Monday, September 17th, 2012
The Anatomy of The Purple Tape
Monday, September 17th, 2012by Up North Trips Comments (5)

The Anatomy of The Purple Tape

Today we continue to celebrate our re-release of Raekwon‘s opus, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. To most, Rae’s debut is more famously known, not by the album’s title, but as the “Purple Tape”. Seventeen years removed from the original release of the cassette, it’s legacy has grown. As cassettes become harder to find, that purple-tinted tape has become one of the most revered pieces for rap fans and collectors.

Everyone has a story about the tape. Some remember the details of the day they bought it. If you didn’t have it; you had a story about someone else who did. Everyone owned the album, but if you had one of the original purple tapes, it was a calling card to your authenticity as a Hip Hop head. With the help of the good homies over at STRICTLY CASSETTE, we wanted to take a look at the lore of the tape’s release, highlighting each of the different version of the cassette release of this classic album.

Raekwon The Chef’s Latest & Greatest [Promo Tape]

Before the album’s release, Loud released a cassette sampler promo. This was standard practice in the “maxi-single era”, as tapes were cheap, easy, and everyone owned a walkman. The sampler was seven tracks long, containing six album cuts and one freestyle. The singles included on the tape (see above) featured the album’s tracks, including the Nas, Mobb & Wu collabo, “Verbal Intercourse”, which was listed as “Eye for an Eye” on this tape.

First Purple Tape [Autographed Version]

The OG release of OB4CL, and most exclusive of the collection, was printed in very limited quantities. Advertised to be signed by Rae himself, the cassette and the CD were released with his autograph printed on them. It’s unclear how many copies are released, but these versions had “Shallah Raekwon” emblazoned on them. His signature appears on the lower left hand corner of the tape, and on the CD the signature appears across the front, above the album’s title.

Second Purple Tape [Non-Autographed Version]

Very similar to it’s more exclusive older brother, this version of the tape is the more readily available of the “Purple Tape.” Exactly the same (song-wise) as the original version, the only noticeable difference between the tapes, is that this version contains no autograph. Also printed in limited qualities, this tape was issued as a first run alongside the very exclusive autographed version. This is the version that is most likely to pop up on ebay auctions.

Clear Cassette

The clear cassette version is the mass produced version of the tape. This is the tape that kids in Wisconsin and Arkansas got when they hit up Sam Goody or The Wiz (R.I.P.) on Release Date Tuesdays. Out of all of the versions that are still circulating, this is probably the one that still exists in most ciphers. It is far less exclusive as the previously two listed copies, but still sought after by anyone who is a hardcore collector.

Blacked Out (Canadian Version)

To me, this is the most rare tape out of the collection. It certainly is not as acknowledged and historical as the very first autographed versions, but based on how hard-to-find it is, this may be the holy grail of the collection. This version was exclusive to the Canadian released version of the album and was issued on on a blacked out cassette. Matte-black cassettes were popular in the 90′s, not particularly for the release of full-length albums, but more commonly as singles. Personally, I have never seen this version of the tape, and assume the packaging and the tracks are the same.

CLICK HERE to purchase Raekwon’s – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx – DELUXE + LIMITED Purple Tape Boxset

Special Thanks to @upnorthtrips and @ButtonPusha


  1. “Eye for an Eye,” mentioned in the entry for Raekwon The Chef’s Latest & Greatest [Promo Tape], is not the Purple Tape song “Verbal Intercourse.” “Verbal Intercourse” features Rae, Nas and Ghost and no members of Mobb Deep [to my knowledge, neither Mobb Deep members were featured on a Wu album until Havoc was on 2009's Chamber Music compilation]; “Eye for an Eye” is a record from Mobb Deep’s second album The Infamous and features Havoc, Prodigy, Nas and Rae.

  2. There is, of course, a song called “Eye for an Eye” on Mobb Deep’s Infamous, featuring the Chef and Nas. Are you sure that’s not what’s on the single tape, and not a mislabeled Verbal Intercourse?

  3. I bought a purple one back in the dayz when it came out and have no idea where i fucking lost it… faaaak!

  4. I couldnt have said it any better to be honest! keep up the awesome work. You are very talented & I only wish I could write as good as you do :) …

  5. You guys made me go search for my purple tape,found a Walkman,threw in some iPhone headphones,the sh!t still bangs like it was yesterday.