Hip-hop fans who will salivate at this reissue likely already know some of the backstory: in 1995, worldwide Wu-Tang frenzy was at an all-time high. First, of course, there had been the Wu-Tang’s epic 1993 debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which changed the shape of hip-hop to come, with ripples that still resonate today. Then the solo albums, all produced by Wu patriarch RZA: first was Method Man’s Tical (late 1994), then Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version (spring 1995). By the time Raekwon’s debut was ready, fans were knocking each other over on album release day. And so, on August 1, 1995 as the legend goes, the first 10,000 cassette buyers ran home and opened their plastic cases to discover that the tape itself was an unexpected, stunning shade of lavender. The rest, as they say, is history... and limited-edition history at that. After the initial purple versions, RCA Records switched to the usual clear plastic to house the legendary tape. The Purple Tape became an instant collector’s item, a Holy Grail for Wu-Tang disciples, coveted by those who could claim to be the earliest devotees of Raekwon’s lyrical genius. The album is still called “The Purple Tape” to this day, by Raekwon and other Wu-Tang members. Colors aside, though, let’s not forget the album itself. Backed by arguably RZA’s most wide-ranging, hard-hitting and at-times lush beats on any Wu-Tang family album before or since, Raekwon and co-MC Ghost Face Killer run the lyrical gamut, introducing “Wu-Gambinos” slang, dishing out “Ice Cream”, and melting “Glaciers of Ice” along the way to influencing just about every MC who followed in their wake. Beyond Ghostface (who shines on 12 out of the album’s 17 tracks), guest appearances from Nas, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Master Killa, RZA and the debut of Cappadonna (aka Cappachino) locked the album as an undisputed classic. It’s a record that hit hard in 1995 and continues to resonate with new fans to this day.
As Raekwon explained in the original “Purple Tape Cassette Box” liner notes book (and in Brian Coleman’s Check the Technique Volume 2): “A lot of rappers wasn’t being creative [at that time] and we came with a potion that just shocked the game. We introduced shoes, we brought about different names and aliases. That record inspired maybe 95% of the game’s lyrics [afterwards], and integrity on just making music, period. People from our era know how real it is. It’s timeless.” 20 years later, celebrate the majesty of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx with Get On Down’s “Purple Tape Watch Box,” a release you are sure to proudly display in your collection for decades to come.