If Raekwon's 1995 masterwork Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is the rap equivalent of Brian De Palma's Scarface, then this, the 14-years-later sequel, is like Michael Mann's Heat. Both are stylish and rich in atmosphere, but where one has complexity, the other has clichés.
Many of them come from Rae's supporting cast (with the exception of Ghostface, who raps like a man on fire). Dr. Dre's contributions sound like he's never heard a Raekwon song before, while Method Man needs to retire altogether.
But Rae's made a herculean effort to recapture the dark, diabolical feel of his coke-slinging classic. Listening to him in his prime, with his bizarre slang and intertwining storylines, was like trying to watch a foreign film without subtitles - difficult to follow but captivating all the same. Over the years, his raps grew less engrossing and his albums bombed atomically. But he's back on point with OB4CL2, sounding as fierce and focused as ever.
Top track: House Of Flying Daggers