Ghostface Killah

When Wu-Tang Clan exploded onto hip-hop with 1993's Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), rapper Ghostface Killah was overshadowed by the even-more-colorful likes of Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and mastermind/super-producer RZA. Ghostface's 1996 debut Ironman was well-received, and his numerous lyrical assists on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx helped make it an instant classic. But Ghostface didn't fully escape his groupmates' shadows until their golden age had passed. Three memorable albums followed Ironman, and Ghostface recently released the mind-bending, psychedelic Fishscale. He also recently addressed 36 questions from The A.V. Club—very, very rapidly.

The A.V. Club: What's your favorite part of touring?

Ghostface Killah: Nothing. Just performing.

AVC: What can you say about the new album?

GK: What do you want to know about it?

AVC: What was the making of it like?

GK: It was all right. It was like any other album. You get the beats, you write to them, you go in the studio and lay it down. Hopefully a song comes out sounding good. If it comes out sounding good, you put it to the side with the rest of the other good ones, and you try to decide which ones you're gonna use on the album.

AVC: You worked with some pretty big producers on the album, like Pete Rock. Did you meet with them, or work together on the tracks?

GK: Nah. One of the guys at Def Jam would just come and give me beats, and I'd just go through a bunch of beats, and that was it. I met my man MF Doom on the road, somebody gave me some beats from him, and that's how I got his beats. And that was it.

AVC: How's the album with MF Doom going?

GK: It's going great. I gave him like, five or six songs, and I'll do more songs with him, so we can complete that album and that'll be it right there.

AVC: Is it true that you listened to hundreds or thousands of beats for The Pretty Toney Album?

GK: Yeah, because I didn't really have that many good beats coming my way. I'll do that once in a while, where I'll go through a bunch of beats, see what I want to use, what I'm not gonna use. A lot of people send you garbage and you just listen to their CD for nothing. That's it.

AVC: The Pretty Toney Album was credited to Ghostface, and Fishscale is credited to Ghostface Killah. What's the difference?

GK: It don't even matter. It's just names. People always get it twisted, you know, "Is this the Ghostface Killah?" Man, it's whatever-whatever, you can name me Shithead if you want. I don't give a fuck about all that. It's real, man. A name is a name, and I make music. My niggas know my voice even without the name. That's what it is.

AVC: Why put the album with Doom out on Nature Sounds instead of Def Jam?

GK: I don't know. That's Doom's album, that's not mine. That's Doom's thing. I'm just running with him, whatever you want to do. I don't care, he could put it out on God's Records. Whatever-whatever, man. As long as it's out.

AVC: Will the Wu-Tang Clan be working on an album anytime soon?

GK: Next year, sometime. We just gotta pick the months when we want to record, and it'll be on.

AVC: Did you get a chance to know Jay Dee when he worked on your album?

GK: No. I haven't met Jay Dee. I haven't done nothing. I [just] listened to his beats. I liked them and I just wrote to them. I did it and that was it. I wished he had had a chance to hear what I did to his music.

AVC: You've criticized the song "Laffy Taffy" in concert. Do you have something against Southern hip-hop, or just that song in particular?

GK: I don't got no problem with nobody. I was just telling people, this is what you all grew up on, this is what you all are stuck on right now, but this is what I dig, this is where I come from, right here. So I threw on "Eric B Is President." It's two different rap eras. It just happened to be that I got ahold of that record.

AVC: Who are your favorite rappers?

GK: A lot of old-school rappers. Rakim, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, Public Enemy, even NWA when they came out with their first album. Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr. All the Nice & Smooth. The whole list. It just goes on. The world was really, back then, rockin' the Fat Boys, Run DMC, Special Ed. Back then, everything was cool. Steady B from Philly. It was all good. All the old school. The whole Juice Crew. Roxanne Shante, EPMD, MC Lyte.

AVC: You've worked with a lot of great producers. Are there any that you'd like to work with that you haven't?

GK: Marley Marl. Probably DJ Premier. Dr. Dre here and there. Pharrell. That's about it.

