With four solo albums to his credit, Ghostface Killah has not only the largest discography of Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan, but the strongest. Ten years since his work with Raekwon on the landmark Only Built For Cuban Linx… and approaching the decade mark on his solo debut Ironman, Ghostface is preparing to release the album Fish Scale (named after the purest type of cocaine) this winter. Our interview with Ghost can be seen in F33, and you can read the complete transcript from the interview by clicking below.
When did you first meet Raekwon?
We went to the same school, but he was from a different project. Throughout the years we always used to see each other, say peace, whatever whatever, until we really got on this Wu-Tang shit in like ’92. We’d been seeing each other for years, because my project [Stapleton] is five minutes away from his project [Park Hill].
Did you know he was rapping back then?
Yeah, he was rhyming. He was making tapes back then on his side of the projects and I was making mine on my side of the projects.
Was the rivalry between Park Hill and Stapleton?
Hell yeah. We used to go to war.
But when Wu-Tang got together it got squashed?
It was squashed before that, because brothers was always cool. The ones in Wu-Tang wasn’t really warring with each other like that.
What are the different reputations of the two projects?
We like to fight. They was more dressy. They came with fashion way before we was coming with the fashion. And I like the fashion. I picked up a lot of ill shit from the niggas from up there.
When did you get into the Five Percent Nation? Was that always around the neighborhood?
You always had a few brothers that was speaking on Islam, like my brother’s uncle. It wasn’t big in my neighborhood, but with certain brothers it was big. I respected it, because Islam is my home. I found my home when Islam came to me. I’ve been living with it ever since.
What other MCs from Staten Island came before you?
The Force MDs was laying it down on Staten Island. The UMCs. You had the Biff Brothers and Scotty Watty. You had a couple more MCs that was getting busy on the old school tip.
Was Staten Island known more for party joints?
Back then when the Force was doing it, they was harmonizing and rhyming. They was tearing it down. They done burnt the Cold Crush and all of that. They got tapes on that right there.
In XXL’s article about the making of Only Built For Cuban Linx… you said, “This was ’95, when hip-hop was still hip-hop.” What did you mean by that?
That’s when it was just real. It was fresh. It’s all dogged out now, hip-hop is like a bitch that’s been fucked. It’s been stomped out, you know what I mean? Right now the game needs to get itself cleaned up. When we did it back then, it was just fresh. You had us. You had Mobb Deep. You had Nas. It was a feeling in hip-hop. Now it’s too stale for me. It’s like a nigga talking to a girl and the girl is saying, “All these niggas is all the same, with the same shit.” Ain’t nothing refreshing coming at her. And that’s what it is right now. Ain’t nothing really hitting me. And it’s not just me, other people say it. That’s why niggas listen to old shit, classic shit. Ain’t no classic shit coming out right now. You can’t call niggas’ shits classics.
On both the unreleased Bulletproof Wallets-era song “The Watch” and “Beat The Clock” from Pretty Toney there seems to be this concept of you battling time, what’s the science behind that?
It’s just me arguing with the watch really. Sometimes I say stuff that people may see things more than what I’m seeing. I just say what God sends me even if I don’t know what I’m talking about or I can’t break down the revelation of it. I just take what I receive and put it out there to the people.
Can you explain where the abstract wordplay style you used on Supreme Clientele and [Wu-Tang album] The W came from?
I played with that and people couldn’t understand it. Some people downgraded it. Some people said, I don’t know what you’re saying, but it sounds fly. It’s just a different style though. I left that and carried on.
What styles are you using now?
Right now I’m more in the story mode. I’m getting back to finding me again. I’m still trying to experiment, like I did on “Holla” [from Pretty Toney]. I’m just trying to take it there. I’m just playing with music, good music.
What was your approach for this new album?
I went back to the guns and drugs on this one right here. People respect that right now in these days and times. If you try to slow down and not do much, they think you might be getting a little soft on them. Or they might not respect your tape. I’m the king of what a lot of people talk about right now. I just went back to that. I might let it ride for another 24 months and then see where it’s at.
Do you think people recognize you pioneered the style of a lot of current hip-hop?
People don’t recognize that until you’re dead.
Is every day as crazy as today for you?
It’s hectic. It’s cool. I give all praises due to the most high. I try to be more relaxed. I take life one day at a time. I try to pace my life out and try not to be too involved with negativity and try to fix what I can fix in my life. And that’s it. My day isn’t like, “Oh shit, this nigga had a hellafied day.” It’s not like that. I’m a human, man. I got to take a shit just like you’ve got to take a shit. I’ve got to piss just like you’ve got to piss. And that’s that, G.