Raekwon is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his debut solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx with a tour featuring Ghostface Killah. The rappers grew up together and have inspired each other throughout their careers.
“We never knew we were going to have the chemistry we have,” Raekwon says to Billboard, “but we knew when it came to doing the job and assisting this franchise that we got, we got close. We would laugh about a lot of things that we record on or reminisce on but at the same time we got to focus and we’ve got a goal and that’s to represent the fans. I remember Ghost telling me one day that, ‘Yo, you inspire me,’ and I’m like, ‘Well you inspire me.’ But he was like, ‘Nah, you inspire me to be creative and write things that I never imagined even being an artist that writes.’ I look at that like, ‘Wow, thank you.'”
A 17-track album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx featured every member of the Wu-Tang Clan except for Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The group effort was on purpose and even though ODB didn’t rap on the project, his support was still felt.
“Every album will always have every one of us attached to it because that was important” Raekwon says. “Every album represented something out of that Wu-Tang family. Ol’ Dirty at that time, he was moving around, his album just became live. He was just popping off so he wasn’t able to do it. Son was cool but he was the man that gave me the inspiration anyway from it. Before Wu-Tang Clan he was the inspiration so I don’t take offense to it. It was like, ‘You know what? That’s my brother. Not everyone going to make it.’ His power and confidence he instilled in me inspired me to make something great so he was proud of it. He did come to the photo shoot and was like, ‘I’m not on your album but I’m here.'”
Raekwon admits to being “scared” to record his first solo album, but the team effort gave him confidence. He meshed influences from mafia movies with the sounds of New York including Mobb Deep, Kool G Rap, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane.
The Wu-Tang rapper says that the message of the album resonates today. He says the project is his personal story that people can still relate to.
“You never really lose that struggle from the hood so it’s like I know that my album would have that involved in it,” he says. “I just went in and said ‘Yo, I’m going to make it. This is my time.’ Of course it was assisted by my brothers, Wu-Tang Clan. I felt that comfortability and I felt that confidence that I knew I still had to make something. I went in with my heart and just said, ‘Yo, I ain’t going to lose, my team ain’t going to have me go out there looking crazy.’ It was just an album that came from the heart and we’re celebrating 20 years later. That shit bring me back to not having nothing, not having a career, not having children, just wild like we grew up, right? We told the truth, we let them know your history. That album is a testimony.”
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