Ghostface Killah: Peace, God
Maturation has also allowed him to release one of this years most anticipated albums, Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, a record he says will introduce fans to even more mature music from the Shaolin wordsmith. Originally billed as his R&B album, Ghost has partnered with various singers including Ron Browz and John Legend, hired to accompany his grit-filled flow, to show us another side of his well documented personality, one that he says will continue to evolve for years to come. Of course, thats as long as he can still command the respect from his fans.
That hasnt been a problem thus far. His storied Wallabees have traversed the rocky roads of the industry and hes survived every stumble. Tough like an elephant tusk. No matter what problems came to face the one-time masked man, hes remained one of the genres most intriguing figures, releasing albums full of 1990s New York nostalgia married with new flavors for freshness. With Wu-Tangs legacy cemented, Ghost has also managed to make a name for himself as a solo artist, grabbing a piece of history as he let his feet stomp.
The Wizard of Poetry recently sat down with HipHopDX to explain his upbringing, his come up and much more in a candid interview. Unafraid to discuss views on why the world needs God, controversial as his comments can be, he kept it as raw as his music has been since we first caught the blast of a hype verse. While reflecting on the early days of the Wu, drug dealing and his time in jail, Ghost also explained to us what allowed this maturation process to begin, sharing the views of a man whos ready to grow with what he feels is peace in his heart and God on his mind.
HipHopDX: On All That I Got Is You, there is a lot of personal stuff about your upbringing. But, can you shed light on some of that?
Ghostface Killah: Word. When I reached a certain age, around 12 or 13, we were struggling. Around 13 years old, whatever, we were strugglin. Pops wasnt there. I got two brothers with me in there with muscular dystrophy thats in the wheelchair. I was the oldest. As time went on, there was times I had to pick them up out of the wheelchair, take them to the bathroom, pick them up out of the bathroom, put them back in the chair. You know, the house was flooded with mad family. Like I said [in the lyrics of the song], "fifteen of us in a three bedroom apartment." You know what Im saying?
DX: Was there anything in particular that helped you stay motivated through that?
Ghostface Killah: It was just that God sends signs your way. Its like, you know one person and this leads on to this and this leads on to that. As the years went by, I had went through...[Pause] I went to jail at 15. I went to jail at around like 15. I was in upstate New York for robbing and stealing because, like I said, we didnt really have nothing. But, I started fuckin with my friends that was gettin high, smoking woolies and all that other shit. Like [Raekwon] [click to read] said [on "C.R.E.A.M."], smoking woolies at 16. For us, thats what it was and shit. Um, after I did that, you know, 87 started kickin in. Now, we was stealing, selling drugs and gettin fly. You know what I mean? Just shit like that. Then, I hooked up with RZA [click to read] and them, through a few friends and all that other shit and he was here with Rae and them. Then, RZA moved down to my projects and thats where we started. He used to come through selling hype sweat suits, like velour suits and all that other shit. He always had a little glow about him and shit. He knew how to rhyme and for some reason, I knew that he was going to be that nigga one day. I knew it! I knew how to rhyme and shit and me and him became close and shit. We became close and you know, I gave him the Wu-Tang name and introduced him to the Wu-Tang and Shaolin movies. One thing led to another, you know what I mean? I was getting money out-of-state and all that other shit and getting that equipment and all that other shit. He was home making the beats and doing this and that and the third. You know, I came back, settled down, went and snatched up Rae and them. Thats when U-God [click to read], [Inspectah] Deck [click to read] and Jesus, his cousin [came in]. Then , we had the squad. We just put this shit together, B. Then, one thing led to another and it was on.
DX: Growing up, did you dream of being anything other than an emcee? What other aspirations did you have?
Ghostface Killah: Um...coming up, yeah, I dreamt. I seen this! I seen this! I seen this! It took me awhile to get it. But, I seen this back in the '80s. Its like, I seen it and dreamt it, but going through the struggle to get there, I didnt know. I didnt keep it on my mind every day like that but, I knew that when Genius [click to read] got on, then RZA was on, it was like Okay, hes on Tommy Boy [Records]. You know, how you be like, Okay, yo, were going to do this and were going to do that. Thats how it was. Then, he left Tommy Boy or they dropped him or whatever. Now, its like What we gonna do now? Now, our hopes are shattered. Were just out here on the block, tryin to put our shit on. Thats the type of shit a nigga went through. Once we went independent, we started walking our own dog. After awhile, we settled down like, What the fuck we gonna do? He was like a scientist with his shit. I give him his points for that shit because he didnt stop.
DX: Through that, youve been through New York Raps greatest days and youve been through the lows. Youve also been pretty vocal about New York Hip Hop when you felt it wasnt doing right. Do you think New York Rap is looking better today or do you still feel there is a lack of creativity and productivity in New York?
Ghostface Killah: It is, still, hell yeah. Its still a lack of all that shit, of course.
DX: How do you see that changing?
