Beers, Blazin' & Ganja : Ghostface Killah
There are times when sobriety pays off. Taking the SAT. Going on a job interview. Giving yourself an impromptu scalp shave in Tarzana. But attending a Ghostface show sober yields few dividends. Showing up to see Ghostface sans honey-dipped spliffs and/or some brand of liquor is like attending a funeral naked: ultimately, both experiences will leave you rather embarrassed and ultimately baffled. (No Kevin Barnes)
Simply put, Ghostface is the most interesting live performer in hip-hop. There are certainly performers who sound better live (GZA, Pharoahe Monch), others capable of dazzling you with their array of technical skills (Edan) and even others who are just straight-up funnier (Dip Set), yet no performer in the game can match the sheer off-the-cuff amusement that Ghost never fails to provide.
Ghost operates on one of those rarefied mental plains, way out of the straight-jacket normalcy of modern society, with an array of tics and idiosyncrasies to make Woody Allen blush. This is partially why it is crucial to be in an altered mind state when confronting such a spectacle likely to include: extemporaneous stories about shaking Biggie Smalls' hand a decade previous, lectures on fake rap beefs, and the occasional dance party with the Omega Mu Sorority House. Lungies" full of its bulging synths, abandoned safe house vibe, and cries of "Theodore." From there the track blended seamlessly into the classic party vibe of "Ice Cream," with the crowd chanting along with the Method Man hook and Ghost kicking his off-kilter paean to black Miss America's named Erika, girls that would look like Spuds McKenzie (if Ghost was jiggy) and Adina Howard, who very understandably had been on his mind all week.
The proceedings had a psychedelic vibe, with Ghost rambling, slurring, stoned on-stage, perpetually keeping the audience on their toes, descending into the Dali-worthy surrealism of "The Forrest," (if Dali loved the Smurfs), and the slow stuttering burn of "Whip You With a Strap." Ghost effortlessly regaling the crowd with distorted, crystal-clear childhood visions in one breath, then declared that all of us "are Gods for coming out the pussy, lucky motherfuckas, who out of millions of sperm made it to that one egg," in the next.
One second it's "Ghost Deini," and a surprisingly well choreographed "Run," the next he's babbling that he's "a righteous man." Keep in mind, this is minutes before Ghost broke into his now-standard on-stage dance party, with whatever flotsam and jetsam he and the rest of Theodore Unit were able to coax out of the crowd. Yet out of any Wu-Tang dance party I've ever seen, this one may have been the most depressing, with the assembled females looking like they'd been brought to the party by Gilbert, Lewis and Booger. Don't think that stopped Shawn Wiggs, Ghost, and Sun God from molesting anything in sight. Hell, even Solomon Childs stopped spitting in his tobacco bottle for a few moments long enough to start feeling on a girl that vaguely resembled William Howard Taft.
Meanwhile, Trife Da God wisely focused his energies on the lone attractive dancer, a trashy but sorta' attractive Joan Jett looking girl, who would later be seen by Ian Cohen in the parking, getting blasted by her boyfriend. Of course, this raises the philosophical question: if you lose your girl to a member of Theodore Unit, shouldn't that be a sign that she might not have been "the one." Meanwhile, Sean Wiggs, the East Coast's answer to Paul Wall, performed his rather annoying verse from "Greedy Bitches," leaving me to conclude that I have little interest in ever hearing Wiggs rap again. However, I am interested in is finding out what exactly he had to do to get into Theodore Unit. The only way his admission makes any sense is that he has several dead bodies under his belt.
The set list was surprisingly devoid of tracks from Fishscale, with the aforementioned "Whip You With a Strap," the only cut performed. Instead, in an all-too-generous gesture, Ghost allowed Theodore Unit a sizeable amount of face time, proving once again that while Trife, Sun and Solomon Childs are pretty decent rappers in their own right, they'll never come close to Papa Starks either. But when Starks had the spotlight, he controlled it, leaving the crowd magnetized with his irrepressible charisma and impassioned delivery.
Hunter Thompson once wrote that "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." Ghostface is both: simultaneously, a pro capable of dazzling you with the best hip-hop songs ever written, but weird enough to stun you with the breadth of his bizarre thoughts and theories that make much more sense under the influence of strong drink and various narcotics. His live show may not be the best in hip-hop, but it's easily the most surreal. Indeed, Ghostface subliminally understands something Booger in Animal House taught us a very long time ago. If you have enough wonderjoints, even a party with the Omega Mu's can be turned into a great time.
MP3: Ghostface Killah-"Ghost Deini"
MP3: Ghostface Killah-"The Forrest"
Bonus: Ghost performing a typically unnecessary "Cherchez La Ghost" Dance Party Last Year.