GHOSTFACE KILLAH: IRONMAN – 20th Anniversary

Released: October 29, 1996, Epic/Razor Sharp Records

Written by Michael Grant: C.E.O. Of RePPiN4U

“To all my house bitches, Starks’ll be home soon
I’m on tour chill, catch me ’96 in June…” – GHOSTFACE KILLAH, Glaciers Of Ice, 1995

Ghostface Killah could never have said those lyrics on arguably a better track on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Everybody has their favourite track(s) from that classic album but I bet a good percentage will say ‘Glaciers Of Ice’, while heads were screwing their faces, head nodding, and goosebumps on their bodies, their mind hit a record skip for that split second realising that Ghostface Killah was preparing for his debut album.

ghostface-killah-ironmanThe debate continues today just like the Pac & Biggie issue, and that is – which is better – Ironman or Supreme Clientele? Personally, I’m a Supreme Clientele guy, and I broke it down in a feature similar to the one you are reading now. But I’m gonna represent for the fans who prefer Ironman.

Once again, I will take you back to a 16-year old Michael Grant, approximately October 29, 1996, the day this album dropped. THIS IS MY STORY. GHOSTFACE KILLAH. IRONMAN. RHYME & REASON.

I had already left school (unexpectedly I might add), I landed a YT training course to become an accountant. NVQ level 2 at the Wolverhampton Chamber Of Commerce. Four days of placement, one day training. There I was all suited up, complete with a briefcase looking like a young man of the future. But on October 29, 1996, I didn’t care for my corporate looking image. I wanted to get those wallabees, that Wu Wear, that Helly Hansen and all that! I just got paid, and the first thing I did was buy this cassette tape. Yes I did it before paying my moms board, before my bus pass, before I even had a trim! I actually waited til I got to my cousin’s house, put the tape on while my cousin was playing Super Nintendo (The Saturn/Playstation costed too much at the time!)

  1. IRON MAIDEN F/ Raekwon & Cappadonna

Now I have never seen the movie ‘The Education Of Sonny Carson’… and maybe I should if it’s Wu-Tang approved. But I was rooting for the boy, I wanted him to put trademarks around the fool’s eye! Then the tune kicked in. GOOD LORD! Raekwon didn’t finish his verse, and I was like – PULL UP THE TUNE! PULL UP THE BLODCLART TUNE! If you are an avid listener of RePPiN4U Hip Hop Show, you would know what I did there!

2. WILDFLOWER F/ Jamie Sommers

First time I heard this, the instruments RZA used instantly reminded me of ‘Chessboxing’. Then I heard the lyrics… me and my cousin’s jaw straight up DROPPED. Before the Wizard of Poetry, before Domestic Violence, there was WILDFLOWER. February 17 was NOT A NICE DAY for Ghostface Killah! You could feel the anger in his voice! Wu-Tang are all about the real life stories… this woman messed up bad! My question is, where is Jamie Sommers in the world today? Answers on a postcard please – tweet me @MZATheInfamous!

3. THE FASTER BLADE F/ Raekwon

This to me sounded like it didn’t make Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, at least that was my impression. One of my questions to add to my list if I ever got the opportunity to interview the Chef himself. At the same time, it doesn’t as gritty as the Cuban Linx tracks, like I dunno, RZA’s music began to evolve because in this album, it’s like the tracks sound a bit more polished.

4. 260 F/ Raekwon

Once again, I never saw the Sonny Carson film, and I can see some of you reading this looking at me funny. Going by the sample, it sounded like the kid embarrassed the gang leader or something. Don’t worry – I will put it on my ‘see list’ now that I got that ‘KODI’ gidgets gadgets…

5. ASSASSINATION DAY F/ Inspectah Deck/Raekwon/RZA/Masta Killa

It was this tune when I learned the album was coming October 29, 1996. One October night prior, I was listening to Tim Westwood on Radio 1, remember back in the days when he played that official hip hop? And his Friday show was on from 11pm til 2am? Well it was one of those shows when he was interviewing the clan – one thing I loved back in that day, was when a solo album was coming out, the whole clan got interviewed. They announced the album release and they played this tune – it was exclusive back then – only Westwood had it. Heard this tune and I was hyped crazy!

