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Article Apr 4 2017 Written by

C.R.E.A.M.: Breakdown

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“Hey, what does that stand for?” A question I get asked every time I wear my Wu-Tang Clan C.R.E.A.M. sweatshirt. To the untrained ear “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” comes off as some type of materialistic shtick about a human craving for more than one needs. The real meaning is of a reality faced by those on the threshold of poverty that struggle each and every day to make ends meet. The darkness of the lyrics drift unassumingly through the playful piano sample, courtesy of The Charmels’ “As Long as I’ve Got You,” a title that cleverly applies to C.R.E.A.M. as well as the original track, as we are all at the end of the day slaves to a paycheck.

The original vision for the track comes from the mind of RZA, Wu Tang’s illustrious producer, and contains verses from Raekwon and Inspectah Deck as well as a hook performed by Method Man.

Method Man:

Cash rules everything around me:
CREAM, get the money
Dollar, dollar bill y’all

 One of the most well-known choruses in the entire genre, these lines have been referenced in over 200 songs in the almost 23 years since the song was released. Artists like Drake, Notorious BIG, Lecrae, Wyclef Jean, Mos Def, and Datsik have drawn inspiration from the words of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Verse 1 by Raekwon:

I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side
Staying alive was no jive
Had secondhands, Mom’s bounced on old man
So then we moved to Shaolin land

A young youth, yo, rocking the gold tooth, ‘Lo goose
Only way I be gettin’ the G off was drug loot
And let’s start it like this son, rolling with this one and that one
Pulling out Gats for fun
But it was just a dream for the teen who was a fiend
Started smoking woolas at 16
And running up in gates, and doing hits for high stakes
Making my way on fire escapes

No question I would speed for cracks and weed
The combination made my eyes bleed

No question I would flow off and try to get the dough all
Sticking up white boys in ball courts
My life got no better, same damn ‘Lo sweater
Times is rough and tough like leather
Figured out I went the wrong route
So I got with a sick-ass clique and went all out

Catching keys from across seas
Rolling in MPV’s every week we made forty G’s
Yo nigga respect mine or here go the TEC-9
Ch-chick-POW, move from the gate now 

Verse 2 by Inspectah Deck:

It’s been twenty-two long hard years of still struggling
Survival got me bugging, but I’m alive on arrival

I peep at the shape of the streets
And stay awake to the ways of the world cause shit is deep
A man with a dream with plans to make cream
Which failed; I went to jail at the age of fifteen
A young buck selling drugs and such who never had much
Trying to get a clutch at what I could not

The court played me short, now I face incarceration
Pacin’ – going upstate’s my destination
Handcuffed in the back of a bus, forty of us
Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough
But as the world turned I learned life is hell
Living in the world no different from a cell
Every day I escape from Jakes giving chaseselling base
Smoking bones in the staircase
Though I don’t know why I chose to smoke sess
I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed

But I’m still depressed and I ask what’s it worth?
Ready to give up so I seek the old Earth
Who explained working hard may help you maintain
To learn to overcome the heartaches and pain

We got stickup kids, corrupt cops, and crack rocks and
Stray shotsall on the block that stays hot
Leave it up to me while I be living proof
To kick the truth to the young Black youth

But shorty’s running wild, smoking sess, drinking beer
And ain’t trying to hear what I’m kicking in his ear
Neglected for now, but yo, it gots to be accepted
That what? That life is hectic

Inspectah Deck, arrested at age 15 served jail time, this chance for reflection on his choices led him becoming a better man. Both of these artists broke the mold and transcended what was considered possible for young black men growing up in New York. C.R.E.A.M. means having to do unpleasant things for the almighty dollar to provide the basic needs of survival, to Raekwon and Inspectah Deck it was just part of growing up.

Rae refers to Staten Island as Shaolin land in homage to the kung fu film from which the group adopted their name, “Shaolin and Wu Tang.” The members of the Wu-Tang Clan loved kung fu films and Asian martial arts culture, and this fascination permeated their music, spirituality, and overall life views. In this way overcoming the struggles of their pasts to build a more positive future. C.R.E.A.M. is an idea that in a way, I believe the Wu Tang Clan overcame despite many across the world continually remaining caught in the cycle or poverty, crime, and hopelessness.

wu-tang-cream-cover

One year after the release of C.R.E.A.M., three Wu-Tang Clan members (RZA, GZA, and Ghostface Killah) visited the 1,500-year-old Shaolin Temple in China. This historic temple is known as the birthplace of kung fu and led to Wu-Tang members training under the tutelage of a martial artist called Shi Yan Ming. RZA, in interviews and through other outlets, has expressed the importance of learning the power of meditation, spirituality, discipline, and Chi-Kung as well as many other forms of martial arts. These experiences gave a perspective on the difficult upbringing that the Wu-Tang Clan and countless others have faced over the years and, along with Hip Hop, provided a much-needed outlet for talented men learning to better themselves.

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Written by

Deep thinker with a Hip Hop Head. Art lover and history enthusiast. My Top 5 Golden Age Emcees: Rakim, KRS-One, 2Pac, Black Thought, and Notorious B.I.G.…

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