The success of Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Lix II” in both commercial and critical respects have lead to a string of desperate, aging rappers to believe they can return to the casino one last time and cash out on the respect and admiration their decade-old classic albums have earned. While this is not a new concept per se, the sheer volume of these half-baked ideas recently is startling. It seems that every, struggling veteran rap act from Capone-N-Noreaga (“The War Report 2”) to Sadat X (“Wild Cowboys 2”) have made plans to produce sequels to the records that made us love them in the first place in one last desperate grab for relevancy. GZA is the latest rapper to hitch his wagon to such an inherently limited concept.
It’s easy to understand why artists feel the need to make sequels to their classic records. It’s easy publicity. When an artist announces they are planning to make a sequel to a beloved album, fans get excited on the promise of a return-to-form for an artist. "Yo, GZA’s making Liquid Swords 2? Oh word? It’s about damn time he gets back to making that classic shit! "
The problem with this practice is that at best it’s artistic necrophilia and at worst, it’s gross commercial exploitation. Raekwon’s “Cuban Linx II” was an excellent album but the practice of wantonly stealing concepts of your older work only leads down a path where neither the genre or the artist can’t grow. Stealing from your older material leads to an endless feedback loop of the same material being produced over and over again. It’s circular. You can’t grow because you are stealing from yourself and you are stealing from yourself because you can’t grow. When a significant portion of artists in the genre continue to try and remake their classic album, the inevitability of stagnancy in the genre becomes entirely manifest. This is a problem that rap music has been assuredly facing for years. While the mainstream market for hip hop has withered from major label artists continuing to compromise their art by making pandering artistic choices to appeal a wider audience, the indie market has been flooded with album after album that sounds virtually identical to each other. Hip Hop cannot sustain itself that way especially when so much of what forms hip hop’s musical identity is the recycling and reinvention of the ideas of other artists. People will simply lose interest if they listen to the same music produced over and over again.
As Raekwon proved with his album, none of this prevents GZA from making a really, really good album when it comes down to actually producing “Liquid Swords 2.” GZA might be able to successfully execute a sequel that is as darkly chilling and brooding as his original masterpiece but the simple fact remains that he will still be trading in on the promise of the original product. However, it will be comfort food designed to soothe the soul of the true school hip hop fan. As hip hop fan, I demand more of my favorite artists than to simply have my favorite album rehashed for me. Say what you want about the bubblegum pop rap of B.o.B or the emo space rap of Kid Cudi but it’s a step in a new direction. Innovation will save the genre from stagnation because liquid swords can’t carve out a new lane for hip hop to flow through. Besides does the world really need "The Hunger For More 2?" (Yes, that's happening.)Be warned.