13. “Wisdom Body”
Raekwon: In my eyes, Cuban Linx was always Ghost’s album as well as it was mine. That’s one thing about me. I already knew that me and him was a pair. So even though people felt like it was a Raekwon album, I looked at it like it was a Wu-Tang album, and this is me and Ghost’s department right here, ’cause dudes don’t really talk [the street stuff] like that. Or dudes talk it but don’t talk it the way we talk it. So when Ghost had put [“Wisdom Body”] up there on the album, I felt like, This track is definitely needed and it sound fly. I wasn’t at the studio that day when he did it, but I knew the rhyme he was gonna play, ’cause I remember RZA keep playing the beat over and over, like, “Somebody gotta eat this.” That’s how RZA is. “Somebody gotta eat that, whether you wanna eat it or not, somebody gotta eat that.” And Ghost just ate it up alone.
RZA: This [track was originally called] “Fly Bitch Shit.” At this time, Ghost became Tony Starks. On that song, Ghost came in and did that song one day, I actually put it in the stash; it was Ghost by himself at first. Then Rae jumped on it. I was like, No, it’s too personal to Ghost.
It’s a glitch in that performance, the way he did it the first time on ADAT. He never came with that same wetness of voice. He’s more high-pitched when other producers work with him. His voice should be compressed on 90 mhz and sloped down. I know that; other producers and engineers don’t know that. I had nine compressors—one for each MC—that I could just patch in.
Ghostface: You can hear the punches in there. There a few punches in there right in the beginning when I say, “Check the bangingest.” You can hear the shit switch up a little bit. RZA had to punch the other take in. ’Cause back then, since I was drinking, I’d slur a lot so I had to do a bunch of takes. You can hear that I’m a little bit drunk if you listen. That’s why I punched in, because I fucked up one of my words. So, I just kept the beginning and put the other take in. That’s the thing about these albums that we made earlier. We used to keep a lot of the fuckups. That’s what made it raw. Everything ain’t always gotta be too perfect.
14. “Spot Rusherz”
RZA: “Spot Rusherz” was another example of that zone. I wasn’t really feeling the beat. I was done with Rae’s album. Another time I was making beats for GZA. Rae and me got a similarity. We workaholics, we dedicated to the cause. It’s one of those things where he came in and aired it out. And to me, it saved the beat. I still don’t like that beat. I still wanted to get it off the album. The two gun shots at the end: Just in case you got bored, I was bringing you right back.
15. “Ice Cream”
Feat. Ghostface, Method Man and Cappachino
RZA: I gotta take total credit for the idea. I got this basement downstairs in my first nice apartment I had, in Mariner’s Harbor [in Staten Island]. There’s a line running from the basement to the production room on the second floor. I just zoned the fuck out one night and did the beat. Meth came over. I told him I got a crazy idea on this one. I wanna use girls’ breasts as imaginary ice cream cones. I came up with the idea to make T-shirts to go with it. “Meth, You gonna do the hook.” It was the first song besides “You’re All I Need to Get By” that we pressured him into. He didn’t like being the pretty boy. He took those words I said—“French vanilla,” “butter pecan”—and put them in perfect order. It was really Wu-Tang’s first reach out to women.
Women wasn’t even allowed into the studio. A woman wouldn’t be allowed in the studio until ’97. It’s a distraction. It reminds me of the ingenuity of the mind I had ticking and making these songs and thinking we can make the T-shirts. We must’ve sold 20,000 T-shirts at the Wu-Wear store alone.
Cappadonna: Well, the first joint I did, the one that put me on the map, was “Ice Cream.” And we did that one like, that was the beginning, nobody ain’t really had nothing. We had a lil’ studio up on Clove Lake. RZA had an apartment over there, with the studio in the basement. That’s the studio that got flooded out. They had a flood in there. But before the flood, I was out as a security guard up there at the time, and I had went in there and I heard “Ice Cream,” I had heard Rae’s verse; I heard Ghost’s verse on there. And I had made a joke about me getting on the track, and RZA took it seriously and was like, “Yo, go ahead. Lace that.”
Feat. Ghostface, Method Man, RZA and Masta Killa
Raekwon: The [Wu-Gambino] aliases come from how I used to like that movie Once Upon a Time in America, with Robert De Niro and James Woods. I liked how these young little niggas grew up, from the ground up, not having nothing to start, but still was confused about how they treated each other. And the names came. You know, “Tony Starks” came from Iron Man. “Lou Diamond” came from me being infatuated with the diamond world. Back then I was wearing a lot of ice, was calling shit ice. But then I started giving some of my niggas in the crew names. Being that it’s my album, I wanted niggas to know, You gotta have a certain a.k.a. when you’re on this track. This is a Gambino track. Wu-Gambinos. I would call Masta Killa “Noodles.” Call GZA “Maximilian.” Inside the movie, “Noodles” and “Max” was partners. I felt like GZA was like “Maximilian” because he was like the brains of the crew. He would say something real intellectual and smart, and I looked at him like a “Max.”
