Thursday, March 30, 2006


Ghostface Killah - Murder Goons

When the Wu Tang Clan's landmark debut Enter the Wu-Tang:36 Chambers dropped in '93, Ghostface Killah was rarely mentioned as a standout among the nine rappers. Method Man, GZA, and ODB got special mentions for their personality, thoughtful lyrics and unhinged style respectively while RZA was praised for his grimy, complex production - yet Ghostface was no more mentioned than also-rans like Masta Killah or U-God. This isn't that surprising, considering limited air time on the record, and the overall quality and consistency of nearly everyone on the album - even the aforementioned b-listers were tearing it up on that one. But it has been a pleasant surprise watching a rapper who was literally faceless at the outset of the group turn out to be one it's most consistently original voices, spurring more interest in his identity than his more fame hungry cohorts. Truly, Ghost is about the only reason to bother keeping tabs on Wu-related matters - as the rest of the group seems more focused on merchandising than their craft. Hell, Method Man brings more passion to his Right Guard spots than he does to his solo work these days.

If one were to do word association with the name Ghostface, the first word out of your mouth would have to be emotion. Raw, unfiltered feeling is his stock in trade. Even on lesser tracks, he always seems on the verge of losing it -whether that means busting a head, busting a nut, or bursting in to tears thinking about his mama - Ghost wears his heart stapled to his sleeve. Consider his first solo hit, the incredible tale of childhood poverty "All That I Got Is You". It still gives chills after all these years. Rhyming over a minimalist, beatless (!) track that consists simply of mournful strings, he lays down the telling detail of a youth "sharper than cleats":

Grab the pliers for the channel, fix the hanger on the TV
Rockin each others pants to school wasn't easy
We survived winters, snotty nosed with no coats
We kept it real, but the older brother still had jokes.....

Seven o'clock, pluckin roaches out the cereal box
Some shared the same spoon, watchin saturday cartoons
Sugar water was our thing, every meal was no thrill
In the summer, free lunch held us down like steel....

And as he nails you with the revelation that two of his brothers had muscular dystrophy, he adds in this little bit of relief:

But I remember this, mom's would lick her finger tips
To wipe the cold out my eye before school wit her spit.

But this is the only reprieve as he then goes on to question his existence on earth. It is also noteworthy for being the only rap song to ever be able to credibly and unironically end with "What up, mommy - I love you".

Here is some exclusive live footage of Ghost telling the crowd about how rough he had it as a kid right before performing "All that I got is You"
Ghostface Killah - Live

The second dead giveaway that it's Ghost is his occasionally lackadaisical attitude towards making any goddamn sense. This tendency comes and goes, and is sadly less evident on his more recent stuff. I find his profundity is inversely proportional to his literalism. His best gems are more often than not tucked in between complete non-sequiters. This is not to say they're bad, though - just cryptic, and rarely seen in rap. At these times, it's nearly impossible to find parallels in hip-hop - it's more akin to the head-scratching poetry of Bowie or Cobain when they sing about Mickey Mouse growing up a cow, or eating your cancer when you turn black. You may not know what the fuck it means, but it sure sounds good against a beat. And like these guys, you often get the feeling he never took out what musicians call "dummy lyrics" - the placeholder words they slap in while working on the melody. But Ghost really takes the cryptic cake - just try to decipher the silly slang of "Nutmeg" with it's "tidybowl gung-ho pro" gibberish. It works somehow, though, and shows admirable fidelity to the true spirit of poetry - a fearlessness in the face of language; a willingness to stretch words to their limit for sonic effect, easy comprehension be damned.
Ghostface Live - Nutmeg

Lest we get too high-minded, let's take a look at Ghost's soft, sensitive side when it comes to the ladies:

Suck my dick it's the kid with the fat knob
I bust all into ya face, plus it come in globs
Too much air in your pussy you screamin that it's TALKIN TO YOU DADDY
fart's breathin out your lips, splashing my dick badly

Specificity has never been a problem with Ghost, and he certainly doesn't hold back when discussing beautiful lovemaking. But for real, chickenheads best not front and go give up the gap elsewhere or else Ghost will have to break bad on a bitch like he does in "Wildflower":

Remember when I long-dicked you and broke your ovaries
You crab bitch, chickenhead hoe, eatin' heros
I'm the first nigga that had you watchin flicks by DeNiro

There's much more one could say about Ghost, but suffice to say his whole discography merits a listen. Keep in mind that includes Raekwon's solo stuff, since he and Ghost have only recently been removed at the hip. I wouldn't be surprised if they had BFF tats with each other's names somewhere on their person (I wonder if Meth went out and recruited Red as a bosom buddy just out of jealousy). Their first tag-team, Rae's "Only Built for Cuban Linx", could easily be nominated for best Wu album. And of course, Ghost's first two solo albums have maybe two tracks of fat between them. After that it's a little spotty, but still worth checking out for some classic tracks. ODB got the headlines, RZA gets the slobbery critic lovefest, and Meth gets the big checks, but it's Ghost who keeps Wu Tang something that "ain't nothing to fuck wit".

More footage of Ghost schoolin the crowd.
Ghostface Killah - Live


  • At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Brilliant post son ...

  • At 3:36 AM, Blogger Ekko said…

    what do you mean you "had" to get limewire off?


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