I’ve waited a long time to write this, and finally, that day has come.
I want to introduce you to Michael Grant at 15 years old. He was a video games geek, he was shy around the girls his age. He had crushes on certain girls at school but never confident enough to approach them and ask them out, but he was actually a fairly popular kid. He wasn’t a heart-throb, but he was known for being the best at Street Fighter II in his year. Many would challenge him, but they would all fall. He developed a hatred for the boy band Take That, while the girls would mark their school book with the Take That logo, Grant would draw the Wu-Tang logo on his. Take That split up as a boy band and while the girls were heartbroken, Grant would rub it in with his friends chanting WU-TANG! all over the school. The last weeks of his year was work experience for two weeks. He was unexpectedly awarded £25 for his work, and then he decided to buy his first album.
In the summer of 95, the two artists that were hot in Grant’s mind were Nine (Whatcha Want?) and Lords Of the Underground who had singles called ‘Tic Toc’ & ‘What I’m After’. Grant set off into town with two friends and made a B-Line for Ruby Red Records and those two artists were in his crosshairs, unknown to Grant however was an album waiting to be purchased and it had this magnetic aura about it…
Grant was drawn to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by the mighty power of the Wu logo… now he was torn between three albums. His moms instilled the thought in his head of getting ‘value for money’. He picked up the cassette tapes and thought, ’13 -15 tracks on these albums while Raekwon got 17 for the same price?’ And that, along with the persuasion of his friends (Leon Crooks & Winston Chamberlain – I hope they don’t mind me mentioning them) Grant took a risk and brought the album he never set out to buy. Chef Raekwon as Lex Diamonds Guest Starring Ghostface Killer as Tony Starks: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… THIS IS MY STORY.
AUGUST 1, 1995.
I was there just looking at the inlay and fascinated by the Purple Tape I was holding. I left Winston & Leon because it was time for me to do my paper round. I remember this day so well – it was a beautiful sunny day. 57 Express & Star newspapers in a large bag strapped around my shoulder, Headphones connected to my Sony Walkman, Purple Tape inserted, I was ready to begin delivering my papers for the day. For some reason I had a spring in my step, not sure why, I didn’t lose my virginity, it was just another day delivering papers right? (actually it wasn’t just another day, it was my Grandma’s birthday…)
1. STRIVING FOR PERFECTION – 1:43
I mis-understood what Rae & Ghost were saying on first listen… Ghost was like “I’m hanging my sh!t up if my sh!t don’t work right here God…” Rae agreed “I feel the same way…” For a moment, I thought they meant their hip hop career. I was worried…I only hit play and this was what I heard for the first two minutes???
2. KNUCKLEHEADZ – 4:05
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks and Golden Arms A.K.A. Lucky Hands
Entering my first block of flats in Lowe Street, my ears heard a BANGA… this album re-defined goosebumps… I had to hit the rewind button… this would be the first of many rewinds on the album that I was yet to experience. Hey, ever played this track with bass turned up to 10? No? I suggest you add it to your things to do before you die…
3. KNOWLEDGE GOD – 4:27
My naïve 15-year-old self didn’t know what all that weird sniffing noise was in the track…When it hit me later I was like… ‘Should have known…’ but coming from a smoke free family, I wouldn’t know anything about that. I wanted to know about ‘Wu-Tang Karate’!!! If only they opened ‘Wu-Tang Kung Fu Sword Style’ schools over here…
4. CRIMINOLOGY – 3:49
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks
Before the album dropped, Leon borrowed me a cassette tape of tunes he taped off the radio. This track was one of them… I had to get a copy and give him the tape back! Ghostface went OFF on this one… while Rae continued to make his trademark gun sound effect famous… BLAOW!!!! It was so dope that he convinced us that’s how guns actually sounded when you pulled the trigger!
5. INCARCERATED SCARFACES – 4:30
I made a foolish mistake here, instead of letting people check out the album for themselves, I borrowed the tape to certain people. That would come back to haunt me as it went round the whole Whitmore Reans district and the Purple Tape came back damaged… something happened to this track like the tape got chewed up and whoever was responsible used the pen and carefully put the actual tape back together. The tape could play, but when it came to this track, half the track was missing. That’s them taking kindness for weakness, but fair play to them for fixing the tape the best they could.
