DAR Hip Hop: Ghostface Killah's Ironman

By @CherchezLaPorsh 

1. Iron Maiden 
2. Wildflower
3. The Faster Blade 
4. 260
5. Assassination Day 
6. Poisonous Darts
7. Winter Warz 
8. Box In Hand 
9. Fish 
10. Camay 
11. Daytona 500
12. Motherless Child 
13. Black Jesus 
14. After The Smoke Is Clear 
15. All That I Got Is You 
16. Marvel 

"Ghostface wreaks havoc with meaning and narrator reliability, flitting from gangster-film intrigue to grimly prosaic reality." 

“Proof of his matured lyrics and delivery and the Wu's strong family stand. If Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... had you open, prepare for another gaping wound." 

Those are real quotes floating around about one of the best debuts ever. Honestly, those are really (some of) the only ways you can describe Ghostface’s “Ironman” album. It’s apparent that as soon as the Wu members started releasing solo projects, they were unstoppable and album after album proved that. While Ghost was one of the last members to release his album, it was one of the most highly anticipated and well received projects of the year. Ghost was introduced and utilized heavily on Rae’s “OB4CL” album, but it was here that we saw him shine of course. This album is high energy, raw with aggressive lyricism and of course, his featured (fellow Wu) artists is a huge bonus. Let’s look at the album in its entirety from production to individual tracks with the best bars and an overall score.

A solo Wu joint means the heavy involvement of the RZA and that’s never a bad thing. Unlike the dark aggressive beats he created for previous albums, RZA tones it down and smooths it out with the use of samples from Al Green, The Persuaders and the Jackson 5, amongst others. RZA made sure to add just enough soul to accentuate the vulnerability in Ghost's lyrics while still allowing the storytelling and New York grittiness shine through. As some may know, a flood caused the in home studio at the RZA’s house to be destroyed, along with the majority of the sound equipment. This would force the recording, mixing and mastering to be done in a brand new location, with completely different equipment so for this reason “Ironman” sounds a little different than any other Wu-Tang project. This may have posed a problem to some, but Ghost and RZA manage to give us sixteen tracks that promise to keep listeners hooked.

Track by Track And Best Lines:

*Iron Maiden (Feat. Raekwon & Cappadonna) 
-Get use to these three appearing together because this is the first of many. I don’t think Ghost could have started this album off any better. The entire album is kind of like an extension of everything the Wu had been known for: the streets, the stories and the grim darkness. What better way than to use abrasive excerpts from the film “The Education Of Sonny Carson” and then tie in their current experiences and of course naming the song after medieval torture devices is very….well….Wu-like. On the lyrical side, these three fit together like puzzle pieces, verse after verse remains consistant, coherent and the entire track flows so well. This was a dope way to start off the album.

Best Lines
“Snatch Canadian cream with Scandinavians/
Fellatium style, play it like thirty-two Arabians/
The greatest lesson is don't owe, you might get stole on/ 
When I go bury me wit Valow on/”

“I'm too potent
Louisville mix pain kill rap, Fuck benadryl/
The violin in 'Knowledge God' sounded ill$”

“All praises due to Staten Isle/
I spark the mic and Shaolin spark the methtical/
Every evenin', I have a by myself meetin'/
Thinkin' who's gonna be the next to catch a beatin/'”

- 9/10

-This is where the aggression and rawness from Ghost is heard loud and clear in the form of a story. Simply put, this track is about Ghost being cheated on while away on tour. The word choice conveys the anger and the vulnerability while the openness is appreciated and the constant use of “whore”, “hoe” “chickenhead” and “fuck bitch” are to reiterate the emotion. Overall this is a great track and one that works well on this album.

Best Lines:
“I'm the first nigga that had you watchin flicks by DeNiro
You gained crazy points, baby, just being with God/
Taught you how to eat the right foods, fast, and don't eat lard/
I gave you earth lessons, I came to you as a blessing/
You didn't do the knowledge what the God was manifesting/”

- 8/10

*The Faster Blade (feat. Raekwon)
-Here we see Raekwon again, but surprisingly Ghost doesn’t appear on this track. As disappointing as this is, it’s still quick-witted and the verse is in true Wu-Tang form. While the beat choice is more soulful and a little softer, the signature Clan style is intact. This is just a quick and easy listen and jam packed with dope bars, and while Ghost is missed on this track, there is no one better to carry this and make it sound cohesive and incredible.

