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Meaning of ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ by ‘Wu-Tang Clan’ feat. Method Man, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Buddha Monk

Released: 1993

Features: Method Man, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Buddha Monk

“C.R.E.A.M.” by the Wu-Tang Clan is a raw and unfiltered deep dive into the gritty reality of urban life, the struggle for survival, and the all-consuming pursuit of money. The song’s title, an acronym for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” serves as a poignant commentary on the influence and necessity of money in society.

The song starts with a regular day in the challenging urban environment, with mentions of watching out for police, money-obsessed mentality, and the reality of wastefulness (“niggas got garbage down the way”). Here, Wu-Tang Clan reflects the dire economic circumstances that fuel crime and desperation.

Inspectah Deck’s first verse paints a vivid picture of his upbringing on the rough streets of New York City, “the crime side, the New York Times side.” The lyrics recount his survival journey—turning to drug dealing as the only means of making money and being caught in a cycle of crime for survival. The “Lo goose” and “gold tooth” symbolize the extravagant lifestyle that typically accompanies fast money.

Deck then reflects on his realization of going down the wrong path and his subsequent decision to go “all out” with a “sick-ass click.” This could reference his joining the Wu-Tang Clan, a move that transformed his life. His verse concludes with him demanding respect, a common sentiment in hip-hop culture, which often equates success and wealth with respect.

The hook emphasizes the overarching theme of the song with the repeated mantra: “Cash rules everything around me / C.R.E.A.M. get the money / Dollar, dollar bill, y’all.” It encapsulates the deeply entrenched belief that money is the key to survival and success, a theme that runs rampant in both hip-hop culture and society at large.

Raekwon takes the mic for the second verse, starting with a reflection on his 22-year struggle for survival. His lyrics depict a man with big dreams that were shattered by a criminal lifestyle leading to incarceration. His phrase “Life as a shorty shouldn’t be so rough” shows a sense of regret and the tough reality of growing up too fast on the streets.

With his vivid narrative of life on the street, Raekwon then reveals the survival techniques employed to cope, such as smoking “sess” (weed) and drinking beer. Despite this, he acknowledges his persistent depression and quest for meaning, seeking guidance from the “Old Earth”—a term often used for a respected older person. He ends his verse with a sort of personal mission statement: to spread truth to the young black youth who may be going through similar experiences.

Finally, the song rounds off with the hook, reemphasizing the power money wields over them—forcing them to “do what they gotta do” to survive in their harsh environment, echoing the bleak outlook of their reality.

In essence, “C.R.E.A.M.” presents a candid look at life in low-income urban communities, detailing the pursuit of money as a means of survival. It symbolizes the group’s growth from a life of crime to a life of music while consistently acknowledging the omnipresent power of money.

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