At a time when rap on the east coast was in need of a revival, The Wu-Tang Clan emerged to help spearhead a mid-90s renaissance throughout New York's five boroughs with their seminal 1993 debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Not the prototypical version of a rap group, Wu-Tang would splinter after the release of 36 Chambers, unleashing a barrage of solo efforts from key members of the crew.
Ghostface Killah would be the fifth member of the Wu-Tang family tree to release a solo debut, stepping up to the plate in fall of 1996 with Ironman, which would showcase the making of one of the more charismatic and indelible artists in hip-hop.
Fans got a healthy dose of Ghostface's potent rhymes via his guest appearances on Raekwon the Chef's classic 1995 debut effort, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, but Ironman saw Ghostface as the headliner. Released on Oct. 29, 1996, via Epic, through RZA's Razor Sharp imprint, the album saw Ghostface enlisting Raekwon and new Wu-Tang inductee Cappadonna as the two main co-stars on the project. In addition, fellow clansmen Method Man, U-God, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck and RZA make guest appearances.
Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart with 156,000 copies sold, Ironman would eventually go platinum and be heralded as a classic album of its era.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ghostface Killah's Ironman album, we picked out the five most infectious tracks from the LP. Did your favorite make the cut?
"Fish"Ghostface Killah Featuring Cappadonna & Raekwon
Although the majority of the production on Ironman is handled by RZA, his trusty disciple Tru Master swoops in for the kill with his production assist on "Fish." The song features a sample of "Change Is Gonna Come" by Otis Redding and dialogue from the film Crying Freeman. On the track, Ghostface delivers metaphoric rhymes like, "We eat fish, toss salads and make rap ballads / The biochemical slanglord'll throw the Arabs / In the dope fiend, vocal chords switch laser beams / My triple sevens broke the slot machines out in Queens," over a regal soundbed. Raekwon and Cappadonna add their efficient verses on this smooth-as-butter track as well.
"Camay"Ghostface Killah Featuring Raekwon & Cappadonna
Ghostface transforms into the charismatic Pretty Tony on "Camay," a suave affair that's aimed at seducing the ladies. The song opens with Rae, who comes with his best lyrical game, trying to seal the deal with a woman who is playing hard to get. Cappadonna fairs a bit better on the second verse, but it's GFK who seals the show. He spits an animated 16-bar rhyme, which sees him practically groveling for the panties. While not a major radio hit, "Camay," and its accompanying video, has become an undisputed classic in Ghostface's catalog.
"Daytona 500"Ghostface Killah Featuring Raekwon & Cappadonna
"Say peace to cats who rock MAC Knowledge Knowledges / Street astrologists, light up the mic God, acknowledge this / Fly joints that carry two points, Corolla Motorola holder / Play it God, E-pack over the shoulder" Raekwon spits at the beginning of "Daytona 500," a major standout on Ironman. Also featuring Cappadonna, who serves as the anchor of the track, the three MCs get off to the races with wordy flows and clever quips. "I'll slapbox with Jesus, lick shots at Joseph," raps Ghostface. With a groovy hook supplied by Force M.D.'s, and bars galore, "Daytona 500" is simply an indelible Wu-Tang banger.
"All That I Got Is You"Ghostface Killah
One of the first displays of Ghostface Killah's sentimental touch was on the touching "All That I Got Is You." Featuring Mary J. Blige on the hook, the song details GFK's tumultuous childhood, including his days on welfare and the impoverished conditions he came of age in.
"Check it, fifteen of us in a three bedroom apartment / Roaches everywhere, cousins and aunts was there / Four in the bed, two at the foot, two at the head / I didn't like to sleep with Jon-Jon he peed the bed / Seven o'clock, pluckin' roaches out the cereal box / Some shared the same spoon, watchin' Saturday cartoons / Sugar water was our thing, every meal was no frills," raps Ghost.
"All That I Got Is You" is a passionate testimonial and a testament to the Ghost's unique lyrical ability to emote his feelings on a song without diminishing his steely demeanor.
"Winter Warz"Ghostface Killah Featuring U-God, Masta Killa, Raekwon & Cappadonna
Of all of the lyrical wizardry on Ironman, "Winter Warz" features some of the album's most exhilarating rhymes. With Raekwon and Cappadonna riding shotgun, Ghostface delves into his grab bag of rhymes, spitting "You asked for it, shot up the jams like syringes / My technique alone blows doors straight off the hinges / Masked Avenger, I appear to blow your ear like wind / With a freestyle, sharper than the Indian spear" while following up U-God's riveting opening stanza. Masta Killa also comes correct with potent bars of his own, but the highlight of it all is Wu-Tang's resident step-brother, Cappadonna, who comes through with one of the most memorable guest verses of all time. Overall, the song deserves its Wu stamp of approval and arguably one of Ghost's best tracks on his fantastic debut album.
The 25 Greatest Rap Albums of 1996
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