Exclusive: The former Terror Squad soldier Cuban Link is back in the mix with a new crew and he details why he turned down a TS reunion due to his fractured relationship with Fat Joe.
At the end of the 20th century, Terror Squad was one of the more promising crews in Hip Hop. Headed by Fat Joe, Terror Squad contained a collection of Latino emcees from the birthplace of Hip Hop, the Bronx. Cuban Link, Armageddon, Prospect, Triple Seis, and Big Pun rounded out TS with Pun centered as the crew’s crown jewel.
So as Big Pun went on to become the first Latino solo artist to go platinum with his debut album Capital Punishment, tragedy would soon follow, changing the fate of Terror Squad entirely, stopping the punisher from living up to the anticipation of his sophomore CD Yeeeah Baby. Abruptly, on February 7, 2000 a fatal heart attack robbed the Rap world of one of its greatest lyricists and the Terror Squad of its core foundation.
After Pun’s passing, Terror Squad disintegrated. Each group member went their own way, but Fat Joe and Cuban Link went at it in a much publicized beef that resulted in Cuban facing the sharp end of a knife. Since then, Cuban Link has moved on and fashioned a new crew called CLK: the Cuban Link Kartel. Rebuilding his brand, showcasing his new crew and reintroducing himself to fans, CL has recently released a mixtape entitled The Best Story Never Told. We imagine it’ll be vintage Terror Squad, and maybe, he can recapture some of the magic of his former groups tour de force.
Cuban Link Shares Details On New Mixtape, “The Best Story Never Told”
HipHopDX: Explain the title of the new project, The Best Story Never Told.
Cuban Link: Well, you already know The Best Story Never Told is a compilation album. My man Bigz hosted the whole thing. It’s basically the CLK artists that have been putting their work in throughout the years. It’s lyrical individuals that need to get out there. They’re doing it independently, so at the end of the day it’s a platform for them to get out there and show their talent and rep the CLK.
DX: Tell me about the CLK crew and how you found everybody.
Cuban Link: Basically, my man Bigz was scouting for artists. He’s out there scouting for artists while I’m over here handling other things on the business side of things. My man Dice was rolling with Bigz for a minute, and Big Will is family—that’s like my lil’ cousin. Everybody there is a tight circle that’s been growing through the years. We just decided to put this out so everybody can see them doing what they gotta do.
DX: Did anybody on the mixtape surprise you when they got in the booth?
Cuban Link: Nah, I basically know all their talent. They’re lyrical, man. Dice is crazy with it. He’s got that Bronx flow...that hard shit. Will, he kick it for the ladies and he do hardcore shit. Redda is just lyrical, straight from Brooklyn. Everybody in the whole crew, I already knew what they were coming with. They just needed that chance to get known. I been speaking that CLK shit for years and nobody has really heard what CLK’s got since 24K, and that’s the old CLK. This is the new CLK.
Cuban Link Says Fat Joe Screwed Him & The Rest of Terror Squad
DX: I spoke to Armageddon, and he said he asked you about a Terror Squad reunion and you said you couldn’t do it…
Cuban Link: Yeah, I told him I could do it but without the fat dude there. I told him the Fat Joe situation ain’t gonna ever be resolved. I can’t do business with a man like that. I’ve seen his businesses practices before in the past, and it led us all to be a ruined empire just by a personal association with him. Besides being a friend with him back in the day, the business dealings, I didn’t ever agree with him. I don’t think that could happen in a business sense with Joe attached to it. I told him if it was just the rest of the crew, I’d be more than willing to do it as long as the numbers is right.
DX: How did your relationship sour with Joe, was it just business?
Cuban Link: It was business. It was definitely business dealings that he was doing before when we was coming up, even when Pun was around. He would do greedy moves. I was there for it and I would tell him, “My dude, isn’t 20% enough? Why do you have to put yourself out in front of your own artists to get yourself paid and leave us behind in the dust? You’re supposed to be reppin’ us and pushing us instead of us making ways for new business ventures and you cut our throats. We gave you the permission to be on top and speak for us, and then you cut our throat and block us out.”
That’s what he was doing from the beginning. He was a friend back then, and that kind of overshadowed a lot of funny business shit he was doing. At the end of the day, we were still friends and he would do shit like that. I would tell him, “Yo, my nigga, I know what you’re doing. You don’t gotta do that. You got a real crew here that got talent and backing you up 100; you should treat niggas fair.” That greedy shit played out over the years later. You can see the whole Terror Squad now and how that became [what it became]. I wasn’t speaking bullshit when I was there.
DX: It’s unfortunate, man. You see it so much in music. Did you hear about the Raekwon and RZA thing?
Cuban Link: They went through their situation too, man. Even back in the days it was rumors that RZA was jerking them, but I didn’t know Wu-Tang like that. It was rumors back then that he was sliding off with all the cake and other niggas was starving still. I can’t even judge that situation, because I got my own situation that I went through. If it was something like what Joe did he’s disgusting. It’s disgusting how he did it, if he did do it like that.
DX: On the mixtape the song “Letter to Pun” was real touching. Was it therapeutic for you to write that song?