Best Lines:
“Yo, but buryin' niggas is carryin'/
Thug drug marryin'/
Hittin' Marion off at the Clarion/
All my Spanish niggas love us/
We movin' like rush ya, bone crush ya/
At the flick, stick to usher/”

- 8/10

*260 (feat. Raekwon)
-I’d like to think since the last track was short, we get an encore with this one. We hear an excerpt from “The Education of Sonny Carson” again and an Al Green sample. Incredible production, soulful yet gritty and of course the dynamic of these two is perfect as expected. Rae smooths out Ghosts aggressive flow and the entire track comes together in perfect balance. The theme here is largely around the “Five Percenters” (no surprise since the Wu references this often) and much like the track before it, this is another incredible listen even though it’s entirely about a drug deal gone wrong. They tell the story and make it engaging…of course they do!!

Best Lines:
“There go the the dreads yo, swindle two bags of that stuff That get you crashed out had you laid out like bums, peace Keana/ What's up with your girlfriend Wanda/”

“We goin upstairs, I hope one nigga is empty
We walked in, both of us, looked like terrorists/
Masks on, second floor, Dunn yo, I handle this/
Kick in the crib, the whole shit looked graphical/
Natural, fucking a white bitch, actual/
Fiends chanting, "Do your thing Chef, handle it"

- 9/10

*Assassination Day (feat. Inspecktah Deck, RZA, Raekwon & Masta Killa)
-This is the second track where Ghostface doesn’t appear and other Clan members stand in on his behalf. While I love this just the same, I do think it’s missing Ghost's unique voice and intonations. My favorite part about this song is the use of the “Usual Suspect” as the film snippet. It stays true to the drug dealing theme throughout this album and is very fitting. Although I’ve never been a fan of RZA "the rapper" because his flow isn’t the best, I do appreciate his lyrics so I give it a pass. Though we’re missing the main artist, it’s still a great track and everything else is on point!

Best Lines:
“I move through the third world, my third eye's the guiding light/
Invite the fight, we all die tonight/
The life I lived, a 25 to life bid/
Parole reneged/
I stroll the globe fugitive/
CREAM is short/ 
C-cypher power stalk plus the fiend talk/”

“Interchangable, caution flameable/
My chamber is ninety-nine plus one unnameable, angles/
And strangles, microphone cords start to dangle/”

“Don, spread it out like Grey Poupon/
Splurgin, mergin in the suburbs/ Using this just like an adverb/
Action word, flowing like a blackbird/
God came in, aimin like Terry Bradshaw”

Masta Killa:
“Murderous rhymin/
Constantly in climbin/
My mind spits with an enormous kickback/
Your brain didn't absorb the impact/
Disorderly conduct from the crowd is the feedback.../”

- 9/10

*Poisonous Darts
-I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again, the RZA is brilliant. His ability to layer meanings and tie each solo Wu album back to “36 Chambers” is incredible. The snippet we hear at the beginning of this track is from the 1979 movie “Mystery Of Chessboxing”, sound familiar? For Wu fans, we know this title from the “36 Chambers” album, as the movie was the inspiration to that track and is responsible for the name “Ghostface Killah” (it’s the name of the villain in the movie). The fact that RZA uses it here is a full circle moment. If that wasn’t enough, lyrically Ghost is at his best. His intensity is great and his energy is on a steady incline. This track is incredibly dope (the references to “dragnet” and “Purdue” are appreciated)

Best Lines:
“The segment, rare fragment/ Comes together like magnets/ Attract heads capture like Dragnet/
Goin through mad phases, of all ages/
Killa beez locked the fuck up behind cages/”

- 10/10

*Winter Warz (feat. Raekwon, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna)
-I don’t think it’s by accident that on the “Ironman” album there’s mention of “Winter Warz”. It reminds me of a superhero bout and I’m not wrong in thinking that. Joined by his fellow Wu members, this is like the best posse cut! I love everything about this and as a result, it is one of my favorite tracks on this album. U-God’s voice is always a great contrast to the others, as it adds a raspy gritty edge we miss when he’s not around and brings in the Wu sound we love. All the verses are dope (of course)

