We Re-Visit Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Raekwon’s classic solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, guest-starring Ghostface Killah and produced by the RZA. Some people (like myself) would argue that Cuban Linx is the dopest solo Wu-Tang Clan album ever. Some people (like myself) may even go as far to say it’s just the dopest Wu-Tang Clan album period. And some people (like myself) might be bold enough to say it’s the dopest rap album of all time! Is that a bit extreme? Maybe so, maybe no. But let’s keep it a hundo—Cuban Linx is as lyrically and musically impressive, interesting, trend-setting, and flat-out ill as any other classic you might bring into the G.O.A.T. album discussion, if not more. Which is why it’s important that we celebrate it to the fullest extent, especially during this 20th anniversary year.

Rae and Ghost know how impactful Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was and still is on our culture, which is why they’ve already begun their campaign to bring the Purple Tape Files—a new documentary about the making of the album—to the masses. They were at Sundance earlier this year teasing it, and they’ve got a FanBacked page popping right now so you can support its release. So in anticipation of what’s sure to be one of the best rap docs of the year, and to celebrate the album’s upcoming 20th anniversary on August 1st, let’s get in the Purple Tape spirit and take a look back at the five awesome music videos released off Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

1. “Heaven & Hell” ft. Ghostface Killah

Originally found on the Fresh movie soundtrack, “Heaven & Hell” was the first visual fans got to see from Cuban Linx. At the time of its release, it wasn’t billed as a single for the album, but rather just a fly duet inspired by the film. But in the end, it was included on the classic LP, placed perfectly asCuban Linx descends to a close.

As for the video, Raekwon reminisced with me about filming it during a sit-down in 2011, telling me, “I was pissy drunk. If you look at the video, when I was walking in, my hat was all fucking crazy. I’m in the limo just intoxicated like, ‘Wow, I’m really doin’ this shit.’” He added, “I was always the dude that initiated like, ‘Let’s come in like this, let’s get the silk shirts.’ And you know everybody else will be lookin’ at me like, ‘You sure?’ And Ghost’ll be the one to be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah lord. Yeah, we gon’ get the hats. We gon’ get the shoes.’ We felt like we was the black Frank Sinatra.” Watch above.

2. “Criminology” ft. Ghostface Killah

“Criminology,” the undisputed banger off Cuban Linx, was another video that Raekwon helped orchestrate visually. He told me back about his vision for the clip, thinking back to his requests, “I need Benzes, jewels, and waterfalls behind shootin’ to the right.’ We actually went into the desert and found a waterfall that shot to the right.” He also credited himself as the one who gave birth to Ghost’s signature robe style during the filming of “Criminology,” recalling, “I told Ghost, ‘I need you to be Vincent ‘Chin’ Gigante right now. Don’t have no muthafuckin’ gear on, all I need you in is a mean robe.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, you right. I’ma just run with the robes.’ And, the next think you know, he’s the robe man.” Amazing.

3. “Glaciers of Ice” ft. Masta Killa and Ghostface Killah

Do remember, the brilliant B-Side to the “Criminology” single, “Glaciers of Ice,” had a video, too. And it quietly found its way into rotation on Rap Cityand was also a Video Music Box favorite in NYC. The video depicts the Wu bros planning a high-scale robbery in the middle of the night, but do our favorite swordsmen pull it off? Watch and find out.

4. “Incarcerated Scarfaces”

Rae went for dolo on “Incarcerated Scarfaces,” but brought the Clan along with him in this visual ode to project staircases, elevators, and rooftops. This track may be the joint off Cuban Linx that’s had the most longevity—twenty years later it still rings off on the radio and in the clubs like it’s brand new. And the video is probably the most authentic look at life on Staten Island during the Cuban Linx era for Raekwon the Chef. Appreciate this, here. And oh yeah, peace Connecticut.

5. “Ice Cream” ft. Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna, and Method Man

According to Raekwon, he hated “Ice Cream” when they first recorded it. Though he loved the beat and the concept, he felt the song was “too soft forCuban Linx.” And sure, if you think about it, maybe it doesn’t fit with the Gambino-ness of the album. But still, it gives the album depth, and it’s easily one of the livest odes to the female gender ever to come out of the Wu camp. And the video boosted the song even more, with an ice cream truck on deck, Wu members and affiliates everywhere (peep Shyheim and Tyson Beckford making cameos), and mad sexy vixens dancing along to RZA’s production in their tight Wu shirts. What’s your favorite flavor?