There are two massive hip-hop shows in Shanghai this week. For a preview of the chronological first, check out the Mobb Deep Preview on Layabozi. The second is an appearance by Ghostface Killah, who is well known in the hip-hop world from his work with Wu-Tang Clan and, more recently, his solo work, which includes the albums Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Bulletproof Wallets, Fishscale, and The Big Doe Rehab.
Ghostface is an artist who has mined different genres to compose his own ontological/mythological universe. He operates under several aliases and within multiple genres. You may come to know him as Tony Starks (a reference to the Iron Man comic book series), Ghostface Killah (taken from a character in the Hong Kong kung fu movie, The Mystery of Chessboxing), or Pretty Toney (you tell me). These different personae, each with their own back-stories and characteristics, make up a lot of Ghost’s lyrical repertoire- three-minute noir novellas that take you to a world of crime, drugs, sex, comedy, and redemption. Add in some stylish beats and you’ve got yourself a musical cake with the nail file baked inside.
Let it be said, also, that Ghostface has overcome a lot to rock for you hip hop-starved miscreants in Shanghai this Sunday at the Zhijiang Dream Factory. His song “All That I Got is You” (with Mary J. Blige) details his upbringing in a Staten Island project without a father. It is actually one of the few hip-hop tracks that has ever seemed true and heart breaking to me. This one really hits home. He has also experienced health problems, as referenced in this unintentionally hilarious quote from his Wikipedia biography:
In 1996, he discovered that he was diabetic, a condition that would weaken his health. According to “Trials of Life,” a 2007 song with fellow New York rapper Prodigy (himself a sickle-cell anemic), Ghostface assumed he had been stricken by a sexually transmitted disease until he received the diabetes diagnosis. This assumption was brought on by his rapid weight loss and that he had “hit it raw aplenty.”
Now, before you get all self-righteous on me, you should know that I would never make light of someone with diabetes, sickle-cell anemia, or a sexually transmitted disease (in print), but I challenge you to re-read the previous paragraph in the voice of a serious scholar (possibly British) and not crack the fuck up. The last line just really brings it all home.
Now where were we? The music. What can you expect from a Ghostface Killah show? I have never laid eyes on the man in person, but I will tell you a bit about him, which I have gleaned from listening over the years. He has a dexterous and forceful flow, although his rap voice is somewhat high-pitched. The words seem to come out at you like the water from a cracked hydrant on the street. Like, fast, furious and, when it’s hot, people like to come out and play in it. His solo work has been considered more soulful than other RZA-produced, Wu-Tang Clan outputs, solo or otherwise (mainly due to the extensive use of old soul samples). He is definitely a veteran of the stage, so expect a commanding presence, like a caged tiger stalking in front of a multitude of gawkers. But he might also be playful, enjoying an appearance in Shanghai, which is fast becoming an exotic destination for premier acts. As I have come to know from my previous years in China, this phenomenon is a blessing and not a right, so I advise you to get out there and check this shit out for yourself!
Truthfully, I expect the Dream Factory to be packed. Anything less would be uncivilized.
PS: There was a contest to see who would open up for Ghostface in Shanghai. I have no idea who won this contest, which adds a hint of surprise to the proceedings. Come see who will get killed by the Killah.