AVC: The press release for Fishscale says you stopped smoking weed two years ago. What was the thinking behind that, and how has it worked out for you so far?

GK: Nothing. Sometimes you gotta just chill. You gotta chill your thinking process. Mine's just a little more clear now. But it's all good. Sometimes you gotta relax some stuff you've been doing for a long time.

AVC: Do you think it affected the sound or the vibe of the new album?

GK: I don't know, because I always had the sound in me. It's more or less if I get the music in my head, I know how to get the vibe in the sound. Other than that, it is what it is.

AVC: Why do you think Bulletproof Wallets wasn't as well-received as your other albums?

GK: Because it didn't get marketed and promoted right. And I got a lot of songs tooken off of it. That's all.

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AVC: Is that part of the reason you went to Def Jam?

GK: Yeah.

AVC: Have you been happy with Def Jam so far?

GK: Yeah.

AVC: What attracted you to the character of Iron Man?

GK: I was Tony Starks [sic.] first, and then Tony Starks and the Iron Man is the same dude, so that, I guess, that could be the other side of me. That was it.

AVC: Are you into comic books?

GK: No. I just had this shirt and it was a Tony Starks shirt, and when I put it on… that was it. It just felt like, "This is what it is now."

AVC: You're one of the few rappers who have their own talking doll. How did that come about?

GK: I don't know. Some people in California just wanted to do a doll. We agreed to do it, I told them how I wanted it, with the gold on and the robes and everything, and we made a commitment and both agreed, and the action-figure doll should be coming out soon.

AVC: What does the Ghostface Killah doll say?

GK: I can't even remember. It was saying a few things from a lot of old records. I can't really remember word for word what it was saying.

AVC: You've been touring with M-1 from Dead Prez, who's very political. Has that influenced you at all?

GK: No. I'm just me, man. You know what I mean? What Dead Prez is saying, I already know, and I'm for the cause. If you hear more from him than me, that's just what it is, but at the same time, I understand everything the brothers are saying, and I'm for the same cause that they stand for.

AVC: A lot of rappers are acting these days. Would you like to do some acting?

GK: Pretty soon, if God allows me to. Then I'll be good.

AVC: What do you think is the biggest problem with hip-hop today?

GK: A lack of originality, that's it. Everybody's coming out the same.

AVC: Do you think that's changing? Is there anyone coming along right now that you're excited about?

GK: No, fuck hip-hop. I ain't feeling that shit right now. I don't even listen to hip-hop. I just do this shit because I gotta feed my family.

AVC: What do you listen to?

GK: I listen to shit. I listen to old music, man.

AVC: Like soul music?

GK: Yeah, soul music.

AVC: Who are some of your favorite soul artists?

GK: [No answer.]

AVC: You were one of the first Wu-Tang Clan members to work with a producer other than RZA. How did that come about?

GK: Nothing, man. You gotta do what you gotta do. RZA don't gotta be making my beats all day. You gotta fuck around, spread your wings. RZA got fuckin' too many artists to put out on his own. I ain't gotta use him every time I make an album and shit. Yo, any good beats will do. There are mad people out there with good beats. That's like saying that you gotta fuck the same bitch all day. There's mad bitches outside, mad pussy out there, that's better than the pussy that you got. C'mon!

AVC: So variety is the spice of life?

GK: Yeah.

AVC: What's your writing process like?

GK: It ain't nothin', give me some good music, give me some peace of mind, somewhere it's quiet and decent, and that's it. I'm ready to write.

AVC: You just need some concentration?

GK: Yeah, and a clean place or whatever. That's it.

AVC: Why do you think the public responded to Wu-Tang Clan the way it did?

GK: We were just different. When we came in the game, we were different. Niggas never heard us before. So anything that's new that you never heard before, a lot of the times it gives the people a new vibe, a new rhythm, like all this South shit coming in right now. They love it 'cause they've never heard it before. That's all it is.

AVC: What was your life like before Wu-Tang Clan?

GK: I don't know. I was just like any other street nigga. I was robbing niggas, knocking niggas out, shooting niggas. That's how it was before Wu-Tang Clan. I'll do it again if I got to.