“C.R.E.A.M” (an acronym of “Cash Rules Everything Around Me”) is the third single from iconic American hip-hop group Wu-Tang Club’s debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”, released in 1994. It has been coined by many as one of the “greatest hip-hop songs of all time”, despite its lack of commercial success. The song is about how money is in charge of every individuals’ life and the unfairness and ridiculousness of capitalism.
“C.R.E.A.M” was written by the Wu-Tang Clan themselves, a New York rap group consisting of rapper-producer RZA (real name Robert Fitzgerald Diggs), rapper GZA (real name Gary E. Grice), Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Russell Tyrone Jones), Method Man (Clifford M. Smith), rapper Raekwon (Corey Woods), rapper and songwriter Ghostface Killah (Dennis Coles), Inspectah Deck (Jason Richard Hunter), U-God (Lamont Jody Hawkins) and Masta Killa (Jamel Irief). The track samples vocals and music from the 1967 song from the Charmels’ “As Long as I’ve Got You”. In an interview with Complex in 2011, Method Man and Raekwon spoke about “C.R.E.A.M.” (in different interviews):
Method Man: “‘C.R.E.A.M.’ was the one that really put us on the map if you wanna be technical. I wasn’t there when they recorded ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ I came in after the fact. RZA was like, ‘Put a hook on this song’ and I put a hook on it. That’s how it always went. I liked doing hooks. The hook for that was done by my man Raider Ruckus. We used to work at the Statue of Liberty and when we were coming home we used to come up with all these made-up words that were acronyms. We had words like ‘BIBWAM’ which meant, ‘Bitches Is Busted Without A Man’ and all this other crazy shit. Raider Ruckus was so ill with the way he put the words together. We would call money ‘cream’ so he took each letter and made a word out of it and killed it the way he did it.
Something like that had never been done before as far as a hook or even a way of speaking. This is just showing and proving that we paid attention in class when we was kids. You can’t do shit like that unless you got a brain in your fucking head! You got to have some level of intelligence to do something like that.
The best acronym for a word that I heard was ‘P.R.O.J.E.C.T.S.’ by Killah Priest. He said ‘People Relying On Just Enough Cash To Survive.’ And he’s the one that came up with ‘Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,’ the acronym for B.I.B.L.E. This ain’t no fluke shit man. There’s a reason you got millions upon millions of fucking kids running around with Wu-Tang tattoos. You don’t just put something on your body permanently unless it’s official. At that time, when you’re coming out brand new and representing where you come from, everybody from that area wants you to win because they win. That’s what it was like for us. We were the only dudes from Staten Island doing it so everybody from Staten Island wanted us to win. Not just dudes from Staten Island, but dudes from Brooklyn too because they had peoples in the group too. Then it was just grimy niggas who loved to see real shit, saying, ‘We riding with them Wu-Tang niggas. Fuck all that shiny suit shit!’ That ain’t no take on Puff, a lot of niggas was wearing suits and shit man, but that ain’t us.”
Raekwon: “‘C.R.E.A.M.’ did a lot for my career personally. It gave me an opportunity to revisit the times where that cream meant that much to us. So, yeah, when I think of this record it just automatically puts me back into ‘87/’88 where we were standing in front of the building. It’s cold outside. We didn’t care. We’re out there, all black on trying to make dollars. Just trying to make some money and trying to eat. Survive.
This song, I remember writing to the beat a long time ago before we actually came out. That beat is old. That was probably like a ‘89 beat. RZA had it that long because he had a bunch of breaks. He had all kind of things and he was making beats back then, but we was just picking and that beat happened to always sit around and I would be like, ‘I want that beat, so don’t give that beat to nobody.’ And he kept his word and let me have it.
Meth came up with the hook but our dude named Raider Ruckus, this was like Meth’s homeboy back then, like they was real close, he came up with the phrase ‘cash rules everything around me.’ So when he showed Meth what it was and was like, ‘Cash rules everything around me,’ Meth was like, ‘Word, you right!’ And turned it into a movie, and I came in later that day and heard it and co-signed it.”
The music video was uploaded to the group’s official YouTube channel in January 2014, and takes a very simple approach to the video, showing the group driving in a car around New York in the colder weather, singing along to the track. As of September 2019, the video has almost 94 million likes, and over 654 thousand likes.
Release Date: 31st January 1994
Songwriter/s: Wu-Tang Clan
Label: Loud Records & RCA Records
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Chart Rankings & Certifications: In its year of release, “C.R.E.A.M.”, despite its praise from music critics, it failed to chart anywhere besides the US, ranking #60 in the US billboard Hot 100 chart, #32 in the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop and #8 in the US Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart. “C.R.E.A.M.” also received Gold certification in the US.