This past Saturday, the Rock the Bells tour hit Governor’s Island in New York City. The tour featured Nas, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Mobb Deep and Raekwon performing their classic albums in full. Raekwon recruited his Wu familia Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna to run through his classic solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, in a raucous set. But before the Chef hit the stage, he connected with BET.com to talk about the record that put him on the map.
“That album defined my life, you know,” Raekwon, chilling in his trailer with a mixed drink in hand, said of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, which celebrated its 16th anniversary last month. “That album was like an opening to Raekwon’s world. For us to [perform] it now, it takes me back down that road, when I didn’t have a deal, I didn’t know what to expect. All I had was my skill and my people behind me telling me, ‘You could do it. You got it.’”
Raekwon attributes the album’s long-lasting impact to its perfect portrayal of inner-city desperation and aspirations. “It was a booklet to the hood,” he said. “Yo, we wanna get out of here. You see Ghost, when he first came in [on the album’s intro], he said, ‘Yo this is my last time.’ ’Cause we felt like we tried everything else—so this is it! And I’m sure there were a lot of people going through the same thing. You know, smoking cracks with weed at 16 years old. Being a motherless child.”
Rae also spoke on the moment the so-called "Purple Tape," as the album is also known, came to be. “I remember coming into the label and telling [Loud Records CEO] Steve Rifkind, my boss at the time, ‘This is it. Matter of fact, I want to change the cassette color.’ I was so confident, I wanted to separate myself from other artists.”
“This album draws so many memories,” the Wu-Tang Clan rapper continued. “There’s friends that I spoke on about in the album that are not here, so sometimes it saddens me. But for the most part it defines who Raekwon is. Rae just gave you a piece of his life and put it on a piece of paper, and I always backed it up.”
Raekwon will be joined by Ghostface and Cappa to perform Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
yet again this Saturday, September 10, when Rock the Bells hits Boston.
(Photo: Bennett Raglin/WireImage)