It was 20 years ago that Raekwon released his first solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. The album appeared on the Straight's list of top 50 selling albums on August 18, 1995, jumping from #43 to #34. It eventually made it to the #4 spot on the American Billboard 200, and soon held the #2 spot on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Hip hop heads everywhere will agree: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx pioneered the way for mafioso rap and the MCs who told the stories of the street. Created with the help of fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Ghostface Killah and RZA, it was the third solo album to be released by a member of the Wu after Method Man's Tical and Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return to the 36 Chamers: The Dirty Version. Praised for its lyrical complexity and stylistic approach, music critics have named it one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time on more than one occasion.
After producing the record, RZA had this to say:
"When we did it, I said, "yo, it's gonna be a very dangerous album; it's gonna change the game. We gonna invite those demons, every negative stereotype, and deal with them." It's like the shit was lived; a lot of it was lived or experienced in one form or another. It's so natural, it don't feel like songs."
Often referred to as 'the purple tape'—Raekwon wanted to tag his product in the same way drug dealers do, so he made the cassette purple—the album went on to influence the likes of Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G., among others.
Last month, Raekwon stopped in at Dipt Streetwear Boutique (819 Hornby Street) to officially release a limited edition jacket and some Vancouver-specific swag. He and his team at CL-95 designed a new version of the iconic Snow Beach coat worn by the Chef in Wu-Tang's "Can It All Be So Simple" video, in commemoration of the purple tape's 20-year anniversary. (A remix of the song was released on Rae's solo album in '95.)
The Straight was on hand to chat about the good ol' days, the Linx Beach jacket, and future plans for a purple tape documentary.
Watch the video below to hear from the Chef himself, and check out his Vancity swag here.