PURPLE TAPE: The Purple Tape. For true HipHop heads, those three words speak volumes and need no further explanation or exposition.

For the noobs and novices, The Purple Tape refers to the cassette version of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the classic album dropped by Raekwon the Chef featuring his Wu-Tang Clan compatriot Ghostface Killah.

The album was dropped in multiple formats, but it is the purple cassette that is quickly becoming a Holy HipHop Grail of sorts.

As the story goes, Raekwon wanted his cassette to stand out from the rest when inevitably found in a pile of un-cased cassettes, the majority of which were either white, grey or clear. When his first choice, green, wasn't available, he went with purple. Approximately 10,000 of the purple cassettes were produced.

Soon after the album was released, CDs pushed cassette tapes off record store shelves and into boxes in the garage and the garbage. In the years since its release in 1995 a couple of things happened: Cuban Linx was confirmed as a classic album which ensured anyone still in possession of an original Purple Tape had a collectible piece of HipHop history destined only to become more rare and valuable. Possession also confers a certain amount of HipHop status among those in the know.

And I say "original" because in 2012 a company released a version of the Purple Tape in a collector's box with fancy inserts. It was cool, but no substitute for the original purple joint or the even more rare Purple Tape with a Shallah Raekwon signature imprinted on the bottom left.



This particular piece has been two years in the works, mainly because I was over thinking what I wanted to do. I obviously wanted the cassette to be the focus, but I was adding in too many other miscellaneous items — Wu-Tang logos, Rae and Ghost silhouettes, interpretations of the cover, etc.

So I just left the piece partially finished, returning to it periodically to touch things up, but still with no clear idea of what I wanted to do.

In the summer of 2013 a friend called me in to help him sort through hundreds of CDs he was planning to trade-in for cash at a record shop in Hollywood. Going through his stash, I copped a copy of Bizarre Ride to the Pharcyde (that inexplicably and inexcusably was in his discard pile)! Nevertheless, going through his CD stash led me to search through my own collection of boxed cassettes, where I uncovered classics and headscratchers alike. And there, amidst the other 400 tapes was my Purple Tape in pristine condition.

I hadn't seen it since I pulled it out for reference when I started the piece.

And then it hit me — The Purple Tape doesn't need any garnishment. Like a shell toe Adidas sneaker with no laces or two Technics 1200s, the Purple Tape stands fully on its own as a HipHop icon.

So I went back to the drawing board and just pumped up the purple and layered different shades on the cassette and background.

Since the piece was inspired by the object and the full album as opposed to a song, I decided to use the album's intro conversation, "Striving For Perfection," in place of lyrics, with Raekwon's words in the darker purple and Ghost's in the lighter lavender. I then blended the whole thing until I got a faded/stenciled look that kept the text from being a visual distraction from the tape.


That's right!