Ghostface Killah: From Behind The Mask To The Front of The Clan | @ghostfacekillah
It was the winter of ’92 when I would first become familiar with The Wu. I had just made a run by the mall and copped the new Clue? Tape that had come out. As usual it had bangers from all the top rappers in New York at the time, as well as exclusives you couldn’t hear anywhere else. Amongst all the names I seen typed onto the neon green paper that surrounded that gray Maxell cassette tape, there was one that stood out. The Wu-Tang Clan. It was the first time I had been introduced to the 9 man crew from Staten Island that would eventually change hip-hop forever.
On one side of the tape was their new single “Protect Ya Neck”. On the other side of the tape was the B-Side to the single. The aptly titled, “Method Man”, named after Method Man himself. The lone MC featured on the record. “Method Man” ended up being the bigger of the two songs and turned Method Man into a de facto front-man of the group. There was even a scene in the movie “The Show” where certain members of the crew get into a minor argument about an overseas flyer saying “Method Man and 3 other band members” instead of “Wu-Tang Clan”.
The RZA was the mastermind behind the Wu-Tang Clan. He put the group together, produced all the beats and it was also his idea to use imagery and samples from old Kung-Fu movies in their videos and music.
Along with the super-charismatic Ol’ Dirty Bastard, The Chef Raekwon, The GZA and the other talented members it would probably be very difficult to stand out and stake your own claim as an artist. Yet there was one question that I always asked myself when watching those early Wu-Tang videos… “Who the fuck is the guy with the stocking cap over his face!?” Enter Ghostface Killah…
After having arguably the best verse on the lead single, “Protect Ya Neck”, it was the fourth single that would be the most important for Ghostface going forward. “Can It Be All So Simple” featured Raekwon and Ghostface in what would be the first time hearing the two mc’s incredible chemistry on wax. The two lyricists over RZA’s flip of a Gladys Knight sample would layout the blueprint for what would be showcased on Raekwon’s classic, OB4CL album and countless other collaborations between the two gifted artists.
Following the huge success of “Enter The Wu-Tang” almost all of the members would releases successful solo albums. By the spring of ’95 ODB had a gold-solo album, Method Man was certified platinum with his debut and his collaboration with The RZA and Mary J. Blige would earn them a Grammy nomination. At this time it had seemed that GFK had been relegated to a guest starring role on the upcoming Raekwon album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. When the album released in August of that year it wasn’t as commercially successful as the two previous solo offerings from Wu members, but the critics immediately hailed it a classic. Years later this album is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. After appearing on almost every song on the album it greatly raised the anticipation for a solo LP of his own.
It was over a year later before our thirst would be quenched. In October of 1996, Ironman was released and hit number 2 on the Billboard Charts cementing Ghostface as a star is his own right. The album was also very well received by critics and hip-hop heads alike raising his status amongst Wu fans. Method Man’s crossover appeal and ODB’s collaborations with artists like Mariah Carey would keep them in the spotlight but Ghostface certainly has stayed the most consistent. Method Man’s second album was a huge success but wasn’t as favorable with critics as his first one and the same could be said about Ol’ Dirty as well who chose to lean more on production from The Neptunes than The RZA which made for more misses then hits.
However, Ghostface Killah’s second full-length, Supreme Clientele was considered some of his best work. It hit number 7 on the Billboard charts and his held up as a classic in the legendary Wu-Tang catalog. Method Man experienced more success with Redman, as well as a very successful career as an actor, but has hardly been consistently active in music for a while now and doesn’t have the same star power as a rapper that he once had. Nowadays The RZA is known more for scoring and directing movies than he is for producing or releasing music. The other artists from The Wu such as Inspektah Deck, U-God and Masta Killa never really amassed the popularity or catalog that the other more well-known members did despite releasing music regularly. Unfortunately ODB fought a fought a lot of demons while alive and we never really got to see his full potential before his untimely death.
In his career GFK has released countless albums including, Fishscale which along with Ironman and Supreme Clientele is considered a classic album and one of the best in his catalog. Those projects along with his contribution to OB4CL are a testament to how great of an artist he really is. To put things into perspective he may have as many, if not more classic albums then Jay-Z, Nas or even Eminem. That’s the type of career Ghostface has had. And that’s not counting The Wu-Tang Clan albums (Crazy To Think About Isn’t It??!!). In addition to his extensive resume he has also managed to stay relevant in an age of social media far removed from the industry he came up in. Whether it’s doing entire records with bands like, BADBADNOTGOOD or appearing on a VH1 reality show, people still know what he’s up to and are checking for new music even almost 25 years after his debut.
So as a Wu-Tang super fan and someone who was there to witness the beginning of this history making super group, over time it has become evident that the guy behind the stocking cap mask was destined to carry the torch for The Mighty “W”.
– Evan B. Culture aka Evan Bancroft
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER: @EvanBCulture