Polymath Malik Crumpler (who featured recently on our platform) discusses the god like lyrical prowess of one Ghostface Killah on his debut album Ironman. We were stoked Malik agreed to write for us. Indeed we hope Malik blesses us with his lively penmanship again very soon.
It’s been 21 years and counting since the intro’ on Ironman (1996) by Ghostface Killah urgently warned “y’all muthafuckas to keep cool…” But no real MC in 1996 was capable of keeping their cool after dissecting Ironman, bar for bar. Matter of fact, back in ‘96 Ghostface sent every determined MC back to the dojo to independently lose it for years, trying to figure out what the hell happened lyrically on Ironman.
Looking back at it, it’s obvious that the record demanded every MC who “got the message” to get rid of their reliance on traditional forms of rhyming. Once unhinged from the limited traditional techniques of rapping, an MC was free to investigate the boundless architecture of free-form lyricism.
“My technique alone blows doors straight off the hinges…” –Winter Warz
It only took 17 tracks–1 hour 4 minutes and 55 seconds–for Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Capadonna and some of Wu Tang Clan to launch lyricism on a warp-speed mission into the unexplored regions of rap’s poetic possibility. For that reason alone, Ironman remains the catalyst for investigating the unavoidable challenges of expressing knowledge of self. Although all of Wu Tang’s MCs pushed the boundaries of battle rap and standard storytelling, Ghostface Killah leapt off the planet with bars like,
“Mercury raps is roughed then God just shown like taps
Red and white Wally’s that match, bend my baseball hat
Doin’ forever shit like, pissin’ out the window on turnpikes…”-
At 26, Ghostface Killah demolished the boundaries of linear narrative to expand the range of confessional rhyming. While combining contrary perspectives and abandoning similes for sharp unpredictable symbolism, Ghostface broke every rule of rap. Free to pursue the metaphysical pathways Ghostface cleared on Ironman; MCs finally had a blueprint for contemplating the complicated variations of self, to achieve an undefined elevation.
“…That’s the mind that you can’t see. Don’t you know if a man could take and flip himself inside out, God, he’ll fall out and die if he sees all the shit that goes on inside?” Papa Wu
Ghost’ flipped his mind inside out to activate the next evolution of rhyming. Just eight years after Rakim’s 1988 classic, Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em, birthed a new meditative cadence, Ghostface’s unrestrained flow, unleashed unpredictable environmental details, fresh new slang and rare word choices that struck the ear like abstract expressionist paintings struck the eye in the 1950s. Although in ‘96, Ghost’s style was considered avant-garde, on specific tracks like; Wild Flower, Daytona, Camay, Black Jesus and Soul Controller, Ghostface’s clarity is as deliberate and unashamed as can be.
Achieving the poetic discipline necessary for constructing verses that revolutionized the means of expressing the anxiety, failures, joys and triumphs of life in New York City at that time. The fact that everyone on this album so gracefully pivots the external and internal Yin and Yang cements this album on an entirely different level than any other during the ‘90’s era.
Rarely, if ever, did a rapper on the international stage confront the machismo, egocentrism and self-denial within, like Ghostface did. He was the first to truly address indestructible egomania, the venerable psychological state and the immovable spiritual position of the gods and earths, on wax. In doing so, like all great mythical journeys wherein a catharsis is achieved by the end of the album, Ironman set the bar for a new rap renaissance.
Featured image by TheBigDoe