Ghostface Killah: Lyrical Swords

posted December 13, 2007 12:00:00 AM CST | 26 comments

Given the breakneck pace at which he's been releasing material, it's hard to believe that Ghostface Killah used to obscure his face with dollar-store hosiery when the Wu-Tang Clan emerged in November of 1993. Fourteen years later, after all of the Clan's peaks, valleys and occasional in-fighting, Ghost has arguably become the most visible and prolific memberpopping up in movies as well as on toy shelves and his own albums equally since he made the jump from Epic to Def Jam.

Just like his verses, Pretty Toney's career arc both commands respect and defies the laws of the Hip Hop universe at the same time. Seriously, how many of you know what "Scooby Snack Jurassic plastic gas booby traps" are? In the midst of a whirlwind press junket for a new album, most artists would be content to give the usual canned answers while plugging their project. But, Ghost, donning a Jason Voorhees style hockey mask, four-finger ring and his usual designer robe, is clearly not like most artists. In addition to his seventh solo album, The Big Doe Rehab, Ghostface has jewels for Hollywood's A-List pop tarts, lovers on a budget and fans alike. You may not always understand it, but you've got to respect it.

HipHopDX: We had the Ghostface Killah doll in our Holiday Buying Guide...
Ghostface Killah:
You know they make dolls on some other shit. The legs ain't moving and shit. They just made it like how you would see a Run-DMC doll or a Biggie doll. That's all it is though.

DX: True. Well there wouldn't be any dolls without all this music you've released. Prior to signing with Def Jam, you would release an album about every two years. Do you just have more material these days or did you want more exposure?
GFK:
Yeah, just put 'em out there. Before I did Fishscale, I was puffing a lot of weed and all that other shit. That shit makes you take a while to do things. The way the game is now, if you're gone for a couple years people kind of forget about you. I just wanted to go ahead and go in so I could keep that torch burning. I don't want to miss being in the people's presence.

DX: You and Raekwon were very vocal about people using your styles after Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was released. Was that part of the reason you backed away from that subject matter, or did the audience dictate that change?
GFK:
I experiment with rap music. You've got your Pretty Toney Album and your Fishscale and all that, but I just wanted to go back to the streets a little bit. I wanted to give the other fans what they knew me for when I first came into the game. When me and Rae come through, it's a whole different ballgame. That's why I got Rae up on there for about four joints. We just get back on that shit and see where it takes you. After that ride is over, then I'll think of something else and it'll be another ride. Or, I could just stay in that same ride. . I get a sense of direction from what the people really want.

DX: That probably explains the co-executive producer credits you received on the Wu-Tang albums. What lessons from back then do you give to the Theodore Unit?
GFK:
You've basically gotta work, man. Nothing is a free ride, and you've got to work to get where you need to go. I try to keep these guys busy and let them know, "Yo, I'm your man and shit, but you gotta do for yourself. You can't always act like you're gonna be out there on my strength for the rest of your life. You've got to get in and work and do what you have to do so you can be a man." Go kill your own lion and shit, you know?

DX: One part of that extended family is Sun God. Given what you know about the game, how did you feel when he started rhyming?
GFK:
He rhymes and shit, but he's not fully into it like that. He does what he doeshang with his friends, go outside and all that other shit. He does his thing on his own time, though. It was more or less my fam coming to me saying, "Yo we just saw SG get busy." He never came to me saying, "Yo, check it out." So, I came to him like,"Yo, show me what you got."

But, on the father and son tip, sometimes your sons will be shy when it comes to getting busy in front of you. They don't know what to do or they don't know how you'll take it. It's all good though. I drop jewels on him and let him know which way he should come and whatever. Mostly I just let him do him, because he's not 100% serious about becoming a rapper. I guess that's just something he likes to do.

DX: Radio looks have been few and far in between for the cCan, but you got some really good feedback on "Cherchez LaGhost."
GFK:
Yeah.

DX: At that point you could've been selfish and kept the track to yourself if you wanted to...
GFK:
Yeah, I could've kept it to myself, but I just told [U-God] to come on. He's got a good voice, a deep baritone, so I just wanted to put that chemistry with me and him on it. We only did eight bars apiece, and the rest was the lady singing it out with me ad-libbing around her. It was kind of cool and he didn't want to do it at first. I just told him, "Come on, son. It's going to be one of those things, trust me." He finally did it and that's what it was.

DX: Do you have any other experiments that you think worked as well?
GFK:
Not really...I guess that might've been the only one like that.