I called Deck “Rollie Fingers” ’cause of the way he roll blunts. So names just started fitting niggas. “Golden Arms,” U-God. Then niggas just start making they own names up. “Bobby Steels”—RZA was on some real Black Panther, DJ, ill producer shit.
RZA: Now that these guys pulled they sting off, they got one more big sting. They gotta call the heavy hitters in on this one. It’s Rae getting the rest of the team to make this thing official.
Actually, that was the first one where everyone took on another name to go along with the concept of the album. That was done intentionally. We was probably 11 songs into the album. Everyone come with your Gambino name. My name was Bobby Steele when I was 12, 13, so I brought that back out. It was me and Ghost the last to lay our verses. Ghost goes last; everybody was up in the cut. Tru Master had to be the engineer to record me. I let niggas know I’m part of the sting. I’m coming for that money, too. For me it was a chance to show niggas, because I hadn’t been heard for a minute.
Masta Killa: That all was done in the same place. And it was a beautiful thing to see. Wu-Gambinos: You see Meth come in; he laid his verse. You see Deck come in; he lays his verse. RZA is there; he lays his verse. It’s inspiring to just see other MCs come through. And not just MCs. This is your brother. This is your family. It’s like the Jackson 5 and shit. They all in one room. It’s going to be magical. RZA was the Beethoven of the whole shit. I think he orchestrated the whole shit. A lot of times brothers came and it was like you came in and you rhymed; you could have left and you went wherever. When your album was completed, you came in to listen to what he stayed up putting his magic touches on things.
Method Man: We were high, hanging out. It was always a relaxed atmosphere because we were so used to being there, sleeping on the floors and all that. So it was like being home, writing rhymes in your own house. You went from the floor to the booth. It took three hours tops, just to put vocals on it.
That was the first time we ever used our aliases, the Wu-Gambino names. We were sitting there like, “My name gonna be this” and “My name gonna be that.” People really thought my fuckin’ name was Johnny Blaze. Raekwon started that. He was on it, so RZA put it to light. Rae always had that mobster mentality, always liked to watch gangster movies and read mob books and stuff like that, you know? So he pretty much knew the names of these cats and what they was about and stuff like that. He polished his whole style like that. Plus Staten Island is known for mobsters—that’s where the Italians live. Not saying all Italians are mobsters, but you know, we ain’t blind and shit.
17. “Heaven & Hell”
Ghostface: This was one of the first songs recorded for Cuban Linx ’cause we made it for the Fresh soundtrack. Rae wrote all of it, and then we just broke it up. I just did it with him. So, I was right there. I was the co-signing like, I’m a say this part. There a lot of things me and Rae do like that. I might write, and be like, “Yo, here, son just say these parts.” But on that one, he had did that. We recorded it the same day.
GZA: Some artists work together. I’ve thrown lines at brothers, and I’ve gotten lines from brothers. That’s how we get down.
18. “North Star [Jewels]”
Raekwon: “North Star” was a track I really, really wanted on my album. It was a track that I felt the vibe of it was motion picture–like. I was having a vision of that song: I could just see a little kid looking out the window, just eating a $100,000 Bar. He coulda been on the seventh floor, eighth floor. And he just looking out the window just looking at all these niggas out there in the street doing they thing. How they eat, how they get money. How they out there just trying to get that money. Back in them days, niggas would run up to cars and stick they drugs in the window to make niggas buy ’em and whatever. So that beat always reminded me of some slow, theatrical trouble that’s about to take place.
The inspiration that Papa Wu was saying, he was more or less giving a documentary of me with the words he was saying. He was talking about me like, “Yo, just keep your head up, man. Don’t let nothing get you down.” Just trying to really inspire me from an OG’s point of view. And in the hood, OGs is legends to us.
RZA: “Fly Bitch Shit” and “North Star” was one song, but I separated them out. The idea is Rae did everything he had to do. Everything is over now. The job is over. Mission is over. It’s a perfect closing to the album.
Papa Wu was a very smart mentor in the younger days to me and ODB. I formed Wu-Tang Clan. Everybody had dibs and dabs of street knowledge, knowledge of self. I brought him in to be a mentor to these men like, I love them and you the only person I know that have the intelligence to keep them in sync with knowledge. It’s very poisonous unless they got proper guidance. He was the smartest man I’d ever met at a certain time in my life. After two years, they’d turned him into a Wu-Tang member. His name used to be Freedom Allah. He was Five Percent. He became Papa Wu after the experience, went from silk pants and button-up shirts to fatigues.