Ghostface & Raekwon
The Ritz, Raleigh
As part of Wu-Tang Clan, dart experts Raekwon and Ghostface Killah aren’t discussed as a duo as often as Outkast, Mobb Deep, EPMD, or UGK. But Ghostface discredited that technicality on “Mighty Healthy,” when he loosely proclaimed, “The world can’t touch Ghost’s purple tape / Rae co-host,” in reference to Raekwon’s classic 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, where the two began a tradition of shared narrator duties in Shaolin street cinema. A year later, Ghostface debuted with Ironman, returning the favor to Raekwon by featuring him on twelve of the album’s sixteen cuts. The pair’s ensuing meetings would produce some of the most elegant storytelling since Donald Goines, and their alchemy ultimately became one of the shining linchpins of Wu-Tang’s legacy. Ghost and Rae head for The Ritz on Thursday, as Wu-Tang celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. Here’s some of their most phenomenal tag-team work outside of OB4CL, because that would just be too easy.
“Motherless Child” (Ironman, 1996) This O.V. Wright–sampling classic gained extra steam from being featured on the Sunset Park soundtrack. It tells the story of a kid with a heroin-addicted mother and failed hoop dreams whose fate was sealed one day in Brooklyn’s Albee Square Mall, when a few guys took homicidal revenge on him from a previous run-in. Who would have thought that someone could take this material and make it even bleaker? Raekwon only makes a brief appearance to set a dark stage for Ghostface’s tale, the preamble of his capability as an extravagant griot.
“The Hilton” (Bulletproof Wallets, 2001) As if in a John Woo film, Ghostface immediately jumps in this Carlos “Six July” Broady–produced saga with a vivid action scene—a hotel-room-service situation gone awry. While Raekwon is in the shower, a bellhop tries to assassinate Ghostface, only to be shot when “Rae ran hysterically / slipped on soap / landed on his back with his gat, now that’s dope!” The heist was orchestrated by a woman from Chicago, but, in the end, the hitman was taken out by a hired corrections officer while he was incarcerated. Why none of these stories were ever turned into real movie scripts is anyone’s guess, but there’s more than enough material here for a Netflix series.
“The Watch” (No Pork on My Fork Vol. 1, 2004) In his bid for mayor of New York hip-hop, Ghost (in his Tony Starks persona) takes the metaphorical, reflective route of taunting his wristwatch, teasing it about how it’s the most slept-on jewel and how it almost drowned in a bowl of Corn Pops. It’s an indelible, direct attack on the period’s dominant rap voices—mainly DMX and Jay-Z—and Raekwon wastes no time instigating his disgruntled partner’s beef. While the outburst didn’t exactly spark any real intrastate battles, it was a chance for the Wallabee champ to ventilate mainstream radio for suppressing Wu-Tang’s swarm.
“R.A.G.U.” (Fishscale, 2006) In a case of mistaken identity, Raekwon arrives on the scene of a bloody brawl to talk some sense into someone whom he assumed was related to Ghostface. In a weird twist, Raekwon ends up slapping the poor guy in the face and injuring his writing hand. This is all for naught, though, because the dude is merely one of Ghostface’s random fall guys, who used to steal his Polo rugbies and once shot himself in the balls. Finally, Ghostface knocks out his teeth, and now, he wears dentures. The end.
“Gihad” (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx … Pt. II, 2009) In which Raekwon brags about buying a crib next to Bill Clinton’s mother because, apparently, she “fucks with the Chinese.” In Wu-Tang-speak, this just means that Connie Chung once interviewed her, and it’s meant to point out how Rae and his crime buddies can be both aristocratic and semi-automatic. Then Ghostface butts in, “but on the other side of town, it’s Tony,” proceeding to detail the most pornographic scene since his own “Wildflower” and threatening to put bologna on your face.