DX: Critics point to your storytelling as one of your best assets. Do you enjoy them as much as some of the fans?
GFK:
Right, that's my thing. I like to just write regular rhymes too though, but I think when it's all said and done, there's nothing better than giving the people a movie. The beat makes me go into story mode. I don't come up with an idea like, "This is what I'm doing." If the beat sounds like that, then that's what it calls for.

DX: Do you remember any particular story that influenced a rhyme?
GFK:
Nah...I mean, niggas talk all the time and shit. Somebody might just say something crazy. Its nothing that I can remember right now, but yeah, I've heard a lot of shit.

DX: Aside from the storytelling you and Wu-Tang in general have been infamous for the skits on your albums. Were there anyone's skits that influenced you?
GFK: De La Soul
had some nice skits on their album. Back on ["Can U Keep A Secret"] when the were saying, "[Posdonous] got dandruff," those were the best skits on any album to me. They had the illest skits 'cause it was crazy. You could never try to repeat or do that over. I liked that because they were open and their minds were free. That was the livest shit to me.

DX: You had a pretty live skit on Supreme Clientele right before the song "Child's Play."
GFK:
Oh, you mean the "Who Would You Fuck" skit?

DX: Yeah. Did you ever catch any backlash from that one?
GFK:
I saw them, but nobody said anything though. You can't really do that shit no more because these chicks got babies now. Even back then they probably had husbands and you're saying, "Who would you fuck?" and then naming their wife. It was good for what it was back then. I saw all them, but ain't nobody gonna say nothing.

DX: It was all in good fun.
GFK:
Yeah, it wasn't any disrespect.

DX: As far as the beats go, you seem to gravitate toward the old soul samples. Do you look for anything in particular?
GFK:
Nah, just whatever sounds hype to my ear. If I feel I could fuck with it or I might see something as soon as I hear it, then it's all good.

DX: On "Supa GFK" you used the Johnny "Guitar" Watson sample Redman is infamous for. Did you two talk at all before you recorded the song?
GFK:
You mean did I have to ask him if I could use the beat?

DX: No, just in terms of liking or using the same sample.
GFK:
Oh, nah. When Redman did it, he did it and the beat was fat and all that. It's a whole new time zone now so it was like, I liked the beat and I always wanted to do it. Redman did it first, but I always wanted to do it. I just took the whole beat and rhymed over it. I don't know if [Erick Sermon] chopped it up or used the whole beat, because I haven't heard ["A Day of Sooperman Lover"] in a while. I just did it because I liked it.

DX: What allows you to be so candid on songs like "Never Be the Same Again" or "All That I Got Is You." Those are some subjects that most guys would either lie about or not address at all.
GFK:
Life is real life, man. I'm a diabetic. I could talk about diabetes like it's nothing. It's like whatever you got to say, just say the shit. It's whatever the beat calls for. When I did "All That I Got Is You" the beat sounded like that's what needed to be said--sad shit. It was the type of thing where you just tell your story. It was like that on "Never Be The Same Again" too. I'm not just describing my shit, I'm describing other people's relationships and what they go through too. When bitches fuck on niggas, it'll never be the same again for that nigga. When niggas fuck on bitches it'll never be the same again for that bitch. You can get on a nigga for not taking care of his kids if that's how it felt when the beat came on. If that revelation came like that, then that's what's gonna get said on that track.

They gave me the hook with Ne-Yo on it on "Back Like That" and that's how come I had to write that. The hook was already on it like that, so I had no choice but to go in that way. It wasn't like I had an idea like, "Yo I'm gonna talk about this bitch," and this and that, because bitches be thinking I'm always trying to put a bitch down. It ain't like that. That's just how the hook came. It was like that on "Never Be the Same Again" too. If it's a different hook and it comes that way, I'll tell my story behind that. It's like that with all my records. Basically the music makes me say what I say.

DX: During your live performances do people request a particular song more than others?
GFK:
No, there's a lot of songs they want me to do. A lot of Supreme [Clientele] shit"Mighty Healthy," "One," "Black Jesus," "Daytona 500," "All That I Got Is You." They just scream for everything.

DX: True. On The Big Doe Rehab's "I'll Die for You" is one of the many songs you have that deal with a more spiritual side. Do you have any particular feelings on what happens after death?
GFK:
I guess you have to wait wherever you're at. It's your judgment day to get judged and see where you're gonna land after that. To me, I think it's just a holding place where all your family and everybody is at. I don't think everybody's in heaven right now, because you didn't even get judged yet. You know what I mean?

