For his third album, The Lex Diamond Story, Raekwon again evokes the gangsta mythology of his classic debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), while at the same time stretching out into new territory, to generally impressive results. The Wu-Tang member's previous album, Immobilarity (1999), also stretched out into new territory, but for that very reason the album was met with general indifference, which very well may be the fate of Lex Diamond also. After all, it's no secret: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx had been a masterstroke, not only one of best Wu-Tang albums ever but also one of the best East Coast gangsta albums ever. It was such a masterstroke that Raekwon struggled to follow it up. Perhaps that's why it took him so long to record his follow-ups, taking several years between albums to record Immobilarity and The Lex Diamond Story. Whatever the reason, the wait was worthwhile, for The Lex Diamond Story is a worthwhile album, not a masterstroke but an impressive accomplishment nonetheless. It makes heavy use of cinematic storytelling, framing the album as if it were a gangsta film with Raekwon's Lex Diamond alias as its main character, and a conflicted character at that. It helps, of course, that there are quite a few hot tracks here, particularly "Pit Bull Fights," "All Over Again," and "Once Upon a Time." The album employs a relatively large supporting cast, some good (Ghostface Killah, Method Man, the latter on an "Ice Cream" sequel) and some not so good (Rae's new posse, Ice Water). As all longtime Wu fans will no doubt wonder, RZA is nowhere to be heard here, which is a mixed blessing. Sure, who wouldn't love to see him drop some Cuban Linx-style beats? But at the same time, it's nice to hear Raekwon work with some original sounds from a wide-ranging pool of largely underground production talents. The overall result is a good album, not an especially great one on a par with Cuban Linx but certainly a better one than most other rappers out there were capable of in 2003.
The Lex Diamond Story Review
by Jason Birchmeier
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