Nostalgic purchases are made by hip-hop consumers all the time. Whether it be the latest release from the New No Limit or Tha Row, or possibly the third or fourth come back from Slick Rick, nostalgia gets the best of us sometimes. Most of the time those purchases produce average albums, but then again the main reason they’re bought is not quality, but what they represent. Cuban Link was such a purchase for me. Two years ago I would have bought it anticipating a hot album from the only T.S. member who could hang with Pun. In 2005 I bought it because Cuban Link represents what’s left of the original Terror Squad, and in a way he also represents what’s left of Big Pun. I didn’t expect much from “Chain Reaction,” and while the record shows a lot of promise, in the end it didn’t deliver much.
Cuban Link was always regarded as second in line to Pun when it came to lyrical prowess. Link even outshined Pun on tracks like “Bet Your Man Can’t” and “Toe to Toe.” On “Chain Reaction” he shows his potential at times, but ultimately the album is held back by Cuban’s constant failed attempts at commercial and club hits. The album’s highlights include “My Story,” “Chain Reaction,” and “Letter To Pun.” On each of these tracks, Cuban is honest and real, staying true to the lyrical approach that got him his hype. “Letter to Pun” is probably one of 2005’s best tracks as Cuban passionately talks to his fallen brother and breaks down just what went down between him, Fat Joe, and Terror Squad.
Aside from these tracks, the album is filled with bland and unoriginal party tracks. Swizz Beatz shows up for three tracks, which would usually be a blessing, but instead Swizz drops 3 of his wackest beats for Cuban. Gone are the blaring horns on tracks like “Like That,” or the bounce of “I’m A Hustla.” Like all producers, Swizz can be great and horrible, and in this case he’s horrible. Even a guest appearance from Jadakiss on “Talk About It” can’t save Swizz’s lackluster production. Other club attempts include “Tonight’s The Night,” “Private Party” and “No Falla,” all of which miss the mark. Cuban’s only successful attempts at commercial music are on “Scandalous” and “Sugar Daddy.” “Scandalous” finds Cuban teaming up with Don Omar and reggaeton producer SPK and delivering another Latin anthem. It’s no better than any other reggaeton hit, but it’s just as good. “Sugar Daddy” features the syrupy sweet vocals of Mya, and though the record is pop through and through, it’s catchy enough to work.
“Chain Reaction” shows a lot of promise. Tracks like “No Mercy,” “Prison Wisdom,” and “Life Goes On” are pretty good, but the album features too many bad tracks to make up for it. Sure everyone wants to score a big hit to sell records, but forcing a hit usually ends with bad results. Next time around Cuban Link needs to balance his commercial side with more of the lyrical talent that got him signed in the first place and also upgrade the production a bit. With the right balance and production, Cuban Link can be big, for now he’s just Pun’s former apprentice with a so-so album.