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Wu-Tang’s Iron Man sums up his move to Def Jam succinctly: “Same music, different label.” For Tony Starks’s legions of fans, those four words should bring dope music to their ears-literally. Yep, Ghost is back with his fourth solo LP, The Pretty Toney Album, and ain’t nothing changed but the imprint. Nearly three years have passed since 2001’s Bulletproof Wallets, and Ghost is anxious to inject his lyrical wizardry back into the rap game. “When you get something real vintage and out of the ordinary, best believe that shit gonna stand out,” says the Staten Island native. “That’s how I try to keep my music.”
A quick check of his resumé makes it clear that Ghostface’s music always makes a splash. From his 1996 debut Ironman, to 2000’s epic Supreme Clientele, to his last release Wallets, Ghost has more front-to-back classic albums than most rappers have singles. Add his appearances from the Wu-Tang galaxy of hits on songs like “Can It Be All So Simple,” and “Ice Cream” and it’s no idle boast when Ghost describes himself as “one of the most creative niggas in the game.” What sets the Wally Champ apart from other MCs is his inimitable style. “I’ll make a n’gga cry in a minute. I’ll make you happy. I’ll make a bitch wanna fuck you,” says Ghost. “Those are my techniques. And that’s the advantage I have over a lot of MCs, because a lot of them is stuck so much in one way, once they try to come out of that realm, people might not take them seriously. I’m a universal rapper.”
On The Pretty Toney Album, Ghost’s mastery of ceremony is on full display. For the RZA-produced scorcher “Run,” featuring Jadakiss, Ghost concocts an incredibly vivid chase scene while finding inspiration from a fellow Clan member on the hook. “I always loved Cappadonna’s ‘Run.’ When I heard the RZA beat and I wrote a few verses to it, it just seemed like I was running from the cops,” he says. “Great minds think alike.”
As in his past classics, Ghost digs deep in the crates for “a lot of old fly shit” by acts like The Moments and Sylvia Robinson on various Pretty Toney interludes. “Those are the records that turned me into the man I am today,” says Ghost. “I wish the niggas that made those beats would make beats for me nowadays, because that’s real soul.”
Ghost gets his wish on the mixtape favorite “Holla,” where he unveils a new style by rapping over the Delfonics’ ballad “La La Means I Love You”-not a sample, but the entire song. “‘That’s another one of my babies,” he says. “It goes beyond the words. I rhymed over them without being distracted.”
On records like “Holla” and “Tony’s Masquerade,” where producer K-Def creatively flips the David Porter sample that Biggie made famous on “Who Shot Ya,” Ghost drops the type of eccentric lyrical gems that have earned him status as a cult favorite. “When I paint the picture, you’re seeing my mind right there. Muthafuckas might not understand what I say, but I rhyme for myself before I rhyme for the people,” says Ghost. “‘Cause yo, this is my art. I sat here and did this. All I need is the music. With the right music in my face, I can do anything.”
And as 2000’s club hit “Cherchez La Ghost” proved, Ghost can move more than just your mind. He wrote Pretty Toney’s booming lead single, “Toosh,” with a certain club diva in mind. “I heard the record and it sounded real big to me, so I damaged that shit and begged Missy to get on it,” says Ghost. “She loved it the first time she heard it, and she just went in and did it.”
Whether it’s heard in the club or in your headphones, The Pretty Toney Album proves that Ghostface’s run of instant classic is far from over. “I’m not going nowhere for a minute,” says Ghost. “I see myself rhyming until I’m 70… not saying I’m gonna be putting out records and all that, but this is a gift from God.” And like a star player traded to a new team, Ghost is ready to show and prove for Def Jam. “I ain’t finish balling out yet,” he says with a smile. “This is the beginning.”
In 1993, hip-hop would be forever changed by the emergence of the gritty, Shaolin style of the seminal rap clique, the Wu-Tang Clan. Straight from the streets of Staten Island , New York , a unique conglomerate of nine individually exceptional lyricists flourished. Fondly referred to as the Wu, RZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, GZA, U-God, Masta Killa, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, released the epic album Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. This debut garnered rave reviews because it provided listeners with a fresh approach to hip-hop. Moreover, the Wu set trends in a time when hip-hop’s radio play and sales were championed largely by west coast artists.