Ghostface Killah: It all starts within the individual. But, I dont think theres ever going to be a time when were all going to be...like New York is going to be New York in Hip Hop and thats it. I think that right now, its over. Its over! Thats what I personally think. Dont get me wrong, theres motherfuckers out there that still know how to get busy. I think its over [thinking] were going to just run it and thats it and nobody else is going to have a chance. I think its going to be diverse. I think were going to have [different types of music]. If I make my music, Im making it for the ones that love the music I make and for myself. Youre going to have a variety of shit, its just who stands out the most with their shit. You cant bring time back. Time is already gone. Everybody want to bring 88 back. You cant bring 88 back. That was the 80s. At no other point in life, have you ever heard of a period of time coming back or the good ol days coming back. Nah. Its not that because as time goes on, every day shit gets rougher and rougher and things change. It evolves. Its like Disco came in after all that Soul shit. From Disco, derived other shit. Rap is probably like one of the last things that played a part, that nurtured from all that other shit. So, things never really go back. Now, if the old people want to go head and make some Soul music, theyre going to make it. But, its not going to be on top again, like how it was in the '60s or the '70s. Now, you got still Disco, you got House, you got fuckin Opera and Country. Its going to be different. It aint gonna be Soul no more. Thats what Im saying. Inside of Rap, its the same shit. So, dont look to bring all that other shit back. But, if were going to make music close to it, then were just going to be able to do it. But, at the same time, all that other shit is still going to be there.
DX: I think its interesting that throughout your career, you always talk about feeding the babies in some way-about teaching the youth about the world. Whats the most powerful message you think the youth today needs to hear?
Ghostface Killah: The most powerful message is the easy message. Just put God in your life, man. I know it sounds simple and plain but thats how it is. Right now, the world is like...were disrespecting God to the fullest, like if He dont even exist. What I mean by that is, were doing shit...I mean...Cmon, you got males liking another male, females liking other females. With killing at its craziest murder rate, were doing a bunch of foul shit [like] raping, putting diseases out there, putting the swine flu out there and AIDS out there. Were disrespecting God so much like if He dont even exist. People dont even go to church no more. As little kids back in the days, if you was little, you had to go to church with your family. You knew a sense of God. These people just hear God and ignore Him. They dont feel bad for nothing that they do out there. They dont say, Oh, Im sorry for robbing that dude, or Im sorry for this. Nothing. This is why the world is where its at right now. Theres no respect! Not even in your household. The children dont even respect they parents. The parents dont respect themselves. They might not even respect their kids because theyre doing shit in front of their kids and their kids is picking up on it. So, its like a chain reaction. But, thats the most powerful statement because if they had somebody who they respected like God, they would feel ashamed to do a lot of shit. See, me? Im a spiritual brother. So, I humbled myself to a lot of ways so I cant even steal a book of matches from you. I could be at 7-Eleven, you might give me $20 extra change and I gotta give it back to you. Im at a stage now, where I know that somebody is watching me. Whether its the angels, my good angel and my bad angel, taking notes or God himself, somebody is watching me and Ima be held accountable for this shit after I pass away. On Judgement Day, Ima get judged for all the shit that I did. So, Im aware now. But, a lot of people are not aware now so thats how come I say, If you had a personal relationship with the higher being, this world with be more because you wouldnt be doing nothin foul. If you aint doin nothing foul, youre doing something righteous. The more that people do something righteous, the more well have a righteous world. Thats why I say Put God in your life. Fuck the big speech and all that other shit. Theres nothing to really talk about. Thats what it all boils down to because Hes the creator and maker of all this. Without Him, none of this would be possible. Me talking to you on a phone would not be possible. The phone wouldnt be possible. Clothes wouldnt be possible. Your food! Your Water! Even your body, your fuckin body parts thats still functioning, wouldnt be possible. You feel me? Life itself. So, thats how come it all boils down to that one word: Its God, yo.
DX: Is this something that you always had in your mind or is it something that came later in life?
Ghostface Killah: I always had shit in my mind! I always had things in my mind, but as you get older, you get more mature and especially when youre dealing with your spirituality, it grabs you. For those who try to change their life and really know, like, Yo, I cant front on God. You could think that youve got a bone in your closet...You killed this man and nobodys gonna know about it? Nah, yo! You might get away with it right now, but youre gonna be held accountable for that body when its time to get judged. Dont think that because somebody died, [if] your mother died or father died, [that] they in heaven. Theyre not in heaven! Theyre in a holding place. You cant be in heaven until you get judged and you get judged when this world is over. See what Im sayin? Theyre not in heaven. The ones thats in heaven is the babies thats never sinned before, thats never fucked before. They never did nothin. If you sinned before, even if you sinned one time, you gonna have to get judged. So, you not goin straight to heaven.
DX: Now, youve also talked in public about learning from the youth and applying what you learn to the knowledge you already have to come up with something fresh every time. What type of new things are you learning every day, be it from your kids or just younger up and coming emcees in the game?