Best Lines:
“Ask why I slam nine diagram pole/
Raekwon dropped the bomb, Hunchback, Norte Dame/
Golden Arms is bronze/
Buddah palm hit Qu'ran/
It blows extreme/
Mean stream be the theme/”

“My technique alone blows doors straight off the hinges/
Masked Avenger/
I appear to blow your ear like wind/
With a freestyle, sharper than the Indian spear”

“You don't want me to start tattlin/
All upon the stage cause y'all snakes keep rattlin/
Bitch, you ain't got nothin on the rich/
Every other day my whole dress code switch/”


*Box In Hand (Feat. Method Man & Raekwon)
-This is the first track we hear with actual vocals sung by “The Force M.D’s” and it sounds great. While there were some changes made to this track since its original recording, it still sounds good. We have Method Man and Raekwon on here as the features. I personally love this song, it flows really well between the three MC’s, but the highlight on this one is Method Man. His verses are intricate, his word play is great and I absolutely love his half-rapping half-intoned lyrics. This is another highlight of the album.

Best Lines:
“From the lamp I grant three wishes/
Johnny be parlayin, I Blaze britches, then I roll
One hundred percent mind, one hundred percent body
One hundred percent soul/ Individual Assholes tend to run/
From this PLO extortion to the one/
The next chamber, you fuckin with the star spangler/
To the dawn's early light with this head-banger/”


*Fish (feat. Raekwon & Cappadonna)
-The three of them are at it again. This time the “gambino” and “organized” crime themes are explicitly addressed. The dialogue at the beginning is very reminiscent of Rae’s “Wu-Gambino’s” but it works here too. The content of this song is a bit interesting; on the surface Ghost uses “fish” in the context of food but could really have several different meanings depending on which angle you want to look at it. Some references are a bit much, but Ghost has never been one to censor his lyrics or his intended point and he sticks to that here too. Cappadonna and Rae really focus on the criminal side and their lyrics support that theme. Even though this track isn’t my favorite, I think it’s a needed part of the track list and was executed very well and is the first “rap ballad” we hear on the album.

Best Lines:
“RZA's the rhyme/
Now, the sacredness of one's true mind/
Now let's get colorful like money green, high roller coaster/
Sosa, million dollar nigga roaster/”


*Camay (Feat. Cappadonna & Raekwon)
-This song is just beautiful and amazing from beginning to end. The soft vocals, the steady beat and the semi-sweet lyrics make this the closest thing we are going to get to a love song on this album. And it works, cuss words included. While other tracks on this album may be considered “rap ballads”, this one fits that description also. It’s got everything…emotions included and is another one of my favorites. Every line in this song works to make it perfect! I can’t post all the lyrics but you get the point, so no need for a best lines section here.

- 10/10

*Daytona 500 (feat. Raekwon & Cappadonna)
-This is the last track we get with only these three on it and they deliver yet another perfect song. The track title is taken from the NASCAR race of the same name and the tempo and lyrical delivery reminds me of a “race”. It’s very fast, the beat follows suit and the entire song is fast paced. The only part that slows down just a bit is the smooth vocals from “The Force M.D’s” and even that is timed perfectly, so it doesn’t slow down the song at all. The RZA pays attention to the details and adds just the right amount of scratching and beat breaks to keep it all flowing. This is yet another perfectly executed song with a truly perfect hook.

Best Lines:
“Say peace to cats who rock mack knowledge, Knowledgists/ 
Street astrologists/
Light up the mic God, knowledge this/
Fly joints that carried your points
Corolla, Motorola holder/
Play it God, he pack over the shoulder/”

“I'm Iron Man no cheap cash metal I'm steel alloy/
True identity hidden inside secret tabloids/
Breathe oxygen both sides of my jaw carry oxes”


*Motherless Child (Feat. Raekwon)
-Another soulful track on the production side, because The RZA uses a sample from a song titled “Motherless child”, which was sung during the time of slavery in the United States. The sample itself infuses the track with a ton of emotion so the lyrics really work to support that. The theme of the song is really a story of street level hustling. It works here and it fits everything we’ve heard from Ghost on this album and prior. This isn’t a perfect track, but it is great and I do love the production.

