Review #219: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Raekwon

Karla Clifton
4 min readDec 31, 2021

#219: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Raekwon

There’s so much to unpack here, and unfortunately I’m a bit of a Wu-Tang novice, so I’m not the best person to do it. But look, all of these reviews are written in the spirit of being a novice, of learning about new things. So please bear with me while I learn about Raekwon (and Ghostface Killah) with you.

First of all: As stated above, Raekwon was a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, who we first encountered back at Review #27 with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). As you can see from the album cover (which is about as badass as album covers come), fellow Wu-Tanger Ghostface Killah features heavily on this record. Even though this is technically the first Wu solo album, Raekwon said in an XXL interview, “In my eyes, Cuban Linx was always Ghost’s album as well as it was mine.”

Second of all: Several things with the album title. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out what “Cuban Linx” was/were. But in that same interview (which was super illuminating and I highly recommend), Ghost helpfully explains it for me: “The chain [necklace] we used to rock back in the days was Cuban links. … [It’s] one of the roughest chains to break.”

BUT. This album is more popularly known as The Purple Tape, because of its original distribution method: a clear purple cassette tape. Rae said it was because he wanted it to resemble a signature “dime bag,” that wasn’t instantly recognizable to the uninitiated but would be significant to people in-the-know.

Which brings us to: Third of all: This is a concept album. It’s structured a bit like a movie, where Raekwon & Ghost “star” and producer RZA “directs.” There’s not a clear linear narrative, but there’s definitely a consistent feeling that makes it feel like a really slick documentary. Both R & GK have said that much of the content is based on their actual lives. (Spoiler alert: Drugs play a big role.)



“Knuckleheadz (feat. U-God)” — U-God and Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan join Raekwon in this chill, cheerful song about drug dealing. By the way, Ghostface is featured in most of these songs, so it would be redundant if I mentioned him by name each and every time. Just assume he’s there.

“Knowledge God” — Let’s get a little technical. Raekwon (and the rest of Wu-Tang) frequently make use of the Supreme Alphabet, which is one of the fundamentals in the Black Islamic movement called the Five-Percent Nation. In this case, “Knowledge” and “God” equal KG, or kilogram, and you can probably guess what they’re moving a kilogram of. However, those sniffing sounds at the beginning? Rae insisted that they were not actually sniffing coke in the studio.

“Criminology” — LOL @ this Scarface sample.

“Incarcerated Scarfaces” — Despite the name, the sample at the beginning of this is NOT from Scarface. In fact, it’s from the ’89 gangster film The Killer by John Woo. Raekwon says that instead of suing them over their unauthorized use of snippets from his movie, Woo was flattered and excited. Honestly, I would be, too. Is there any greater validation for a gangster movie than to have it sampled in a Wu-Tang album?

“Rainy Dayz (feat. Blue Raspberry)” — Why don’t more song titles have a “Z” in them nowadays?! This is the part of the “film” where the drug dealer’s wife (Blue Raspberry) pines after him. Raspberry is on several of these songs, just riffing in the background.

“Can It All Be So Simple (Remix)” — That’s right, this is ripped straight from Enter The Wu-Tang!

“Ice Water (feat. Cappadonna)” — This song is actually Wu-Tang member Cappadonna’s debut — he was in prison for eight years, and is a pretty fascinating character himself.

“Glaciers of Ice (feat. Masta Killa)” — Rae says all these skits were ad-libbed, which is maybe why I like them more than other rap skits.

“Verbal Intercourse (feat. Nas)” — The first Wu-Tang track to feature a non Wu-Tang member! Remember when we reviewed Nas?

“Wisdom Body” — This is a solo sex jam from Ghostface Killah, who was apparently blasted when he recorded it.

“Ice Cream (feat. Method Man & Cappadonna)” — This chorus made me hungry.

“Wu-Gambinos (feat. Method Man, RZA & Masta Killa) Hidden Chambers Remix” Fun fact, Childish Gambino got his rap name from a Wu-Tang Clan name generator online. Method Man’s chorus on this one made me happy. Wu roll together as one/I call my brother ‘son’ cuz he shine like one. Bros support bros!

“Heaven & Hell” — Might have been my favorite — it sounds so conversational between Rae & Ghost. I wish I was in a rap collective.

“North Star (Jewels)” — The intro and outro to this one just consists of Popa Wu (who died two years ago) giving Raekwon philosophical advice. Rae’s verse here was actually originally on “Wisdom Body,” before he decided to let Ghost have that track to himself.


“Spot Rusherz” — RZA himself said that he doesn’t care for this beat very much.


Wu-Tang albums elude me somewhat. I love listening to them, but then they fall right out of my head as soon as they’re done. The RS blurb is right about one thing: This album has a crazy amount of detail, and a crazy amount of focus. It really did feel like I was watching a movie about organized crime.

But, listen, I was never into movies about organized crime, so I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Review #218: CrazySexyCool, TLC

Review #220: deja vu, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young