Raekwon’s 1995 debut studio album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is one of Hip Hop’s most classic projects. The album helped introduce mafioso rap to the masses and put Raekwon and Ghostface Killah in the spotlight separate from their Wu-Tang Clan brothers.
In the latest segment from his ongoing conversation with VladTV, The Chef shed more light on his groundbreaking debut album and revealed how the New York Mafia played a role in naming it.
For those who don’t know, Raekwon is such a big fan of the Mafia and how they handle their day-to-day business that he often referred to him and his Wu brothers as “Wu-Gambinos.” Rae loved the name so much that not only did he record a song on the album under that name, but he also wanted that to be the official title of the project.
“They was like, ‘Yo, you can’t call no albums that,’” Raekwon said. “This was a conversation I had with [Steve] Rifkind, because Rifkind’s pops — rest in peace — he was connected. He had a lot of relationships. I remember me enforcing the title on Steve and saying, ‘Yo, this is what we want to call it. We want to call it Wu-Gambinos and he was like, ‘Yo, I’m gonna look into that.’
“And I remember him coming back to me and saying, ‘Yo, that’s not happening.’ And I was like, ‘You serious?’ And he was like, ‘It’s not gonna happen. They not having that.'”
The Gambino Family — one of the five organizations in New York City — didn’t appreciate Raekwon using their family name in that manner. Rae continued in the next segment explaining how they were pushing to name the album Wu-Gambinos when they already had the song recorded. He explained he was young and wanted to do it anyway, but soon understood the business side of things.
“At the end of the day, a song is a song, but when you start using somebody’s likeness or whatever on that level, it could’ve been a situation where now you gotta take a conversation or meeting behind this. How you just going to use a name like that and run with with it?” Raekwon said.
“It was something funny to me because I wanted to do it anyway. But then it was something like, ‘Steve, you ain’t with it, so even if we wanted to bum rush and do it like that, we can’t because you wasn’t even down for it.’
“Back then, our mentality was to take the risk, fuck it. But like I said, being young and kind of immature and not understanding the business to the fullest, we had to second-guess that motion and be like, ‘You know what? Don’t do it.”