August 1, 1995
Chef Raekwon of The Wu-Tang Clan released his debut solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, through Loud Records in 1995. The album features appearances from every member of the Wu-Tang Clan, in addition to affiliates Cappadonna and Blue Raspberry. It also features a verse from Nas, which marked the first collaboration with a non-affiliated artist on a Wu-Tang related album. RZA completely produced the album in his basement.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was the third solo album by a Wu-Tang member since the release of their debut Enter The Wu-Tang – 36 Chambers (1994), which was also released through Loud Records. The album was loosely composed like a film; with Raekwon as the “star,” fellow Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah as the “guest-star,” and producer RZA as the “director.”
Thematic elements included organized crime, cocaine trafficking and escaping their negative lives. Because of its early use of said themes, the album is seen as a pioneer in mafioso rap, influencing the likes of Reasonable Doubt (1996), Life After Death (1997) and It Was Written (1996).
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… has remained relevant in hip hop for 20 years; music critics and hip hop heads over the years have increasingly labelled it as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time. Along with GZA’s Liquid Swords, Cuban Linx… is widely classified as one of, if not, the best solo Wu-Tang project to this day. The album has a second part, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Part II, which Raekwon released in 2009 to positive critical acclaim as well.
The album has numerous accolades: In 2012, Rolling Stone magazine placed it at number 480 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. It’s included on The Source’s 100 Best Hip Hop Albums of all time. It’s also on Pitchfork’s Top 100 Favorite Records of the 1990’s, and so on.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah are on tour, with opener Dillon Cooper. Check out the dates here, and witness the legendary MCs revisit their glory days!