Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ghostface Killah - Ironman (1996)

Ghostface Killah - Ironman (1996)

It's almost unfair to the rest of the members of Wu-Tang to call this a solo album. Only two songs really feature Ghostface on his own, and the bulk of them feature Raekwon and the whole album is practically produced by RZA. It does say on the cover and all that it features Cappadonna and Raekwon, but this is Ghostface's album ultimately. And what a strong debut from the rest of the Wu-Tang clique for the guy. The beats! The rhymes! The flow! It's all here. And what an album.

More notable about the album is Ghostface's showcase of variety. On Wu's album he's usually more harsh, dealing with heavier lyrics and violence. But here he's more vulnerable, showing who his softer side on the ode to his mother "All That I Got Is You" and "Wildflower." RZA's familiar snare beat is present in all the songs, but he's toned himself down even by his standards. The beats are aren't overproduced as seen on almost any club jam nowadays, forcing the attention to be more on Killah's rhymes and not on the toned-down, yet still catchy, beats.

It's refreshing to hear such intensity and rush on a rap album, giving the impression that Ghostface and Co., got something to say and ya'll better listen. "Winter Warz" is a great example of what sounds like guys freestyling over a great beat and dissing on each other's style. "Camay" and "Daytona 500" are the centerpiece of the album, two back-to-back tracks that illustrate Ghostface's lyrical styles of handling R&B and ripping into straight up rap in the following track.

The album has aged remarkably well, if anything the references even more strong in the present thanks to the comeback of "Ironman" by the film. If anything Ghostface was ahead of his time with his debut album, creating songs that not only solidified him as one of the members of Wu to succeed outside of the clique and hold his own, but also to dissuade from the Wu's views, to embrace that group but stand his own as a solo artist, which they all eventually had to do (even U-God). Nice start to a nice set of albums to come.

Standout Track: "Daytona 500"
Overall Rating: 8.3

Some Fun Facts while listening to this album:

* Lots of movie dialogue throughout the album, just like Wu's. Listen for some "The Usual Suspects" on "Assassination Day," "The Soul Controller," and some "Carlito's Way" too.

* Speaking of samples, "Mystery Of Chessboxing," known as "Ninja Checkmate," is sampled here amongst other Wu efforts. The film follows a young man who wants to avenge the death of his father by a Ghost Faced killer. An old Chessmaster trains the boy to defeat this Killah.

* First single off the album is "Daytona 500"and has a music video composed in anime-style akin to Speed Racer. One of the first anime music videos to be shown on TV and is still popular.

* All tracks produced by RZA save one. The one that isn't? Fish, by True Master, who's rapped on "Pro Tools" and other Wu-related projects, but mainly sticks to producing.

* Album peaked at #2 on The Billboard 200 in November of 1996.

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