While expectations for Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3 have steadily dwindled, expecations for Raekwon's forthcoming Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II has shifted in the opposite direction. Following the leak of "House of Flying Daggers" we get another J Dilla production, "10 Bricks", a hard-grinding get-money knocker with verses by Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna that plays like an uncut dose of lay-low street magic. Like "Daggers", everyone here seems to be well within their comfort zone, hitting the track Wu-Tang attack-style, armed to the teeth with hard-nosed revenge vignettes and bruising spit. Most of the real burners we've heard off this thing have played it pretty close to the chest in this respect: the features are almost exclusively Shaolin-affiliated, with the content and delivery brimming with grimy panache. But on more and more of these Cuban Linx II cuts, Raekwon himself ends up walking away with top honors; he doesn't always nab the big one-liner, but his presence on these songs is irrefutably huge.
"Meanwhile, back on the block we see two trucks/ Then the windows roll down, we see these two fucks/ As soon as they jump out, see these tools bust," Cappadonna sneers over Dilla's vintage snares, gaunt orchestral flourishes, and a whiny guitar loop that imitates a tortured Chinese harp suite. Cap's in rare form, bookended by Rae's trademark blow blow-by-blow (almost impenetrably slung) and a ferociously-amped Ghost. What's great about "10 Bricks" is how fearless and energized these bars are, transforming otherwise lightweight-jabs ("Knock the ash off the blunt for front-niggas who cunt") into something potently formidable. This music is confident, not cocky: Ghost's admission of having "a team of niggas movin' my furs" should be obtusely funny, not tangibly intimidating. How does that work? Underestimate Cuban Linx II at your own peril.