6. POISONOUS DARTSthe-mystery-of-chessboxing

True story – this tune actually relates to around December of 1997. Me and my cuz rented ‘The Mystery Of Chessboxin’ (Ninja Checkmate) kung fu film. Now we rented it only because of the film’s title. I said to my cuz, I am pulling out the (landline) phone cord so that NO ONE calls while I’m watching this film! What followed was the samples used for this tune right here, and I lost my mind, jumped out my seat the whole nine and it still stands as one of my favourite ever kung fu films of all time. How can you NOT love the Ghostfaced Killer? Best bad guy ever. He used to say the most out-of-order dialogue in the film “Chow Fan Lun, how are you? You’re gonna die today! Do you recognize this technique? (5 Elements!)” and I was like – WROOOOOOOOOOOY!!!!!!! But then, the film ended, plugged the phone back in, hit ‘1471’ and found out that a good friend of mine just gave birth to her son. I felt like a fool after that, yet at the same time, so happy for her.

7. WINTER WARZ F/ Raekwon/U-God/Masta Killa/Cappadonna

I remember a particular time when me and all my Peoples from Aldersley High School were on the bus, and we were debating which was the best tune on each Wu album, everyone had their favourite and one dude shut us all down – “Winter WAAAAAAARZ!!!!!” Yes – this tune will forever be known as the tune that Cappadonna killed with his 52 bar killer bee assault, and ever since that time, heads were setting for Cappadonna’s debut album. Two years wasn’t long of a wait considering we had Wu-Tang Forever, Killarmy’s Silent Weapons album, and Gravediggaz sophomore album in between. Big up Cappadonna for deciding to make a video for this nearly 20 years later, I love these sort of videos where you just vybin with your peoples and there’s hardly no direction, just roll the tape and go along with it. THAT IS A HIP HOP VIDEO PEOPLE! I just wished it was a full clan video though. I envisioned it being a similar setting to GZA’s Shadowboxing video, all cold and dark and people in that ‘Winter War’, so to speak so it would be like a sequel to that video.

8. BOX IN HAND F/ Raekwon/Method Man

Before there was Wu-Massacre, there was BOX IN HAND! Now at this point, Method Man was still my favourite Wu-member, Ghost was already showing signs that he would become my favourite Wu-member and artist of all time. So I was mad looking forward to this tune. I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed when I first heard this, the intro, I was like – Oh here we go! This gonna be off the hook! Then RZA changed the beat and I was like – aaah… the disappointment didn’t last long though, Method Man went IN!!!! “This rap sh!t bust yo’ gums, and leave you stunned/Pull your plug, now you can’t function/There’s no to-tal or sum to this equa-tion, you fro-zen/Many may come but few are cho-sen/Pretty n!&&@$ want to play the war po-sin/When the ruckus come, they be the first to get their shine stolen/Do or die, it be I, Meta-physical Man/Holding court from my Wu, indivisible clan…”

Now I’m listening to the unreleased version, and I can see why RZA decided to put the other version on, I’m not even sure if Box In Hand when was meant to be the title! Another Wu-Tang Mystery to solve!

ghostface-premium-2-13-2013

If you remember buying the cassette, you may have noticed there was a large gap at the end of side 1 of the tape… like over 5 minutes?! So this is another true story… Wu-Tang released the Triumph single in 1997 and hit the UK top 40. Usually I’m not down with pop music but that was a proud moment for me and hip hop. But on the b-side was the Hidden Chambers Remix of Wu-Gambinos. So what did I do? grabbed some sellotape wrapped it over the protective covering of the tape and recorded Wu-Gambinos Remix on it. Call it an unofficial Bonus Track.

9. FISH F/ Raekwon & Cappadonna

The TRUE MASTER! At the time arguably his best track he produced since ODB’s Brooklyn Zoo. This tune hit the rewind button crazy!!! The spooky thing about this tune is, Cappadonna states, “When RZA do his thing motherf***er, I’mma do mine..” How true is that statement now 20 years later? RZA basically said to Ghost, you’re in charge of the next Wu Album! Has the Abbott thrown in the towel? I hope not. Ghost’s ear is powerful, I’m sure he can still get some bangers out of RZA…

10. CAMAY F/ Raekwon & Cappadonna

Once again we see early signs of Ghost Dini – The Wizard of Poetry here. TELL THE TRUTH – How many of you guys said this to a woman: “Yo you sexy motherf****r, damn what’s the recipe?/You make a n!&&@ wanna god damn!/Can you cook darling?” I can say this: I’ve never said that to a woman outright (I have my shy moments) but I have at least thought it and at the most – sent a text saying that in the past!

11. DAYTONA 500 F/Raekwon & Cappadonna

Confession time – I hated this song at first. Yeah I said it. I thought it sounded like something from Top Gear. But guess what? The tune was in my head and it was telling me – you WILL like this tune! Lo and behold – it worked, and I think the 8 player Daytona game at Sega World Strykers (R.I.P.) played a massive part in it. Normal people heard the Daytona game music. Wu-Tang fans heard this while playing that game and that’s real!