DX: Yeah.
GFK:
You've got to go to judgment day before you go to where you really have to go. That's just my personal opinion. Nobody knows until you're gone. I think you [end up] with your family and your ancestors, at least 70 generations of all your ancestors. They wait for you to come like, "Come on, come on, come on!" and they applaud you while you're coming. You're happy, but you get sad when a baby is being born from your generation because they're going to have to suffer. And that's it. When you die, you just go right back to the gasses, like before. You're with your family, man. But, you've got to wait to get judged.

DX: Does that philosophy dictate how you move on a daily basis as far as karma and what not?
GFK:
Yeah, karma is real. I'm a grown man. I don't do a lot of shit I used to do back in the days. I'm a more spiritual brother and I'm closer to The Father. All that shit that we do is cause and effect, so I don't do that same bullshit that I used to do. I'm not waiting for karma to come back and land on me for some dumb shit. It's like I respect you and treat you like I want to be treated and that's that. I ain't gonna rob you or take nothing from you if I ain't got it, 'cause it all comes back.

DX: Next month your book, The World According To Pretty Toney, is coming out. For those that don't know can you explain the concept behind it?
GFK:
It's just the world according to me. You don't necessarily have to go live by it or whatever. Everything ain't a jewel in there. I'm just saying stuff like, "Watch how you go out. Watch your dress code and don't come out wearing this or that," and then they'll have the picture right next to it to show what I'm saying. It's almost like a quote and a picture thing. It's not a novel or any of that other shit. If you saw the TV show, then you'll know what I'm talking about.

DX: I figured we could end on that note. If you don't mind, I'll throw some situations at you and you can tell me how Pretty Toney would react.
GFK:
Alright.

DX: You've got a female you've been after for a while and she finally agrees to go on a date with you, but you're down to your last $20. What would you do?
GFK:
In real life situations, that's that shit. You just gotta tell the bitch, "Yo, I ain't got no money." If she ain't got no money, then we could chill. We don't have to go nowhere. We can just stay in the fuckin' house or do whatever she wants to do. If she's a drinker then we could spend that shit on some alcohol, watch TV and bug the fuck out. It just depends on that situation, man. Sometimes you might get a bitch that don't even give a fuck about that shit. She just wants to be under your arm and that's that. You never know what could happen.

DX: Okay. Suppose Isaiah Thomas gets fired and they let you rebuild the Knicks. If you can start with anybody in the league, who's going to be your franchise player?
GFK:
The best player out there, give me Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. You just gotta get that nigga who you know will give you that 40 every night. Get me a ballplayer. I need 40 or 50 every night. Shit, you better go after Kobe, nigga.

DX: Alright, last one. There's all these "celebu-tanttes" getting caught by the paparazzi, doing drugs and getting sex tapes posted online. What advice does Pretty Toney have for them?
GFK:
On the real tip, they should just sit down and try to figure out what a real lady is. A real lady is going to respect herself and respect her God first. She can't be coming out with her crotch showing and having the cameras catch it. You can't be in the club getting high all day and all night, skied up and all that other shit. That shit is played out. If you're going to do personal things like that, I suggest you do that shit at home, behind closed doors where everyone doesn't know your business. Once the world knows your business it's out there.

If you get caught with coke, theyre gonna look at you like a coke head. If you run around with no draws on, they'll be thinking, "Damn she probably ain't got draws on," because they know that's how you do. You've just got to be careful and respect yourself as a woman. And, respect yourself as a man too. It's not just for the women. But, for a woman, it's more serious. She's a female and you've got your little babies running around that need an example. Some of these girls nowadays aren't the girls of old from back in the days. They're seeing too much, fucking at a young age and then having babies at a young age. Most of them didn't even have a chance to get that regular childhood like Girl Scouts and all that other shit. They just come up fucking and wanting to have a boyfriend. And the parents are letting it happen like that because the parents are just babies having babies themselves.

There's no father there. The fathers are fucking these women and breaking out, so there's no figure there to give a girl that love and show her how she needs to be raised. Girls are 15 and coming in at 10:00 at night. Come on? At 15-years-old they need to be in the house when the street lights come on. Get your homework done, get in the shower and prepare yourself for the next day.

If you haven't read them yet, be sure to check out the hilarious The Big Doe Takeover Blog

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