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, you always learn from the children. You watch the seeds and what they do and stuff like that. But, um, I dont got nothing on my mind like I learned this or that. Nah, I havent been around no kids to pick up on something. But, you know, you always pick up and learn something, and you dont even know like your mind didnt even recognize what the fuck just happened.
DX: While were speaking about kids, I know you have kids. How did having kids change you? How did it change the way you approach different facets of life?
Ghostface Killah: Certain things I say on my records, I dont want to say certain shit. Kids teach you responsibility, man. Youre not that person no more who just live...I mean, I dont stay with my kids. I dont live with their mother. I take care of my children. But, thats my responsibility now. You cant walk away from that. You have to go ahead and talk to em, make sure that theyre taken care of so they dont have to rob and steal like how I had to when I was young [and] to prevent them from going to jail. You just have to teach them the rights and the wrongs and stay in they ass.
DX: I spoke with you in 2007 [click to read] and you told me something that I found really interesting. You said After I start throwing these little dirty darts, Im gonna have to start throwing mature darts speaking on men and women. It can be positive or a fucked up situation, but you have to address certain issues. Is that something we are going to be seeing with The Wizard of Poetry?
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, this Poetry album is older. Its mature. So, its adult situations on it and stuff like that, some shit that a nigga can go through. On this album right here, I focus a lot on women. I just threw my dart at women and other types of situations, too. So, I didnt go ahead and get to that but as my albums go on, Ill get to the phase where you gotta talk about Nigga, you fucked up, talking about the men. Or, it could be I miss my kids or it could be Yo, we gotta get our morals together, speaking on men. But, then you got women, too, thats fucked up and might fuck a different dude every month and thats not good. Yeah, [that will come] as time goes on, but, this album is a mature album. This is the album that sets it off for all that shit.
DX: In that same interview, you also said You gotta have people to grow with you. For a long time, people had a feeling like rappers couldnt do it past a certain age. But, now we are seeing emcees go on for much longer and maintain success for much longer as the culture grows with them. Do you think the people, the genre and the fans are ready for that type of maturation now more than ever?
Ghostface Killah: Were going to have to take a turn somewhere, whether theyre ready for it or not. Its going to have to evolve into something. Like [KRS-One] [click to read] said in 87, Fifty years down the line, you could start this/ because well be the old school artists. Ive been here for about 14-15 years probably. KRS was here in 86-87. Twenty years down the line, hes still putting it down. So, thats just what it is right now. By the time you hit 50, theres other things to talk about, B. You cant talk that crack shit. You gotta talk about shit that people relate to. I dont give a fuck if youre broke. If youre broke, [rhyme like] Nigga, I dont got it! Dont ask me for no fuckin money, nigga, I dont go it! You gotta be talking about real shit like that. Say you fuck around and you on health care or Social Security: Yo, yo, yo, Social Security aint payin me too much! Its that shit that motherfuckers can relate to. I dont give a fuck if you old and you have a cane, nigga. You gotta talk about your cane! You know what I mean? We do these things. Like, Me and my bitch got glass canes with iced out... or I got false teeth with frames on em. You know what I mean? If you a 60 year-old nigga, you gotta spit a 60 year-old dart! I want to still be rhyming when Im 60. I might not want to do shows, I dont know, but I still believe Ima be throwin old man darts because Im a fly nigga in my head. I believe that yo, you could do whatever the fuck you want. Its nothin to write rhymes. It aint like Im out there with a shovel, slavin every fuckin morning. This is something you do with a pen and a fuckin paper, B. This is music. So, in my old man darts, even if Im going senile, Ima have to write that shit. If my dick cant get up, I might have to go ahead and start throwing that shit like Yo, I done reached that age when my dick cant get up! You know what Im saying? Just make it sound fly to where motherfuckers is like Oh shit! Thats what it is. Thats how youre going to keep your fans with you. Dont front on em.
DX: Its like, weve heard everything in the mind of a 20 year old and even 30 year olds. How important is it to get that different perspective...
Ghostface Killah: Yeah, things evolve. So, when they be talkin that retire shit or Ima stop rhyming? Yeah, alright, man. Tell them niggas to fuck off, B. They need to stop it. You have to come back because you love Hip Hop. So, what you gon do? Its nothin. You hear some fly shit, rhymes gonna come in your head. Lines are gonna start comin at you. Its not gonna stop, yo.
DX: The Wu-Tang legacy is already cemented. People know that. But, youre saying you dont plan on stopping. You just talked about rhyming til you can no longer do it in the future. Where do you want your legacy to be when its all over?
Ghostface Killah: Respect is the most important thing that you could ask for in life. I just want people to respect me and respect what Ive done, man. Thats it, yo. Im not asking you to put me as your best emcee or your best that. If any of that ever came to be, thats just gravy, the cherry thats on top. At the end of the day, you want to go sleep knowing that you was well respected and mother fuckers loved you, B.