Ghostface Killah is a brilliant storyteller and lyricist, and the only Wu-Tang Clan member still making relevant solo albums. He's a prolific and increasingly media-savvy artist, who nonetheless seems to constantly shoot himself in the foot commercially.
Ghostface With Rakim and Brother Ali. Showbox at the Market, 1426 First Ave., 628-0301, www.showboxonline.com. $32 adv./$35 DOS. All ages. 8 p.m. Sun., Nov. 4.
Listen to a sample of Ghostface Killah's "Ghost is Back."
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He's also a crybaby.
Recently, word got out that Wu-Tang Clan would release its first album in six years, 8 Diagrams, on Dec. 4. This coincided with the date Ghost had set for his new album, The Big Doe Rehab.
So, like any sixth-grader who didn't get the front seat despite clearly having called "shotgun," he threw a hissy fit. "I had Dec. 4 for the longest," he told MTV.com in an Oct. 15 article, going on to complain that the group's "hierarchy" was screwing him over financially. "They trying to f--- around and make me push my album back and doing all this. But n---as ain't f---ing around or give us money when we did them Wu-Tang tours. The first one, they paid us after a while, but this last one, n---as is holding onto a lot of money." (Censorship MTV's.)
The "hierarchy" Ghost refers to appears to include RZA and Steve Rifkind, the president of SRC Records, which is putting out Wu's album. Ghost's disenchantment apparently extends to 8 Diagrams itself, which is rumored to include little of his input. Like a football coach coddling a bratty star player, RZA quickly capitulated after the MTV.com interview and pushed Wu's album back a week. But one wonders: Is Ghost really upset about finances? If so, why does he make so many bogus career moves?
Why, for instance, release The Big Doe Rehab in the midst of one of the most jam-packed fourth quarters in rap history? Besides Wu, no less than Nas, Jay-Z, Nelly, Lupe Fiasco, Styles P, Saigon, and Lil Wayne all have CDs slated to drop within a month of Ghost's.
Refining the album and putting it out next year would make more sense. Ghost's impatience has harmed him before; sales of 2006's Fishscale were likely cannibalized by the release of More Fish eight and a half months later (and vice versa). Whereas Fishscale was a tour de force focused on the cocaine trade, More Fish was a lackluster effort, containing a song in which he claims the script to the movie Ray was jacked from him (?), an ode to Texas Hold 'Em, a track sung by Eamon (the "Fuck It" guy), and a recycled MF Doom beat.
Speaking of Doom, Ghost seems to be borrowing the still-masked rapper's career playbook, releasing (usually) critically beloved albums with zero commercial prospects. (That's not to say their long-promised "GhostDoom" collaboration will see the light of day anytime soon, however.)
Further, Ghost seems to have no interest in writing a radio-friendly song, shunning the rappers/crooners of the moment (T-Pain, Akon, Justin Timberlake, etc.) on his studio albums in favor of his own weed carriers (Trife Da God, Cappadonna) and Wu-Tang cronies. Though The Pretty Toney Album at least featured a Ludacris-light sex romp with Missy Elliott, Fishscale singles "Back Like That" and "Be Easy" seemed more geared toward heads than a mass audience. His new single, "Celebrate," featuring Kid Capri, is more of the same.
None of this is a bad thing, and backpackers, comic-book fans, and indie rockers worldwide love him for just being him. In fact, he is appealing directly to his base by releasing a new book of MTV2-inspired musings, The World According to Pretty Toney, and starring in the Jon Favreau–directed Iron Man, due out next year.
Ghost's business decisions are senseless, his temper tantrums pointless, and his materialism seems disingenuous. But as for the artist entwined in all of that, one hopes Ghostface Killah will never change.