With the fanciful underworld alter-egos of the Wu-Gambinos, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was a landmark record that popularized organized crime-raps throughout hip-hop. A month later, AZ followed suit with Doe or Die. Suddenly, everyone was a mafia don, sporting suitcoats and fedoras on their album covers, mentioning the costra nostra [sic] and rapping about criminal resumes they (usually) didn't really have.
But Raekwon didn't invent the practice, nor was he even the first to popularize it. Kool G Rap actually made early steps into Mafia raps—rapping about living the lavish lifestyles of a mob boss—six years earlier. "Road to the Riches," released in 1989, introduced the concept, as its protaganist approaches success via Scarface: "I wasn't too far from a Jaguar car/In a small-time casino, the town's Al Pacino." And later on: "He likes to eat hardy, party/Be like John Gotti and drive a Maserati." It was a theme G Rap would explore throughout his catalog; on 1992's epic Live and Let Die, he even sampled The Untouchables. And even the same year as Cuban Linx, G Rap would release blatantly Mafia-tastic single "Fast Life" with Nas, who boasts: "We on the rise, me and G, ghetto wise guys/The Luciano, Frankie Yale, Bugsy Siegel/Green papers with eagles from a trade that's illegal."
But even G Rap was, technically, not first. In 1988, a little-known rapper who called himself Akshun released a song called "Scarface." It became the rapper's first major song; he would rename himself Scarface shortly thereafter.