6. RAINY DAYZ – 5:17
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, and Blue Raspberry
Still delivering the papers on a warm summer day, it was anything but Rainy. On first listen, Ghostface didn’t finish his verse. The RZA beat took me to another dimension so much my eyes were watering… I hit the rewind button more than once. The song was so powerful that I could willingly stand in the pouring rain listening to this, and NOT catch a cold.
7. GUILLOTINE (Swordz) – 4:21
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, Inspectah Deck A.K.A. Rollie Fingers, and Genius
THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A VIDEO TO THIS! I remember myself, Winston & Leon randomly hum this beat in class or outside of school for no reason, like our minds synched and we’d just start humming the beat. See in school there were only a select few who knew of the Wu-Tang. One day I was at my cousin’s house. We were watching a film called Shaolin Vs Lama, a film we borrowed by a guy known as ‘Big Tec’ (he knows who he is if he’s reading this!) I heard the movie samples that RZA used and that was my first starstruck experience. I was like ‘YO CLINT! (CUZ) THE WU-TANG HAVE SEEN THIS FILM!!!’ Since then, I have been on an ongoing quest to collect every kung fu film RZA has sampled. I believe some Wu die hards on my FB friends list have succeeded…
8. CAN IT BE ALL SO SIMPLE (Remix) – 4:10
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks
What I miss about skits is that back in the day, they were so authentic and you could paint a picture in your head and imagine. In this case I could imagine walking with Rae & Ghost going up to the fool and jacking him for his riches before the fool bust his gun. Nowadays you can tell that any skit was recorded in the studio and staged. Albums these days hardly have any skits though. I prefer this to the original though… I loved how RZA was just playing around with the original beat and thought – HMMMMMMM!!! I also miss how back then you knew that Side 1/A was coming to an end and you knew it was time to turn the tape over.
9. SHARK NIGGAS (BITERS) 1:39
Oh dear Biggie and Bad Boy had really done it didn’t they! The most memorable line was Ghostface saying “I don’t want n!&&@$ sounding like me…on NO ALBUM…” So in a way I waited for 19 years for someone to dare sound like Ghost. And on the 20th year, that man would emerge. He was actually in the game years before that but it came to boiling point recently. Ghost approached him via social media and just like that, Wu-fans turned against the sinner in a heartbeat. See the Wu-Tang has that power on their fans. They don’t tell their fans to do something, fans react in an almost loyal, worshipping way. Ask the guy who flipped the bird at Ghost at a show… you won’t see him again!
10. ICE WATER – 4:02
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, and Cappachino
Did Chef Raekwon have this vision from 95? To have his record company to be named after this track? Probably did… unless you never saw the Ice Cream video, this is the first time we would hear the 10th member of the clan. I thought RZA went off on one with this beat…but then….
11. GLACIERS OF ICE – 4:54
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, & Master Killer A.K.A. Noodles
Vocals by Blue Raspberry & 62nd Assassin of Sunz of Man
If Ghostface Killah wasn’t a rapper, he would be an outstanding Door to Door salesman. Listen to his sales pitch with the Wallabee Clarks. If he turned up to my house trying to sell em, I would be ordering a pair for every month… but then… the tune kicks in… WHAT WAS RZA THINKING??!!! Here I was, 15-year-old paper boy named Michael Grant losing my mind on street delivering these papers, Banging my head, face screwed up. Instant goosebumps, then Blue Raspberry just had to go and sing out…..”OHHHHHHHHHH!!! WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!” I hit the STOP BUTTON. I had to comprehend what was playing on my Walkman… the thoughts of ‘best tune on the album’ were emerging. It was like a BOMB hit Whitmore Reans/Dunstall with the excitement. THEN I hit rewind. I was the eldest of 3 at the time. My moms wasn’t working, the Pound currency changed to a W. That’s how I got Wu-Tang Money all up in the FAMILY!
12. VERBAL INTERCOURSE – 4:07
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, and Nas A.K.A. Nas Escobar
I had to calm down after multiple epic rewinds of Glaciers of Ice, and RZA knew we all had to. what better than to feature Nas? One man singlehandedly changed the game with Illmatic, he had to be on this album. That was the beauty of this era – heads brought the album of the artist they were feeling. These days? It’s like ‘What’s the line up??? this person’s on the album? That person’s on it? This album gotta be good because look at all the appearances…’ NO. STOP THAT. I’m glad that artists are now bringing it back to the original purpose of having one producer all the way through the album with minimal guest appearances. It should be about YOU not them.
