The Wu-Tang Clan’s most consistent member looks back at a magical solo career on this fun yet uneven collection of hits, remixes and rarities.
Ghostface Killah is a bit of a conundrum in the grand scheme of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The RZA’s former roommate is, in fact, a founding member of the once-mighty nine-man wrecking crew from the Park Hill section of Staten Island whose nickname is taken directly from the influential 1979 kung-fu flick The Mystery of Chessboxing that has served as the primary impetus to the Wu-Tang philosophy. However, no other member of the Wu has gone against the grain of the collective’s initial train of thought quite like the MC also known as Tony Stark. Like his closest compadre in the Clan, Raekwon, Ghostface prefers to engage the listener with gritty true-to-life tales from his days as a street thug and club-friendly bangers enhanced by a stream-of-conscious lyrical flow that would confound Stephen Malkmus over the urban intellectualism of the likes of RZA and GZA. Additionally, Ghost’s preference for brassy old soul samples over the dusty minimalism of his Wu-Tang counterparts have given him far more consistent crossover appeal than any other member of the Clan, with the exception of maybe perhaps Method Man, who still manages to draw attention to himself with that one-trick pony “How High” bullshit that was great the first time around but grew tired real fast.
But perhaps the most prominent aspect of Ghost’s career as a solo artist beyond his initial crew is the fact that he is the only member of the Wu-Tang Clan who has been able to put out a steady stream of great albums back to back without hesitation, something nobody else from the group has been able to do successfully. The man’s got seven full-length albums and not a dud in the mix, which is indeed a roaring triumph considering the majority of the Wu only managed to eek out only one or two classic solo albums apiece. From his 1996 debut Ironman right up through 2007’s Big Doe Rehab, he's got enough heat for an entire box set saluting his career at this point (especially if you take into consideration the dearth of guest spots, freestyles, mixtape exclusives and still-unreleased full-length albums -- namely his yet-to-be-street-dated 2006 collaboration with MF Doom, Swift and Changeable).
It is an overwhelming legacy of sounds that certainly makes the task of cobbling together a single-disc career-spanning package nothing short of daunting. However, GhostDeini the Great, which compiles a collection of 16 Ghost-centric tracks including hits, remixes and rarities from the last 12 years of Ghost’s illustrious solo career in addition to two brand new tracks, tries hard to reach achieve the impossible by putting together a set that both casual and hardcore fans of Ghostface Killah can find value in.
For the most part, GhostDeini the Great succeeds in its mission of putting together a formidable compilation showcasing the art of Starksology at its finest. The remixes featured on here of classic tracks exceed the originals by a long shot: the aforementioned “Kilo” (which includes a new verse from Malice of Clipse), the RZA-produced “Run” (expanded with verses from Lil’ Wayne, Raekwon and Freeway in addition to Jadakiss, who appears on the original from Ghost’s 2004 Def Jam debut, The Pretty Toney Album) and a great spin on the Pete Rock-blessed Fishscale gem “Be Easy” featuring one of the nicest verses from remix guest Ice Cube since his Predator days. You also have two great new songs on here as well: “Slept on Tony”, a previously-unreleased track that was featured in the 2008 summer blockbuster Iron Man (no doubt a thrill for Ghost, a huge fan of the classic Marvel comic book who utilizes the Tony Stark/Iron Man duality as his own artistic alter egos), as well as “Ghostface X-mas”, a surprisingly PG-rated holiday romp on par with Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”.
However, it is the indelible Ghostface hits, interspersed between all the new jive that stand out in the end here. Yet while a good amount of classic singles make the cut here -- notably “Mighty Healthy”, “Apollo Kids” and the unforgettable “Cherchez La Ghost” from Ghost’s 2000 sophomore classic Supreme Clientele, “Walk Around” from Big Doe Rehab and “All That I Got Is You”, Ghost’s heartbreaking, Mary J. Blige-assisted soul saga of growing up in the projects and the only track off Ironman -- the omissions from GhostDeini are as glaring as the inclusions. Regardless of whether or not you consider this package to be a Ghostface Killah “Greatest Hits” set or not, failing to include such fare as the first Ironman single “Daytona 500” or anything off Ghost’s vastly underrated 2001 Epic swan song Bulletproof Wallets is about as criminal as some of the grimy street tales “Pretty Toney” be slinging on the mic.
Also included in limited runs of GhostDeini is a DVD of backstage and concert footage of Ghostface Killah on tour, which, for the most part, should make you appreciate Ghost’s aptitudes as a studio cat at best. But for what it’s worth, this collection makes a fine albeit nonessential holdover until his next new album drops. If anything, cherry pick the remixes and new tracks from iTunes or Amazon and save your big doe for that next Ghostface Killah shit, which, if the statistics stay in his favor, should certainly be yet another heater from the Wally Champ.