18 Years of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…”:The Wu-Tang Clan Still Ain’t Nuthin’ ta F**k Wit

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan.  A vital act in the East Coast’s Hip-Hop resurgence of the mid-90s, the nine-man collective was a creative force to be reckoned with.  The group’s ability to combine their kung-fu fascination and street life experiences over raw soundscapes was nothing short of extraordinary.

And as a result of the group’s prosperity, individual members also embarked on solo careers.  After the success of projects by Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, along with Ghostface Killah, dropped Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… on August 1, 1995.  Hip-Hop hasn’t been the same since.only-built-4-cuban-linx

As if Rae and Ghost’s rhymes over RZA’s board work, a purple cassette tape, and dialogue from The Killer isn’t already enough to make the release remarkable, the project is a concept piece about two people’s adventures in the underworld and their one last job before they get out.  Cuban Linx is a crime epic that’s just as vivid as anything Carlito’s Way projected on a movie screen, and the power of it is still being realized.  From the hustling themes of Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt to Kendrick Lamar’s narrative-driven good kid, m.A.A.d city, the influence of this 18-track collection can be found on those LPs as well as many others.

In recognition of Cuban Linx’s 18th birthday and the Wu’s 20th, I wanted to acknowledge what is, in my opinion, one of rap’s greatest albums.  Even after two decades in the game, the Wu-Tang Clan still ain’t nuthin’ ta f**k wit and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is one of the reasons why.

I love lyrics.  And this album surpasses most in terms of its quality of organized words.  There are so many I could quote, but a few in particular really stand out.  Nas, Cuban Linx’s only guest emcee outside of the Wu, drops a stellar verse on “Verbal Intercourse” and leaves a lasting impression with his rhyme about how some women transport drugs. “Rooster heads profile on a bus to Riker’s Isle/Holdin’ weed inside they p***y.”  However, it is during “Incarcerated Scarfaces” when Rae goes, “Me and the RZA connect, blow a fuse, you lose/Half-a** crews get demolished and bruised,” that a rap really says so much with so little.

Production-wise, it is some of Robert Diggs’ best work.  Where Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers has a stripped down element to it, Cuban Linx clearly shows growth in RZA’s skills as a producer by comparison.  The strings on “Knowledge God,” the Eddie Murphy sample on “Ice Cream,” and the violins on “Wu-Gambinos” are just a few examples of how the Wu-Tang sound had evolved.  The music became more advanced.  Where RZA’s beats were once suited for ciphers, it was on Cuban Linx that his instrumentals became capable of scoring cinema.

Conceptually, this recording does play like a movie too and that is what takes the album beyond just beats and rhymes.  It is this cohesiveness that makes Cuban Linx a masterpiece.  From the opener, “Striving for Perfection,” which sets up the plot to the album to “North Star (Jewels)”, the flawless closer that concludes the story with perils of wisdom from Papa Wu, everything is perfectly sequenced.  While other rappers before Rae had told tales of the streets (most notably Kool G. Rap), Cuban Linx goes beyond storytelling, and has a screenplay quality to it that to this day remains unmatched.

This album is a document that extends beyond the 36 chambers.  The music takes listeners on a journey of two hustlers who address all the dangers of the hood with as much potency as the drugs they are slanging.  It’s a rough road traveled, and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… chronicles every bump along the way.

Respect due for one of the most complete albums in all of Hip-Hop history.

What do you think?  Is the album a classic?  How does it stack up against other Wu-Tang releases?  Share your thoughts in the comments section!

  • knix3000

    This album is a classic beyond the shadow of a doubt. I was in high school when this came out and the entire school was fascinated by it. Like the author said this album is very cohesive and that is what sets it apart. It really felt like you were watching a black mafia movie when you had this in the tape deck! Respect.

  • I hate when writers talk about something they call ‘east coast rap.’ The only rap IS east coast (NYC) rap, that is the standard that all are measured by. Anything else is what it is. The south can have it’s class since they add their southern dialectic elements, but stop this territorialism when writing about rap. That east/west coast war is long over.

