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Wu-Tang's Iron Man sums up his move to Def Jam succinctly: "Same music, different label." For Tony Starks's legions of fans, those four words should bring dope music to their ears-literally. Yep, Ghost is back with his fourth solo LP, The Pretty Toney Album, and ain't nothing changed but the imprint.
Nearly three years have passed since 2001's Bulletproof Wallets, and Ghost is anxious to inject his lyrical wizardry back into the rap game. "When you get something real vintage and out of the ordinary, best believe that shit gonna stand out," says the Staten Island native. "That's how I try to keep my music." A quick check of his resum makes it clear that Ghostface's music always makes a splash. From his 1996 debut Ironman, to 2000's epic Supreme Clientele, to his last release Wallets, Ghost has more front-to-back classic albums than most rappers have singles. Add his appearances from the Wu-Tang galaxy of hits on songs like "Can It Be All So Simple," and "Ice Cream" and it's no idle boast when Ghost describes himself as "one of the most creative niggas in the game."
What sets the Wally Champ apart from other MCs is his inimitable style. "I'll make a n'gga cry in a minute. I'll make you happy. I'll make a bitch wanna fuck you," says Ghost. "Those are my techniques. And that's the advantage I have over a lot of MCs, because a lot of them is stuck so much in one way, once they try to come out of that realm, people might not take them seriously. I'm a universal rapper." Whether it's heard in the club or in your headphones, The Pretty Toney Album proves that Ghostface's run of instant classic is far from over. "I'm not going nowhere for a minute," says Ghost. "I see myself rhyming until I'm 70... not saying I'm gonna be putting out records and all that, but this is a gift from God." And like a star player traded to a new team, Ghost is ready to show and prove for Def Jam. "I ain't finish balling out yet," he says with a smile. "This is the beginning."
Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in every borough of New York City, The GZA's workmanship can be found three albums deep with classics dating back to 1991 including the albums Words From The Genius, the gold-selling Liquid Swords and Beneath The Surface. Before his days of microphone notoriety, GZA found himself, during the early ages of rap music, travelling throughout New York City sharpening his rap skills in scattered rhyme battles. "I've studied rap in every borough," the GZA says proudly. "I've been rhyming before a lot of these cats out here were born. We've [Wu Tang Clan] always drank, ate and slept hip-hop. I love it." On his latest blockbuster album Legend Of The Liquid Sword, The GZA makes reference to his hip- hop foundation on the reflective Fam (Members Only) "I grew up around B-Boys, DJs, MCs, through rap, never thinking in ways of TV," the Genius raps. "It was strictly all about magnificent rhyme clout."
During GZA's travels, he encountered other rap veterans that recognized his promise and helped to nurture his talent. "I watched a lot of people come up that are big now," Genius says earnestly. "I used to make demo tapes with cats that rocked with Russell Simmons and people like that. The history goes so far back; I've always been really focused on writing dope rhymes."
The GZA's dream of perfection has been realized once again on his fourth album to date. Legend Of The Liquid Sword not only regains the powerful momentum started by the last three releases, it adds to the Genius' verbal legacy with uncompromising integrity. Heat-seeking darts like the introspective, Auto Bio where GZA breaks down the elements of his life that created the man he is and the crime thriller Luminal.
What has always set The GZA apart from the ordinary is his ability to create complex images with simple context. In the same way it's said that a picture is worth a thousand words, Genius assembles his words to create thousands of vivid pictures. "I don't like to just be simple," he explains. "Even though some of my stuff can seem simple at times, I like to write in a way that when you listen to it over and over again, you hear something new and it requires you to think." Legend Of The Liquid Sword does just that. Whether the listener gets captured by the vocal acrobatics of Santi White (who has written songs for Res) on GZA's Stay In Line or the authentic old school soul production on the masterpiece Animal Planet, Genius weaves satisfying brain food through his lyrics. In his phenomenally cerebral use of metaphors, The Genius flawlessly equates human city dwellers to animals in the jungle on Animal Planet, which was produced by rhythm doctor Bink (who has produced heavyweight joints for Fat Joe, Nate Dogg, Mr. Cheeks and Faith Evans). With beats by fellow Wu Tang brother RZA, Jaz-O (Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt album), DJ Muggs (who has produced for Cypress Hill, Mobb Deep), Wu producer Mathematics (Ol' Dirty Bastard, Method Man, Sunz of Man), Arabian Knight and other sonic masterminds, GZA's talents come across even heavier. On the adrenaline raising Hip Hop call to arms, Knock, Knock (the album's shining debut single), The GZA asks on the chorus, "knock, knock, who the f*** is banging at my door, is it abstract, commercial or hardcore?" In his signature way of ill rhyme construction, GZA further defines the parameters of what rap music should be.
Don't call GZA's comeback just a comeback, it's a return of an entirely revolutionary thought process. "When we did Back In The Game on the Wu-Tang Iron Flag album, I did a verse about gambling," he explains solidly. "I didn't want to be 'back in the game' or 'back on the block,' that's typical. I made it all metaphorical." It's those same metaphors that makes the Genius' liquid sword a living legend in it's own time.
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