13. WISDOM BODY – 2:34
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks
True say the Wu-Tang among other artists were embracing the 5% Nation in the records, it never clocked in my brain til I was 17 when Wu-Tang Forever came out. I call this the ‘prelude’ to Ice Cream…
14. SPOT RUSHERZ 3:51
The crazy thing about this tune, wasn’t the tune itself. My cuz (Clint) was like ‘What is that tune that’s on in the background’? It sounded off the hook!!! Clint was like – ‘we are Wu-Tang Fans… that means we must grab hold of EVERY TUNE they had’. We said that at 15/16. It’s 2015, and that mission has still not accomplished. Turns out that the tune appeared in a ST Ides Commercial that aired in the US. So we in the UK never knew anything about that… however you can get the tune on WuTang-Corp.com…
15. ICE CREAM 4:15
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, Method Man A.K.A. Johnny Blaze & Cappachino
If you didn’t label your women after these ice cream flavours something was wrong with you! Do they still have these Ladies T-shirts in rotation? It’s just a thought if I held a 36th Birthday party (HINT) that all women must wear the proper T-shirts…back in school, myself, Winston & Leon were calling certain girls in our year ‘french vanilla, butter pecan, chocolate deluxe, caramel sundaes….’ they know who they are. I’m not naming names as I don’t want no problems, I don’t want their men responding to this, nor any women who feel ‘insulted’ that we didn’t address them as such!
16. WU-GAMBINOS – 5:09
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks, Method Man A.K.A. Johnny Blaze, The RZA A.K.A. Bobby Steels and Master Killer A.K.A. Noodles
As much as we love Wu solo albums, nothing beats a good ol’ Wu-Banga. What I don’t understand is, why doesn’t the clan perform this live? I’ve seen them twice and both times I haven’t seen them perform this. Same goes with Guillotine (Swordz)… this tune actually brings me to 1997… because I had brought the ‘Triumph’ single. On that single was the Hidden Chambers Remix to this, which I actually prefer. I remember me and my friend Nigel, we used to catch the same bus to go to work and Wu was all we talked about. We used to refer them as ‘The BOYZ’! We loved the remix crazy, every day the commuters on the 504 bus would hear us reciting lyrics and I wished that this along with RZA’s Tragedy made Wu-Tang Forever.
17. HEAVEN & HELL – 4:57
Featuring Ghostface Killer A.K.A. Tony Starks
First time I heard this, it was on Yo! MTV Raps on the Fresh Soundtrack. At that time I didn’t even clock on that Raekwon’s album was coming. Because I had the Purple Tape, here’s me thinking that’s the end of the album… I didn’t have the CD version yet simply because we never had a CD player… so I didn’t know about the album’s REAL outro…one thing is for sure, I couldn’t play this in front of Grandma (God Bless her Soul) Well I couldn’t play hip hop in front of Grandma period. But given this tune’s hook, and Grandma being a full Christian… you figure it out when you get home…!!
18. NORTH STAR (JEWELS) – 4:00
It wasn’t until around 2004/2005 I heard this. What happened was I landed a full-time job in West Bromwich, it was the sort of job which you could play your own music while you work. So I went on a mission to collect nearly every classic CD from the 90s that I loved, specially those that I didn’t have before because I was always buying Wu albums. first artists to break that mould were Biggie and Busta. So when I heard this, eyes were watering… hearing Ol’ Dirty Bastard harmonizing in the background like that… it hits you that the album’s over. It’s one of those, zoning out, look up into the sky like moments, especially now with ODB gone…Even with Popa Wu talking to Rae it was like one of my elders talking to me…
As you can tell, from the moment I made that decision to buy my very first album, all the way til the album finished, this was a special moment for me, and I want it quoted in my Big Red Book when I reach 88 years old and some guy approaches me and says ‘Michael Grant, This Is Your Life’, and all my peoples re-emerge and reunite. Yes Supreme Clientele is my favourite album ever, but you never forget your FIRST. You never forget your first time you kissed someone, or the first time you smoked a blunt, (I don’t smoke so I wouldn’t know anything about that) Your first time going to a nightclub, the first time you had sex… but you NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST TIME YOU BROUGHT YOUR FIRST ALBUM.
Thank you Chef Raekwon! You just need to bring your 20th Anniversary tour over here in the UK!