I’m not going to kid you or myself, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” is one of my favorite albums of all-time; top 10, top 15, on any given day. Now, I know Rae will never make another Cuban Linx; it just isn’t in the cards. My review of this album is in no way levied against his magnum opus. I suppose there is a chance that Cuban Linx is so ingrained in my consciousness that I am biased and I don’t even realize it, but I doubt it.

The albums title explains just what Rae is trying to do with this album: tell the story of a fictional ghetto don named Lex Diamonds. While the mafiaso steez was fresh when he and Ghost first flipped it 8 years ago, it has long been played. The skits here portraying Lex are so incredibly corny and sound like they are intended to be a parody of the concept. Sadly, they aren’t. Nevertheless, Rae made some good strides since the abomination that was “Immobilarity.” At nearly every turn he spits with noticeable hunger and did a better job picking beats this time. Unfortunately, right off the bat the beats are distinctly familiar. “Pit Bull Fights” recycles an old Alchemist beat (“Red Light” by Smut Peddlers). Teaming with the ghost faced man who always seems to bring out the best in him, “Missing Watch” is likely the best lyrical effort here. Unfortunately, it is another recycled beat; this time Rasco’s classic “The Unassisted” is used, and not nearly as well either. “All Over Again” features a Kanye West-inspired beat and has Rae spitting some autobiographical rhymes that are a nice change of pace; “We did platinum back in the ’93/we painted pictures you could see/we was livin’ who y’all tryin’ to be/RZA had a vision/instead of cookin’ coke in the kitchen/he told the god hit the booth and start spittin.'”

It took several listens to get into, but the posse cut “Clientele Kids” with Ghostface and Fat Joe is a nice little banger too. The understated “Smith Bros.” continues the trend of good tracks as Rae flows like…ahem, ice water, over minimalist track. By the time you get to “Robbery” and “Pa-blow Escablow” roll around, the unoriginal drug rhetoric starts to get really tiring. Which is unfortunate since the beats for both are pretty good. Things really start to unravel with “Ice Cream Pt.2” with Meth. Sequels to classics are always dangerous ground, and this is about as bad as it gets. It goes from bad to worse with “The Hood” and its Murder Inc’ish rap/r&b stylings. The downward spiral continues with the too-thugged-out-for-their-own-good “Planet of the Apes” with Capone and Sheek and the laughable ‘club banger’ “Wylin in the Club.” Take note of the first emcee trying his hardest to be Ludacris.

All in all, “The Lex Diamond Story” is pretty average. I wouldn’t call it bad (as I originally thought after one listen), as it certainly has its strong moments. I also wouldn’t call it good as it was riddled with bad skits, some sub-par production, and rhymes that ended up going nowhere fast. I appreciate that the same topics have been covered hundreds of times by hundreds of people, but a little originality can always help that.