Cuban Link: Oh yeah, it was very therapeutic. Music for me is therapeutic from all the shit I been through with the situation with Joe and then the industry. Remember, it wasn’t Joe alone when that situation happened. We split ways, and it was me against the whole industry, because at the end of the day he got veteranship on me. He’s in there influencing all the CEOs, A&Rs and companies not to fuck with me, and I gotta go against that. Regardless of how much talent people may feel I have, it’s not like I didn’t try. I was out there trying to do that and going for deals and all that. I went to every label, and they were shutting the door in my face after a week.
In the beginning it was cool, and they were interested in me, and then a week later you get that call saying, “We have a good relationship with Joe, so it’s not in our best interest to do business with you.” You know what that means right there. He’s already calling people telling them not to fuck with me. Maybe in the art of war he was right to do that. But I didn’t come at him in a certain way. Remember, I’m the one who caught the stitches in the end. He didn’t do it, but I’m the one that went through the bad shit. I went through that street shit—that bitch ass shit from the back. He was involved with it, but he didn’t do none of that. At the end of the day, it was something that was behind me, and you’re going to still try to block me? On some real shit? That became real personal when that happened. That’s when I came out with the Broken Chains CD, and I was dissing him. At the end of the day, you can play that silent role and try to kill me on the business side, acting like we’re cool on the radio, but behind the scenes you’re telling everybody not to fuck with me so you can starve me out. I said, “You know what? Let’s go head up then, whatever it takes, lyrically, physically, whatever. Because you’re playing me like I’m a punk or a sucker, and you’re playing these fans like I’m a sucker, so let’s do it for real then.” That was 2001 when I decided to air him out, and since that time it’s still the same thing. He do him, and I do me. At the end of the day I know I got a rougher road because I gotta do this shit from the ground up again.
Cuban Link Revisits “Off The Books” & Favorite Big Pun Memories
DX: Can you share your favorite Big Pun story?
Cuban Link: It’s so many, man. My favorite was before the music started, man. It was just us going to the movies and him doing a fucking cartwheel as soon as we get in the matinee at Whitestone Cinema in the Bronx. We had a couple of 40s, and this nigga just walks down the aisle and does a somersault. People was in the fuckin’ movie theatre looking crazy like, what the fuck we on? It goes from there to us fucking going to the Poconos when “Still Not A Player” was already poppin’. We were all on quads and we following Pun all day like he’s the leader. He had the big ass quad, the 800, it was fun. Out of nowhere he left all of us. He just jetted, and we couldn’t find him. And out of nowhere I see the fucking quad turned over by a tree. Over the tree was a big ass hill so I’m like, “What the fuck happened to my brother?” I’m getting nervous, and we find this nigga on the side of a tree. It was a tree that leaned over the mountain, but he was on top of the tree with blood on the side of his lip. It was me and Sunkiss there at the time, and we’re looking for help and yelling, “Yo, Twin, yo, yo!” and this nigga just pops up and start gigging on us [laughs]. He caught us and shit. He was playing dead, and it was funny to us, but for a second it was real serious.
DX: How big was it for you to get on the Beatnuts’ “Off the Books” record?
Cuban Link: That was the biggest thing in my career. That’s what set everything off for me. That situation there was just on the humble. Pun was already working on Capital Punishment and the Beatnuts used to come to the sessions. Pun used to tell them, “You gotta do a beat for me,” and all that. Juju invited Pun to his studio in his loft in Queens. Psycho Les was there, and Pun was like, “Yo Twin, come with me.” I said, “I don’t want to impose, my nigga.” I felt like it was my Twins turn, so I didn’t wanna get on shit. He’s my brother, but Joe was telling niggas to go by yourself. He insisted that I go, so I went with him. This nigga Juju played that “Off the Books” beat, we was puffing L’s and I started writing on my own on the side. Pun already had his joint, and he told me, “Yo Twin, let’s go back and forth on it,” because at the time I had done “Toe To Toe” with him and we was on that back and forth Das EFX shit. We wrote that shit right there on the spot. Seis wrote some shit for that too. It was me, Pun, Seis, Juju, and Les, but at the end of the day Juju and Les cut off Seis because they said the song was too long.
Because my shit was right after Pun’s on some “Punisher pass it, at last it’s…” they kept me. That was really just a lucky break thanks to the Beatnuts and of course to my big brother. That was a major thing for my existence in the beginning, so I appreciate that from the Beatnuts. Funkmaster Flex broke that record in New York, so a lot of love to that. A lot of people would have never heard of Cuban Link if it wasn’t for that because my album never came out. There was a lot of interest in me ‘cause of that song.
DX: What’s next up for Cuban Link?
Cuban Link: Been doing a lot of family shit, so I took a little break. These last three years I’ve been doing the daddy shit. I got a brand new baby girl—three years old. I just have to sit back and see what’s next up. Of course I have plans for The Missing Link. I’m about to work on it, but I’m just waiting for something [to] kick in and do it right. You can’t be doing shit free on the Internet all day. Nothing comes from it except that love of course. You have to keep your name alive at the same time, but I’m from an era where you cut a record, you gotta get paid. Those shits is precious. When we put that single out, it’s going to be money behind that single, so you can’t just spoil it by throwing it on the Internet out of nowhere, even though you can’t get away from it nowadays. It has to be very well organized when I do come out with something. Something in the near future...within this summer you should hear some Cuban Link shit from me.