By Michael Endelman
Updated January 09, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

RAEKWON The Lex Diamond Story (Universal)

The Wu-Tang Clanner’s third solo disc is a blast of cryptic verbiage and slang-loaded crime narratives, recalling a not-so-distant past (the mid-’90s) when the Wu’s wordy and weird style was actually popular. The Staten Island MC’s rhyme skills are sharp as ever — the cinematic storytelling is Scorsese-esque, and his choppy, blunt flow attacks like a pissed-off pit bull. Sadly, though, the workmanlike production from lesser-known beatmakers (there’s no RZA here) makes this comeback merely good, not great.