|Ghostface needs love too.|
Story by Reed Fischer
Ghostface Killah has flirted with mainstream hip-hop, but has spent most of his career being the critics' favorite rapper — for good reason. Tony Starks just refuses to rhyme over bad beats, and he always keeps up his lyrical end of the bargain. Additionally, he should be every R&B fan's favorite rapper — and not just because a blog pretending to be him called Big Ghost Chronicles keeps calling Drake out on his bullshit.
The 2009 “concept album” Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City was deemed a risky proposition at the time because it's an R&B-inspired collection. Of course, the joke's on everyone here, because he's been rhyming over sensitive soul tracks for his entire career. True that he wasn't rapping alongside John Legend until this release, but Ghostface was trying a little tenderness long before Jay-Z and Kanye West dusted that act off. Here are seven examples.
“Can It Be All So Simple”
Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers (1993)
Lead beat technician RZA also loves his vintage soul just as much as he loves movies filled with swordplay. Gladys Knight & the Pips' “The Way We Were” gets prominent placement in this one, as does Ghostface on the second verse.
“All That I Got Is You”
Ghostface got with Mary J. Blige on this album to do “All That I Got Is You,” which proved to be a huge departure from the hard-edged stuff found in many corners of his still-burgeoning career. With some cloying strings via the Jackson 5's “Maybe Tomorrow” rolling through here, this coulda been a punch in the gut of his credibility. But Method Man tested the waters a couple years prior with his Mary J. collabo, and things didn't unravel for him (yet, anyhow). Also: Lots of rappers get Delfonics samples on their tracks, but Ironman features them on backing vox for “After the Smoke Is Clear.”
“Cherchez La Ghost”
Supreme Clientele (2000)
This album is heavy as hell, but it's front-loaded with Tony Starks unloading his clip in the early going with rugged gems like “Nutmeg,” “Apollo Kids,” and “Buck 50.” Towards the end, it's time for the Killah to hand over the keys to a female vocalist for the a revamp of the dancefloor rarity “Cherchez La Femme” by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band. Wyclef didn't exactly make sampling disco cool, but this is how it could've been done.
The Pretty Toney Album (2004)
Essentially, this is Ghostface putting on “La La (Means I Love You)” by the Delfonics on his turntable, crackles and all, and rapping over it. It's kind of discordant and strange the first time you hear it, but also mesmerizing. Notable that he dropped the “Killah” for the cover of this album.
“Back Like That”
Getting it together with a relatively new-on-the-scene Ne-Yo was a huge coup for Ghostface for this one. It's downright silky with the sped-up Willie Hutch piano line from “Baby Come Home,” and ultimately we know that though our narrators have anger in their voices but love in their hearts. And, by this point, Raekwon is pretty much the only other member of the Clan still putting out relevant music on the reg.
Ghostdeni: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (2009)
Lloyd is the R&B rising star equivalent of Ne-Yo by this point, and bathing in the honey-soaked essence of his voice on the hook is an unparalleled experience. Ghostface trying to sing a bit of Slave's “Watching You,” on the other hand.
Apollo Kids (2010)
Even Ghostface's last studio album, which is one of the fiercest of his career, has a brief respite from the slugfest on “Ghetto.” Sampling Marlena Shaw's “Woman of the Ghetto,” his hallmark streak of finding vocalists who can serve his needs for shouting next to something beautiful continues.