12. MOTHERLESS CHILD F/Raekwon

This was the very first track I heard from the album because this was originally on the Sunset Park soundtrack… remember those days? When tracks from a film soundtrack were hot and was actually relevant to the film? Great shout to Aaron Hall as well… where is he as well? He joined the missing list on the milk carton with Jamie Sommers! Answers on a postcard please!

13. BLACK JESUS F/ Raekwon & U-God

The crazy thing about this is, Wu were speaking 5% terminology from the get go, and it really didn’t clock on to me until this album. Up until October 29, 1996 I was raised to believe that Christianity is THE RIGHT religion. This skit made me think for the first time like whoa… no such thing as Adam & Eve? God exists within me? The black man is God? I was intrigued. Then the beat hit. I was like – PULL UP THE TUNE! PULL UP THE BLODCLART TUNE! RZA came with some church choir crossed with some epic Samurai Showdown type music! And U-God – that man went IN!!!!! To me it was like the longer this album went, the more epic it became.

14. AFTER THE SMOKE IS CLEAR F/Raekwon, RZA, and the Delfonics

I love the hook in this, because I still believe it. After the smoke is clear… Wu-Tang/Delfonics NUMBER ONE! Tunes like this are reasons why we the fans miss the old RZA and not keen on this Bobby Digital persona that he can’t seem to put aside. The Cure album never came, and you know what? Even if it did, people today would still turn round and say hip hop is…. yes the D-WORD.

15. ALL THAT I GOT IS YOU F/ Mary J. Blige

Ghostface says – “this is dedicated, to all those who went through the struggle”… Yep, that was me back at 16…. but nowhere near as bad as Ghost. I made that decision to leave school at 16 and find work because I knew I wasn’t as well off as some of my other peoples. Every year I used to hear them say ‘I went to Jamaica/Cornwall/Spain etc..’ I never stepped out the country until I was 29. Not only do I look back at this tune and think ‘you know what, I was ok, I was instilled with the determination to work hard’, but also I say this is dedicated to all the ‘millennials’ who always claim they are stressed or whatever but there they are updating their Facebook with their iPhone. There they are with their 4KTV hung up in their house, there they are with roof over their head and well fed, quick to order takeaway online every night but cannot roll 2 dumpling to save their life. Thank god for Nas… Life is good!

16. MARVEL F/RZA

You see this tune here? This was the start of the Bobby Digital persona as far as where the music was going. The signs started here. When I first had the cassette tape I didn’t have this as a bonus track though. I have yet to see someone use RZA’s lyrics as a chat up line and see what happen to them! Imagine whispering in a woman’s ear in a club like ‘let me plant my dynamite deep inside your core, the explosion stops your menstruation patiently waiting nine months for deportation…” Yep… I can see that going down well…!!!! By the way Kudos to RZA for keeping the beat going!

17. THE SOUL CONTROLLER F/ The Force MDs

This was the original bonus track I had. I remember my cousin loved this tune! As far as he was concerned, this was his favourite tune on the album… I wasn’t so keen at first, but that happens a lot with me! I’m surprised the sample issues prevented this track appearing on later copies of Ironman though, I mean, it’s been sampled a million times. The skit at the end still holds true, especially if people concern themselves with what we should be listening to on the radio…

GRANTFACE KILLAH

I kinda wished that Ghost was doing something similar to Ras Kass in a sense that he’s celebrating his Soul On Ice 20th Anniversary or Nas when he celebrated Illmatic. Ironman should be up there too. But I’m sure if he doesn’t, we the fans will. At time of this feature, I know he’s on tour with Rae… but according to RZA, Ghost now has the keys to the next Wu-Tang Album…Ghost’s ear has been powerful throughout from Ironman all the way to 12 Reasons To Die Part 2, all this plus Supreme Clientele 2? To those who still talk that Hip Hop dead nonsense, THEY ARE THE PROBLEM as far as I’m concerned.

APOLLO BROWN X SKYZOO: The Easy Truth

RELEASE DATE: September 30, 2016

UK RELEASE (Physical Copy): October 14, 2016

MELLO MUSIC GROUP

Review by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U

“I’m far from being God, but I work goddamn hard…” Jay-Z, Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise), 2001

That line right there is how I can describe Apollo Brown. Back in Jay’s peak of his career, he was delivering quality albums year in year out at roughly the same time. Over the past few years, Apollo Brown has delivered quality with Ugly Heroes, his own project ‘Grandeur’, Ras Kass, Guilty Simpson, Ghostface Killah, O.C. and more and has done it consistently every year. Who is the next contestant to be blessed with Apollo Brown’s soulful sonics? They call him S-K-Y-Z-O-O!

apollo-brown-skyzooTake away all of Jay-Z’s riches, and the super stardom and replace it with flawless credibility and respect within the hip hop community, you get Skyzoo, who incidentally, looks up to Mr Carter as demonstrated by recreating the classic Reasonable Doubt. The news of the combined force of Sky and Apollo has blown fans away… but is it a guaranteed classic waiting to happen? We thought that with Common and No.I.D. with Nobody’s Smiling, and look what happened there.