The Wu style was soon imitated. Their grimy, sparse beats and incredibly diverse lyrical flows, which creatively drew from Kung-Fu flicks, became the musical blueprint for many hip-hop cliques. To this day, the Wu-Tang’s impact on hip-hop culture is unyielding. The Wu not only influenced the state of music as a group but also as individuals. Each members is possessed his own exceptional characteristics which attracted cult followings. Raekwon (the Chef), one of the nine talented emcees, shined as the purist of lyricists. When the time came for him to release his first solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995), hip-hop, once again, underwent a momentous transformation. To give an accurate analogy Cuban Linx is to albums what Scarface is to movies. In fact, this classic album, which went gold in three days moves from track to track like a film moves from scene to scene. With its invigorating instrumentals and dramatic lyrical tales, Raekwon painted vivid pictures and presented powerful imagery through his enchanting verbal expression.
Rae’s ground breaking debut album helped to bring the flavour of flossing to wax as well as the use of the moniker among Wu brethren and other prominent emcees. The single “Verbal Intercourse” featured the first appearance of Nas Escobar, Nas’ alter ego. Similarly, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, who served as Rae’s partner in rhyme throughout the entire Cuban Linx album, also developed a slew of other identities. Identities like Lex Diamond, one of the flashy, witty and intellectually stimulating personas of the multifaceted Raekwon.
In the years after the release of Cuban Linx, Raekwon continued to record several albums with the Clan including the platinum Wu-Tang Forver (1997) and The W (2000), as well as the gold Iron Flag (2001). He also starred in the critically acclaimed film Black and White, before releasing his second solo album, Immobilarity in 1999. Four years later, it’s time for another masterpiece from Raekwon.
The Lex Diamond Story, Raekwon’s forthcoming third solo album is that desperately needed effort. This new LP is as much a reflection of his first musical triumph Cuban Linx, as it is a manifestation of the future and what is to come from this great emcee. Raekwon is like the E.F. Hutton of hip-hop: when he speaks, everyone listens. The current void in hip-hop is filled with this rap veteran’s
crafty verbal gymnastics and artistic form of storytelling. The Lex Diamond Story takes the top shelf elements of the Wu’s first album and the finest sentiments of Raekwon’s debut and joins them together to deliver another classic album to the masses.
A lyrical gourmet meal, The Lex Diamond Story shows that The Chef still possesses the recipe to cook up a jambalaya of words with the main ingredient being superior skills. Animated and intense, Raekwon’s stealth delivery is filled with emotion, skilled cadence and an array of diverse stories, hooks, and topics. The track, “All Over Again (The Way We Were)” touches on the flavour of “Can It Be All So Simple” with its tale of street survival. Meanwhile, “Pit Bull Fights” is reminiscent of the ferocious lyrical beating inflicted on “Incarcerated Scarfaces.” Raekwon is indisputably at his creative beast. Unchained and uninhibited, he is assertive with his music and focused on his goals.
In addition to the forthcoming The Lex Diamond Story, Raekwon has an entrepreneurial endeavour boiling called “Ice Water.” Ice Water Inc is the name of his multipurpose business venture and partnership with Randy Spelling (son of TV mogul Aaron Spelling). The company is composed of music, movies, fashion, books and a four-man group named Ice Water. Having already worked with a diverse selection of talented artists including Nas, Jodeci, Mya, the late Big Punisher, Outkast, Mobb Deep and many others, Raekwon is now helping to develop rappers. Polite, Cigzra, Problem Child (PC) and Stumik together form the group Ice Water.
But first, Raekwon plans to deliver his instructional musical dissertation The Lex Diamond Story. The soon to be landmark recording offers a new millennium musical blueprint with just enough seasoning of the old and spice of the new. Get ready for another mountain moving event!