Raekwon's timeless capsule of mafioso hip-hop celebrates another birthday.
Many are quick to associate the Wu-Tang Clan with their mysticism, but two of its most consistent members blessed the group with something far more dangerous. Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, known in some circles as The Chef and Iron Man, were not to be trifled with under any circumstances. RZA, ever-the mastermind, explained the process in bringing Rae's solo music into the fold. "The real street n*ggas, the n*ggas we all were shying away from, we needed to hit them," he recalls, speaking with XXL. Enter Raekwon, one of 36 Chambers' standout performers, and to this day, one of hip-hop's most innovative lyricists. Who better to craft a hood classic?
Though Rae was deemed the next prodigal child to bear the Wu-Tang banner, the loyal soldier found himself bringing his consigliere into the fold. A decision that would likely change hip-hop history in a variety of ripple-esque ways. Consider that today, many still view Cuban Linx... as one of the bonafide Wu masterpieces, and by proxy, an essential chapter of the hip-hop canon. While the project boasts immersive production, in which RZA blends the aforementioned mystical elements with the gritty aesthetic of Staten Island's underbelly, it's Rae's lyricism that elevates Cuban Linx to the upper tier. Hood tales soaked in a delectable dab of stream-of-consciousness absurdism, slices of life pulled directly from one man's innovative and occasionally twisted imagination.
In the same retrospective conversation with XXL celebrating the legacy of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., Ghost detailed his own energy during the recording process - one that certainly contributed to the project's no-holds-barred approach. "We was in our prime. Back then I was punchin' a lot of rap n*ggas in their face, and n*ggas was getting beat up in the clubs," he recalls. "We were banned from everything. They wouldn't even let me in the Tunnel. N***s was scared to death when I was out there wilding. I was fucking n***as up, robbing n***s, fucking a lot bitches, just doing dumb shit - and I'm rhyming."
Formidable, fearsome, and brutally honest, Cuban Linx is far from an easy listen. Closer to snuff film than the stylized depiction of the New York crime syndicate, it remains an essential piece of the puzzle that is our beloved Golden Era. If you're not up to code, fear not. Raekwon's seminal masterpiece isn't going anywhere. Happy birthday to one of the rawest albums of our time!