When Raekwon released Only Built 4 Cuban Linx in 1995, there was a dynamic shift in New York Hip-Hop. All of a sudden, rappers had to have two and three aliases and every stick-up kid wanted to be down with John Gotti and the Italian mob. The Wu-Tang project sparked a new movement of MCs brushing up on their drug dealer talk and introduced production that was so unique nobody could quite define the sound.
As the rap world celebrates the LP’s 20th anniversary, VIBE courted RZA to talk about the impact the album had on hip-hop.
VIBE: You were an intricate part of Raekwon’s classic album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. With the 20th anniversary passing, can you talk a little about what the album means to you?
RZA: Some people would call that the perfect Hip-Hop album. That for me and Rae and all them nights working on that album, for me that was a Wu-Tang Clan album in its own way. And Rae’s way and voice and style of telling the street life — you never heard about Africans waving their arms in yellow cabs musty as a f*ck. He’s giving you New York. Clearly New York. And you don’t get a chance to hear that, “Ghost at a club playing a speaker, sippin’ on a Kahlua, their description of our city and our life still rings relevant today. And I think that music backdrop to it, for me as a producer…
You guys spazzed! We’ve never heard sounds like that
I wanted the people to know that I’m a scientist with sound. There’s something great in every record made. And there’s something great in every film made. Even the worst film, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. It’s something cool in that film. And I’m the type of person that pulls that coolest out and show you. So if you hear a song like “Knowledge God” or you hear a song like “Ice Cream,” and we’re using ice cream to describe women’s breasts and the beauty of them. These type of things were important to hip-hop, and they’re continuing. And the last thing I’m gonna say about Cuban Linx is that it also was a dynamic shift in hip-hop. It changed the slang and it changed the identity that rappers put on themselves.
No disrespect to the people whose successful with it, but the reason why Rick Ross is cool as Rick Ross is because an album like Cuban Linx made it cool to be a “Gigante,” to be Myer Lanskey, to be a “Capone” — all these names, we inspired that change to have multiple facets of who you are. And that’s big for Hip-Hop.
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