One of the Wu-Tang Clan's sharpest swords finally creates the "sequel" to his stone-cold classic solo debut, and it was worth the wait. Raekwon employs production from Pete Rock, Dilla, Dr. Dre, RZA, Marley Marl and others and cooks up his best album since, well, the original "Cuban Linx."

It's unfair to think that "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. II," the long-awaited "sequel" to Raekwon's stone-cold classic solo debut, will be able to measure up to the original.

That a solid dozen of its 22 tracks actually do is a testament to the time and effort that one of the Wu-Tang Clan's sharpest swords put into its recording.

"Cuban Linx II" finds Rae indulging in the criminology and crack-rap tales that propelled the original to legendary status, exhibiting a flair for capturing the little details of the criminal underworld in a totally unique way.

"House of Flying Daggers" flips the old chorus from "Clan in Da Front" over a smashing beat, and as you might expect, Rae's partner in Cuban crime, Ghostface Killah, shows up all over the place, along with Inspectah Dek (the horror-organ grind of "Black Mozart"), Beanie Siegel (the low-key "Have Mercy"), Slick Rick, Jadakiss and others.

It could be argued that some of "Cuban Linx II's" tracks are overly simplistic, but it's more a case of the producers selecting spare, slightly-sinister samples that provide a nice bedrock for Raekwon's best verses in years.

"New Wu" is the crown jewel, a moody soul choir sample and old-school drums that have Method Man and Ghost flowing like it's '93 all over again. Rae selects a pleading Dilla beat for the ODB tribute, "Ason Jones," and "Pyrex Vision" cops an old DJ Premier beat for 55 seconds of blissful boom-bap throwback.

In short, this is the record that Raekwon fans have been hoping for since 1996. And it was worth the wait.

"Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. II" will be released on Sept. 8. Hear samples at Amazon.com.

Sussex Countian