What album do you prefer between Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx and GZA’s Liquid Swords?
This was one of the first notable debates the SOUTHSIDERS crew discussed and to this day, we as a collective, still have much deliberation over this.
We occasionally get the opportunity to speak with artists that we hold in high regard and thought what better way to help settle this debate than to get them to do it for us.
We will periodically update this page with quotes from the interviews we have conducted in addition to the current tally indicating which album reigns supreme.
GZA: 4 | RAEKWON: 5
As a writer, I’d go for Swords but as a producer I have to say Linx.
That sounds like you’re hedging…
[Laughs] Okay, if I have to go with one, I’m going with Swords because the production is so tight there too. But then Linx…man, this is tough. Ironman, my answer is Ironman!
That’s a tough one… Damn man, that’s hard! [long pause] I’m going to go for Cuban Linx but that’s’ very tough!
It has caused many arguments between the writers of the blog especially when we’ve had a couple of drinks. Why Cuban Linx?
For me, I mean they’re both classic albums and both have had a major impact on my upbringing so it’s hard to say but for Linx, the reason I went with that one, it’s one of those moments in my life where I can remember going out and getting that album and going home and playing it. I bought it on CD and I remember listening to it on a deckman over and over [laughing]. When I was growing up in NY my grandmother moved to Florida and I went to visit her and I listened to Linx for the entire week. So because that experience as a kid it has the edge but they’re both phenomenal albums that have inspired me a great deal.
This question to me is a bit like the first three Outkast albums or like Operation: Doomsday or Madvillainy..? If somebody thinks Madvillainy is better then that’s cool, I like to argue, I like to debate. If you caught me on a different day I’d disagree and I like tough questions, this isn’t me trying to word it out or anything. If I did have to choose I think I’m going give it to the GZA. It’s so tight but I guess I think GZA’s album is a little bit leaner. The highs are a little bit higher on Cuban Linx but there’s no lulls on either record… I think Liquid Swords is a more tightly realised package and I again, I’m splitting between a 9.4 and a 9.6. I would have to give it to the GZA but it’s a tough question. I have a question for you… Ironman or Supreme Clientele?
[Long pause]… I would probably go with Supreme Clientele and the reason behind that choice is that I feel that album is it’s own separate entity. Ironman and Cuban Linx could be either one of Ghostface or Rae’s albums because of how heavily featured on them they are. But I feel with Supreme Clientele Ghostface finally realised his potential as a solo artist. He stood-out and stole the limelight a little more than on his previous album. I think Ghostface displays all of his cadences on that record too, there’s several different ways in which he approaches his music and it’s an overall more diverse but cohesive project.
But the thing I like give Ironman is that Ghost sort of gets a bit further out in ways on Supreme Clientele but on Ironman he’s doing a lot of far-out shit but it’s a little more tethered to earth so the storytelling is a little bit tighter. Something like ‘Soul Controller,’ I really fuck with that song… I’d take it over anything on Supreme Clientele but I agree with you. I could talk about this shit all day.
Can I put something back to you?
I genuinely thought you would have picked Cuban Linx and it’s because of one of your bars off of ‘Bush League’ where you say “Hemingway shotguns through the nose/ Ghost’s voice Rae’s flows…”
Yeah [laughs]. I mean I love Cuban Linx that album is great but it’s really tight.
I would have to go with Liquid Swords. That’s a quintessential winter album and it was a big comfort blanket for me for a couple horrible winters.
Yeah. I can see that.
Yeah man. And the the production style also opened me up to what could happen in hip-hop after the first Wu-Tang album because it was a different production style. When RZA started getting more into synths and a more ‘cleaner’ style, but the original stuff I loved it, I was like “Hip-hop is supposed to sound this gritty and dirty” and Enter the 36 Chambers was an essential hip-hop album for me at that time. But Liquid Swords opened me up to the idea of “Oh okay, we’re going to go into this cleaner territory and be a little more musical” and I can dig that. I didn’t have a big hand in the production to This Was Supposed to Be Fun but B. did and I know there are songs, even on the Season 1 EP, like what’s the song..? ‘Dumbass Kids’. The synths there sound to me to be very influenced by the Liquid Swords album, but that’s the joint for me.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
Yeah, I feel that the lyrics on Liquid Swords are better to me, I prefer GZA’s rapping. In fact I would probably say the lyrics on Liquid Swords is probably my favourite rapping of ALL the Wu-Tang projects however, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx to me is the most cohesive Wu-Tang project where start to finish it did what I tried to do when I make albums. Liquid Swords has the best rapping but there’s moments on there that feel a little awkward, the song transitions and a couple of songs that are not my favourite, where as I can listen to Cuban Linx from front to back… I don’t even care about the rapping on that album! I don’t even care about the beats, I care about the whole thing as one meal, it’s an amazing meal to me. Cuban Linx to me is probably the best curated Wu-Tang project that has ever happened.
In my opinion Cuban Linx is the closest thing to a feature length film that I’ve heard on wax. Where you can smell the gun smoke and see the blood on the shirts and picture the dingey alleyways…
I totally agree with that. But then again! When GZA says “Your lyrics are weak like clock radio speakers” it was just like… fuck! GZA is the best Wu-Tang rapper to me but Cuban Linx… that record is so amazing that that could’ve been a record produced by Dre. Dre could’ve made that record. In fact I bet Dre is mad he didn’t make that record.
Nolan the Ninja
I gotta go with Chef…
Cuban Linx and Liquid Swords..?
Yeah. What one would you choose?
Ah man… I can’t answer that! [laughs] Probably Cuban Linx. Although I mean they are both masterpieces and are both classics. I mean Ghostface has always been my favourite Wu-Tang member even back when they first came out, I really liked his energy and I loved the look in his eyes when he was rapping.
He has been the most consistent as well, he has just kept it at that top tier for so long.
Well yeah, but when they first emerged he was just one of the guys, just one of the fellas and they were all great but then over the years he is actually the one who has developed the most as an artist I think.
P.O.S. & Astronautalis
P: Cuban Linx. Easy
A: MMMM, Ghostface Killah’s The Pretty Toney Album.
P: Yeah, I’d take Ghostface’s Ironman if that was an option but if it’s just those two, GZA technically is way better, but Ghostface is all over Cuban Linx. And Ghostface AND Raekwon together is better. I just love that combo. I’d pick OB4CL or Ironman, where they might as well be each other’s records….I’ll pick those ones.
A: If we are going by Plain Ole Bill’s rhetoric that a rapper should not get worse, then Ghostface is the only rapper in Wu-Tang that’s worth a shit. They can aaaallll fall back. He’s the only dude who got better out of that entire crew. He stayed getting better.
SOUTHSIDERS: Can we put you down for Cuban Linx then?
A: Nah, I’d still take Liquid Swords over OB4CL because I think Liquid Swords is a more complete record.
P: Yeah, it is a more complete record.
A: But I have a hard time with that too, because I went and saw GZA on the Liquid Swords Tour and it was one of the top five worst concerts of my life…!
P: I opened for GZA once and he came out in a floor-length leather coat. And he didn’t take that coat off once because he didn’t break a sweat.
He was just like “When the emcees came…” [gestures holding mic to the crowd]
A: [laughs] Just atrocious man, it made it hard for me to listen to that record ever again.
P: I’ll still listen to that record, but from jump, I always liked Ghostface and RZA the best because they’re weird sounding and they smash too many words together and it sounds fucking wild. That’s my shit.
GZA is an amazing emcee, amazing writer. But he’s got that one flow and he’s teaching you something while pointing at his head, and that’s never been my shit. I feel like he’s great in the clan, that’s when I prefer GZA.