– On August 1st, 1995, Mafioso themed artistry was forever ingrained into hip-hop culture with the release of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx A.K.A The Purple Tape; Wu-Tang member Raekwon’s debut solo album.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is fueled by a heavy dosage of gritty street-inspired tales, a sequential movie-like vibe including Kung Fu and Mafia film clips (courtesy of RZA of course), and countless allusions to organized crime – particularly that of American Mafia culture. And, while Kool G Rap is generally credited as the official originator of Mafioso rap, Raekwon and The Wu’s formula allowed that subculture to truly permeate the streets, dubbing it an instant classic. So much so, it inspired themes, characters, and personas of many other legendary hip-hop albums including Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt (1996) and Notorious B.I.G’s Life After Death (1997). Wu-tang Clan found themselves trendsetting at every turn in tracks like “Wu Gambinos” where you’ll find the entire collective giving themselves alter egos just like the mobsters they’re emulating – a tactic later used by Tupac Shakur (Makaveli), Notorious B.I.G (Frank White), and Nas (Escobar) to name a few.
Other factors that led to the incredible reception of this album included the beginning of the Raekwon-Ghostface Killah duo, the introduction of Cristal as a staple drink in Black culture, an unexpected feature from Nas, and even slang terms deriving from the Supreme Alphabet and Supreme Mathematics of the Five Percent Nation.
Very few people outside of the great Raekwon and his fellow Wu-Tang Clan group members/affiliates can shift an entire culture the way that Only Built 4 Cuban Linx did. Although Wu-Tang Clan has left a trail of greatness everywhere that they’ve stepped, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, is often regarded as one of the two best solo projects ever created by a Wu-Tang member, alongside GZA’s Liquid Swords.
According to RZA, “The only two albums I did with nobody fucking with me was Linx and Liquid Swords. I was on a mission.” Well…that explains a lot.
Make sure you take the time to get a few listens out of this project. It’s well worth it as you may even find some hidden gems, such as material sampled in Jay Z’s 4:44 album.