  • Saiyan Prince

    The Purple Tape. This album in BEYOND classic. Iconic is what I’d call it. OBFCL still can stand up to any album thats out right now.

  • Obi Won

    Albums like this are the reason we’re so tough on todays rap/hiphop music. This is also the reason that a person like myself has absolutely NO interest in the music out. We get hidden gems every now and then with Artist like Kendrick Lamar, but even with Kendrick, right now he’s like the little brother of the Golden Era who grew up in a house with ALL legendary artist. It would be shameful if he provided anything less. The days of great albums are OVER. We may get one every now and then but try our hardest to give extra credit to artist like J Cole, when those are still just the little brothers of Hip Hop. They got it but Big Brothers like Nas, Rae, Jigga, old Busta, AZ, they still got lines & history that acknowledge the new crap as good instrumental music. I cant see anyone creating another OB4CL timeless classic.

    • Chris M. McDade

      Great albums drop all the time, sir. Since you have no interest in the music that comes out nowadays, you won’t be able to experience those. I don’t see how you could possibly come with that statement if you don’t even listen to the music.

      • Obi Won

        Let me make a correction, I don’t have interest in the music ANYMORE, maybe if I added that word it would clarify. Trust me I tried to give new artist a chance. I used to go on datpiff and listen to random mixtapes. A lot of it was crap. Most times its thru word of mouth, but as of newer generation artist my top 5 in no order is KDot, Big Krit, Nipsey Hussel, Stalley, & Curren$y. Wale as the 6th man. Since u say great albums drop all the time, recommend some, and i’ll check them out. Someone recommended ASAP Rocky, I checked him out, and everyone know ASAP Rocky is trash.

      • Chris M. McDade

        I just have to go through a lot of albums. All genres, all artists… Regardless of their reputation. Im assuming you’re thinking about Hip Hop? So far this year… I’d say Ghostface Killah’s new album is a sure winner. That album is amazing.

  • johnblacksad

    Glacierz of Ice!

    i’d rather listen to Verbal Intercourse than hear Nicki Minaj rapping, featuring Drake singing… (smh). But ya’ll already knew that…

  • hoeyuno

    All the first solo albums are classics. all very unique… I think meths came out first and the “bring the pain” video was sick… ppls compare odd future to Wu but is anybody else other then tyler capable of holding people’s attention for a verse, little alone a whole album?

    • Tony G.


    • kay863

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      even know that a mother able to get paid $6225 in four weeks on the
      internet. have you read this page w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

      • hoeyuno

        No more drugs for you bitch. Gladys ain’t here!! And I thought it was$8000?? I’m definitely not checking your site now..lying ass hoe.

  • James Jones

    Damn 18 years old already!?! Got that purple tape on a road trip and did not remove it for the duration. If you wasnt pumping this you were on bullsh¥t – if u havent experienced ” only built 4 cuban links” you still on bullsh¥t- you got some homework

  • THEguyWHObonedURmoms

    i remembered the day this dropped ,RAEKWON & GHOSTFACE was at tower records in downtown manhattan me & a couple of my boys went to go get our albums signed by them, i copped 2 albums on wax,and the purple tape as well, it was well worth it CLASSIC MATERIAL

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  • Airspeed

    I remember vividly the Wednesday after Cuban Linx came out in New York City. Cats were calling up Flex and yelling at him for not playing anything other than Glaciers of Ice from it. He had to stop his show at one point and yell at kids to stop calling him about it and explained that Rae’s peoples didn’t send him a clean version of the ablum to play … so his engineers were frantically trying to bleep out the cuss words in each track so that he could put them on the radio. It was amazing. The city went nuclear over this joint.

    Look I’ve experienced a lot of crazy moments in Hip-Hop but that right there was one of my favorites. Its like Starks said on Mighty Healthy ‘The world can’t touch Ghost’s Purple Tape – Rae’s co-host…”