Raekwon reflects back on his "Purple Tape" aka "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..." and the decision to make the original cassette tape purple.
Raekwon continues to deliver new content year after year, but his endeavors as a solo artist all started with the classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... dubbed "The Purple Tape" because the original cassette tape was purple. As Rae preps his upcoming release, F.I.L.A (Fly International Luxurious Art) and continues to tour, he took a moment to reflect on the origins of the purple tape with Complex.
Check out a few excerpts from his interview below, where he discusses the decision to make the tape purple and reveals it could have almost been a green tape, since that was his favorite color.
When you put the Purple Tape out, did you think it would have the impact on hip-hop that it’s had?
When I put it out, I believed in it a lot. When we made it, it was my turn in the Clan to do my thing and I was like “Fuck that, Meth and them niggas got heaters. They got classic albums,” so I needed one under my belt. I took everyone into my world on that album. Everybody always looked at that gangster type of street hustle rap as my chamber. I just came in with the shit that I grew up around and was just talking the tales of the streets. RZA said “Your shit is so…to the other side, but it’s needed.” He just said “Yo, stay in your box,” so I would just talk about the shit that I related to. Keys, jewelry, drugs, bitches, whores and whatever. That’s what I brought to the table.
Whose idea was it to make the actual tape purple?
It was mine. It was my thing because at the end of the day, I felt like that was my baby. I wanted to make sure that the average cat that would listen to it had something special in his cassette deck. Like, out of all of his tapes, my shit was private; my shit was for special people. Like you had to be somebody to rock that, so I wanted to separate that from everybody else’s. At first I was gonna do it green, ‘cause green is my favorite color; I like olive green, but they couldn’t do that color. Next thing you know, they was like “Blah, blah, blah, blah and purple” and I was like “A lot of niggas might think purple is for girls” but I liked the color because it stood out, so I was like “Fuck it, let’s go with purple.” Next thing you know, everybody gave it a name of its own, because you didn’t have to name the album no more, it was like “Yo, listen to this. I don’t know what the fuck the purple tape is, but get that shit.” And that’s how it came to be. It built its own name.
Do you ever wish that you put "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. ll" out sooner? Like, maybe in ’99 instead of ’09?
Nah, I didn’t know when it was coming. It’s hard to do things over; when we made that shit the first time, we wasn’t thinkin’ about doing it over. It was just for that time. Only built for Cuban linx niggas—that’s how we felt. We were rockin’ the Cubans; we called them pythons though, that chain that you can’t pop. You gotta put your foot in a nigga’s chest to take that shit off. It was just about the bond, but when we made it, we wasn’t thinking about part two because that was the foundation for me as a solo artist. So I just wanted to do my job and come with a great record.