Best Lines:
“Wildest niggas peeling caps known as the Islanders
from Staten/ 
Where crazy clips be clapping/
Slept in his principal spreads, threads, made of satin/
Labeled as the cow he had crazy beef”

- 7/10

*Black Jesus (Feat. U-God, Poppa Wu & Raekwon)
-This is the Wu Wisdom I love and appreciate in everything they do. The insight that Poppa Wu shares at the beginning is much appreciated. Although it is very “God” driven at first, he brings it back to self, which is the teachings of the Five percenters and the philosophies. As far as the lyrics go, the three of them (U-God, Rae and Ghost) keep the insightful momentum going. This song is pure and utter knowledge delivered in a way that only Wu-Tang can, by incorporating the infamous street life. This is a gem on the album.

Best Lines:
“Elite Special force no religion style faith, the meltin' pot boil/ Gun shot drama soil/
Gamble when I scramble handle hot pots of oil/
Manhandle brain killin' erect my hidden”


*After The Smoke Is Clear (feat. The Delfonics, Raekwon & The RZA)
-I admit, when I first heard this song, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I’m not a fan of RZA’s rap delivery but what he lacks Rae and Ghost make up for and the track ends up being incredible. Raekwon’s verse is filled with wordplay and meaning, while the Delfonics’ vocals add just enough to make the title come to life. Cinematography in albums has never been a problem and even though “Ironman” isn’t a completely  cinematic album, elements of it are and that’s always a great thing.

Best Lines:
“The greatest story ever told by me, precisely/
Roman numeral I be/
Plus three describe me/
My son move like the toad/
Get drunk, Speak in codes/”


*All That I Got Is You (feat Mary J Blige)
-This is probably the most emotion we will ever get from Ghostface. The track is dedicated to his mother and the story of how he grew up. Mary J. is featured as the "cherry on the most perfect cake". This pulls on the heartstrings so much that we don’t even need to experience it to feel the struggle. This is another well executed and intensely emotional song with perfect lyrics. Another instance where the best lines section is not needed, because the whole song is amazing.


*Marvel (feat. The RZA) 
This is such a fitting title for an album titled “Ironman”. I always take a moment to appreciate the attention that’s put into linking albums, titles and lyrics and of course this has a double meaning. The entire track is an ode to a woman that is “everything” and it goes on to list all of the reasons why and what she does to men. There’s a track like this on every rap album and of course every Wu album, so of course it’s needed here. I do appreciate that it’s not sappy,  however it is explicit but tasteful and conveys the point well. Both Ghost and RZA do well on this track and placement is on point too.

Best Lines:
“Skin like Cleopatra's/
The leading actress/
Look at Miss Thing/
With a ponytail, kept a jar of Vasoline/
She's a big girl now/
With a body that growl/”


Album Strengths:
This album's strength are plentiful, but the two main areas are lyrics and production, as both are incredible. The simplistic and minimal use of samples coupled with original beats allow Ghostface (and the features) to remain the focal point of the album while the wordplay and lyricism is flawless. Ghost took his moniker of “Tony Starks” further by introducing his debut as Ironman…another fantastic approach. He’s intense, he’s aggressive and raw. This is truly an extension of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”, but with an emotional side only Ghost could bring.

Album Weaknesses:
There aren’t many weaknesses here except for the two tracks where Ghostface isn’t even present. Personally for me that’s a risk and although the MC’s that take his place are phenomenal, he allowed someone other than himself to be front and center on those tracks and that will always be a point to critique.

“Ironman” proved to fans that Ghostface was much more than a feature on Rae’s debut. He could hold his own and deliver an album that would be at the caliber and standard that Wu-Tang set. With this debut, Ghostface brought a rawness, a storytelling ability and emotion that was unmatched by anyone before him and with the help of RZA they crafted an (almost) perfect album that would set the foundation for his future projects. It’s no surprise that Ghostface is considered one of the most consistent, proficient and gifted members of the Clan.

Overall: 9/10 



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