Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… vs. O.C.’s Word…Life. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
By their debut albums, both Raekwon and O.C. were associated with other, successful crews. While Wu-Tang Clan had the Rap game in their cobra-clutch by the mid-1990s, O’ had cut his teeth on wax by Organized Konfusion, with the D.I.T.C. chairmen of the boards in his corner. Both MCs made raw albums that refused to kowtow to mainstream expectations. For Chef Rae’ and his co-star Ghostface Killah’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, this equated to a slang lexicon and off-kilter RZA beats that would eventually have the Midas touch. For O.C. and Buckwild, Word…Life was a low-key smart-bomb that embarrassed those impure of heart and wack at mic control, without the commensurate commercial succes. Medals and sales aside, it’s your job to identify the better of the two (Click on one then click “vote”).
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… by Raekwon
Compared to jump-off Enter The Wu-Tang, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was a lyrical zodiac. Staten Island’s Chef and co-star Ghostface Killah showed the underbelly of the Shaolin crew in a linear effort about hustling, surviving shootouts, and backing down impostors on the block. Whereas Wu-Tang’s group album delved into rising the Hip-Hop ranks, “The Purple Tape” as it is affectionately remembered, was pure cinema. With John Woo’s Killer and Scarface excerpts throughout, Chef Rae brought narrative Rap albums to a boiling point. With the Clansmen in the wings—using their Wu-Gambino aliases, this LP drew a clear line for how the parts of the Clan body operated outside of their sums. For Rae’ and Ghost’ it was straight “Criminology.” The two MCs spit it in a way that could not be held up in a court of law, but violated so many Rap conventions.
Like Kool Keith, Raekwon’s writing style was impressionistic. The MC gave listeners the benefit of the doubt of putting the puzzles together—making it an active experience. “Glaciers Of Ice” melted the brain, with a fast-paced flow, and an inventive world. “Knowledge God” took (album guest) Nas’ “One Love” concept, and rewrote it in a way that the guards could not understand. Corey Woods waxed tales of heists, cocaine abusers, and the five boroughs that Times Square tourists never knew existed. For such an innovative lyrical style, RZA complemented accordingly. O.B.4.C.L.‘s sound is quirky, whimsical, and completely original. “Incarcerated Scarfaces” is as careful of a RZA drum arrangement as ever, with The Abbott laying down a Jazz-informed line, with light accents that made Rae’s essay 100% touchable. “Ice Cream” was a planetary lifted loop that captured the essence of late ’90s Hip-Hop a handful of years before others reached the frontier. “Rainy Dayz” had that same feel, as RZA’s reportedly shut-in Staten studio year led to weed-scented, eerie loops that scored the verbal cinema from Shallah and G.F.K. This marriage of tone and luster made The Purple Tape a complete experience. The MCs and the producer raised the craft of Hip-Hop by ignoring conventions, despite commercial pressures and strong media interest. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is Rap royalty, not simply for the color of its cassette shell, but its slang editorial that propagated the next 20 years of style, substance, and attitude.
Album Number: 1 (solo)
Released: August 1, 1995
Label: Loud/RCA Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #4 (certified gold, October 1995)
Song Guests: Ghostface Killah, Nas, Method Man, RZA, U-God, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Popa Wu, 60 Second Assassin, Cappadonna, Blue Raspberry
Song Producers: RZA, Islord
Word…Life by O.C.
By late 1994, the Diggin’ In The Crates crew had already deeply impressed upon Hip-Hop. Showbiz & A.G., Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, and Diamond D had all released acclaimed albums. The brilliant wit and supreme wordplay of Big L was happening, in real-time on Stretch & Bobbito’s radio show, and on feature cuts. Word…Life was a prime opportunity for two newer factions of the Bronx, New York-based crew. O.C. was an MC heard on Organized Konfusion works. Having signed to the acclaimed Wild Pitch Records (Main Source, The Coup, Gang Starr), the MC Serch-backed O.C. teamed with fellow D.I.T.C. member Buckwild to make an album that is as sharp as any in the Diggin’ canon. While “Time’s Up” is a career-defining moment for Omar Credle, this entire album packs minerals and vitamins for the mind, the headphones, and an insight into early ’90s life in the 7-1-8.
Not unlike fellow Serch-mentored artist Nas, O.C. had a keen ability to rap to the listener at an intimate level. The album’s title track states O’s reason for rhyming, and desire to fill a void in Rap, while “Point O Viewz” explains what makes the bi-borough MC so unique in his space. Both tracks used dusty Jazz arrangements that were the perfect canvases for the raspy-voiced 23 year-old to flex his amazing cadence, and vocal instrument. As dictated on album opener “Creative Control,” O.C. made his lone Wild Pitch effort void of commercial pressures. While Puff Daddy and later, Jay Z reportedly wanted in on the O.C. business, the MC was hellbent on providing an artful experience, focused on topics like Rap sell-outs, his beloved mother, and his own branded take on carpe diem. Thirteen songs deep, with veteran Pharoahe Monch’s background vocals and Roc Raida’s scratches only providing accents, Word…Life is an unadulterated offering. One of the final releases of the storied Wild Pitch label, O.C. never achieved the reach that his skills dictated. Shy, introspective, and a product of the 1980s New York slang, Mush seemingly shrugged off the spotlight. For Hip-Hop Heads, street philosophers, and purveyors of Walkman-savvy Rap, Word…Life is daily bread on cassette tape.
Album Number: 1 (solo)
Released: October 18, 1994
Label: Wild Pitch Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: Pharoahe Monch, Roc Raida, X-Treme
Song Producers: Buckwild, Lord Finesse, Organized Konfusion, DJ Ogee, Prestige
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.