It’s been 10 years since Sky exploded on the scene with the 3-Day High with 9th Wonder, and 10 years later he hopes to recreate that magic this time with the Detroit Producer on The Easy Truth. 15 tracks amounting up to 52 minutes, it’s time once again to put the needle on the vinyl.

The intro, entitled Soapbox, comes with a simple philosophy of choosing whether to live life easy or hard, and while we would all love to live life easy (I see you with your memes of ‘live in a posh celebrity like home rent free but give up social media in the process) we appreciate the value of living hard to reap the rewards. ‘One Of The Same’ starts the album with piano chords and Sky’s trademark complex wordplay which gives his fans an ongoing challenge to dissect. Give Sky some Jordans & a Gold Chain and he’s good. You won’t see him wearing anything outrageous, living lavish even though he could if he wanted. He wants to remain relatable to his fans.

The album’s lead single, or video – ‘A Couple Dollars’, tells of Skyzoo and Joell Ortiz’ early life struggles. If Apollo’s heartfelt violins and the stories told in this track doesn’t touch your soul…I don’t think Hip Hop is for you.

‘Basqiuat On The Draw’ brings the viciousness out of Sky and his guests – Westside Gunn & Conway. Sky even acknowledges the Rap Genius website, while Westside Gunn kicks off his verse with Jay-Z line originally used in Encore from the Black Album. Again, if you haven’t caught the ‘Vibes’ from this album by this point, I don’t think Hip Hop is for you. Sky compares himself to Kool G Rap in one aspect and considers Apollo as Symphony music and cleverly puts it in one line.

Sky’s appearance on the Stretch & Bob show was so ill, he had to include it here. Sky becomes unreasonable and goes in over a classic boom bap beat which shall make the old school fans’ eyes fill up with joy. Sample heavy trainspotters will be hitting the YouTubeskyzoo-apollo-brown-promo after hearing ‘Spoils To The Victor’ and may have a new-found respect for The Carpenters ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’.

‘Visionary Riches’ is Sky & Apollo’s zoning out moment over a jazzy backdrop. Sky’s wordplay used here is reminiscent of what he did in ‘Dear Whoever’  from The Salvation album, and this blends real nice into ‘They pulled a Bentley In the Cover’.

Consider the next track a highlight on the album. J Dilla used the sample for Elzhi’s ‘Love It Here’, the Wu-Block used the sample to tell their Crack Spot Stories, A$AP Rocky and Kanye used the sample for their Jukebox Joints, but has Apollo & Sky flipped it the best in ‘The Flyest Essence’? Here Sky exclaims: “They bumping Dilla on they way to get a bird flew
Never would’ve tied them together, but that’s what words do
Apollo caught the loop like we waiting to get a turn thru
I told him leave the drums in the box, keep the nerds cool…”

The funny thing about it is another version has recently surfaced on online streams… could this suggest sample clearance problems? We don’t know but the plot thickens…

Apollo decides to turn the beat up a notch with ‘Innocent Ambition’. The first verse has Skyzoo explaining how he could have it all, then the second verse goes a complete 180 as Skyzoo explains how he can’t have a thing… sounds like he’s talking of experiences with his father when he was a child…around the same time Nas dropped ‘One Love’ from his Illmatic album, Sky talks of creating his own rendition in ‘Care Packages’.

As the album nears its close, if you streamed the album like I did, by now you would be seriously considering ‘The Payout’, and by its last track, if you haven’t been ‘Nodding Your Head Off’ to this, then I don’t think Hip Hop is for you. Sky shouldn’t have to tell you to Nod to it… it should be a natural reaction.

skyzoo

Dare I say this is more accessible than ‘Music For My Friends’ which is a great album in its own right, but The Easy Truth’s real comparison is Sky’s debut, where the production was handled by just one man. 10 years in, and Skyzoo has proved that he has longevity, his rhymes won’t be going in fumes any time soon, and he has proved that you don’t have to compromise your lyrical content to make it. As for Apollo… he can do no wrong. Can he be spoke in the same sentence with the likes of Pete Rock & DJ Premier? He has a very good chance. The question remains, who will be the lucky contestant to grace his beats next year for our ears to behold? Until that time, take the needle off the record.