quality lyrics, even on horrible songs he consistently comes correct with his rhymes. A lot of this album is quintessential Wu material, though creativity and originality is definitely present with some of the subject-matter and concepts. Unlike a lot of recent Wu solo material, the Wu collaborations prove to be more than just filler as they work extremely well (Ice Cream Pt II being crippled by a horrible choice of beat). The Raekwon and Ghostface pairing delivers especially well, and it's a shame we don't see more of it.
    If your life is easy, you're doing something wrong.

  • #2
    (split into two posts because of word limit)


    Summary:
    STOP SLEEPING! A good album. Remove the skits, and it becomes an extremely good album, but still with its weak points. Too many people look for an LP which will be similar to OB4CL, which Raekwon is never going to deliver, so people should push it out of their minds while listening to his material. The Lex Diamond Story should be taken for what it is.

    Praise:
    Lyrically strong from start to finish
    Some real bangers
    Inspired Wu collaborations

    Criticisms:
    Too many skits which add nothing to the album
    Poor production in parts
    Ice Water guest appearances

    Skip: The skits, Robbery, Ice Cream Pt II, Wyld In The Club

    Overall: 7.5/10

    This LP is criminally slept-on. I recommend everyone to give it a listen, and if you've already listened to it, give it a re-listen
    If your life is easy, you're doing something wrong.

    Comment


    • #3
      A little late on this review don't you think??


      Good review tho , I agree this album isn't as recognized as it should be.
      Your Canine Companion

      Comment


      • #4
        Good review

        I love the album.. Pitbull fights is my favourite song

        Everyone should get it

        And tomorrow night I will listen to most of this songs live

        yayayayay
        Attached Files
        /-\narchy.

        Lilith Entertainment Wallpapers

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by A Great Dogman
          A little late on this review don't you think??

          Good review tho ( Y ), I agree this album isn't as recognized as it should be.
          Cheers , I know it ain't a new-release or nothin, but it's too heavily ignored, was just hoping to raise peoples' awareness of a great album.
          If your life is easy, you're doing something wrong.

          Comment


          • #6
            the album was ok; better than immobilarity..."once upon a time" & "missing watch" (flipping the same sample as "whussup now muthafucka") are my favorite tracks...

            good review...

            Comment


            • #7
              I'd check it out, If it would drop here lol, only Wu-Album this year was RZA's over here-
              ^he's from austria, without stereotyping most central/eastern europeans are sexfiends where nothing is taboo.
              -MidwestSwing

              Comment

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