20 years ago, The Source Magazine’s Nicholas Poluhoff proclaimed Chef Raekwon’s debut album one of the best rap LPs of the year (if not ever). 20 years later and, much like the music itself, that review still holds truth. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (OBFCL), the third solo effort to drop from the mighty WU-Tang Clan, is rightfully harolded by many as the quintessential street hip-hop album.

Although it initially failed to commercially match the success of the group debut, Meth’s Tical and ODB’s Return To The 36 Chambers, it’s definitely stood the test of time – much in the same fashion that Illmatic has [note: it has long since been certified as platinum]. I defy you to not get open when you hear Ice Cream, because twenty years later it still knocks harder than 80% of the joints out there.

“What truly sets Cuban Linx apart is the abundance of well-written complex lyrics. The end result is one of the best rap LPs of the year (if not ever)…”

–Nicholas Poluhoff, Source Magazine (1995)

[4.5 Mics]

More importantly, Cuban Linx has inspired a generation of emcees (myself included) and producers. The album’s narrative, lyricism, beats, features and even artwork were almost godly, and raised an outlandish bar of perfection that even Chef himself has never truly been able to surmount; although, OBFCL 2 was an amazing effort. It’s a timeless artifact that takes listeners on a walk through the (dirty) streets of NYC circa 1995 – we’re talking crime, Lo Snow Beach jackets, Tommy Hill, Clarks and blunts. 

In celebration of the album’s upcoming 20 year anniversary this summer, Rae and Ghost announced an upcoming documentary called The Purple Tape Files. The trailer, which debuted this past weekend at Sundance, is an exciting look at what appears to be a candid recount of the making of the classic. Hip-hop nerds, let’s collectively rejoice.

We asked our Twitter followers if the album had inspired them in their lives/careers, and here’s what some of them had to say:

#onlybuiltforcubanlinx Helped me assimilate my style as an artist.

Told Rea days ago! This album was our Theme music in the 90’s!!! A major reason why the Crown came back to NYC!

Cuban Linx’s a soundtrack to my life as an inner city kid. It was Walkman food. I studied it like a textbook.

Of course (I’ve been inspired by it). Since the Operation Push Concert in ’95. Epic.


One of the most prevalent influences on my sense of production – yahmean.

@Raekwon changed my view on true hiphop & gimmick hiphop

Share your thoughts on the album with us – has it influenced you in some way? Should The Source recant their 20 year old review and give it the 5 Mics it deserves? Sound off on our Twitter and let us know!