Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Ghostface Situation...

...has just become (fittingly) the Ghostface & Raekwon situation.

I've been meaning to recap all of the difficulties Ghost has created for the Clan & 8 Diagrams since before this blog began. Today, Raekwon added himself to the mix with these two youtube interviews with Miss Info.

When Ghost first voiced his problems, the biggest concern for the Wu fan was that the disharmony might hamper Clan chemistry, & cause the album to suck. The fact that they weren't exactly getting along wasn't especially troublesome, because to all long-time fans of the Wu they are known as one of the most discordant collectives in all of music (which is saying a lot). The word they've always used is family, & this applies nicely, as they've had their many quarrels but always managed to come back together.

But Ghost's recent denunciation of (presumably) RZA & Divine was the most public Clan beef perhaps ever, & rightfully caused nervousness in the fanbase. While at this point it seems that the album surely won't suck, it's important to recap & examine the details of the developing dissent within the Clan. Also, when it was only Ghost who was denouncing the RZA publicly, that could be chalked up to his growing distance from the group combined with his growing ego, & somewhat easily cast aside. With Rae adding himself to the mix, this becomes somewhat more difficult.

Word of Ghost's issues with RZA coincided with the announcement of 8 Diagrams. The first reports of the fledgling project featured RZA talking about the reunited Clan minus one glaring member--Ghostface. Surely, no one should be excluded, but Ghost has been perhaps the most (musically) visible member in the past few years, & has risen from a mid-level if underappreciated member to a media & fan favorite.

The cited reason over Ghost's absense was a disagreement over money, specifically payment for the Rock the Bells tour. Incidentally, at the New York show I attended, Ghost was MIA. All of this lead to a fair amount of dubious attention & apprehension from the media & fan sectors over the 8 Diagrams project as a whole. Anxiety was soon quelled, however, as announcement came that Ghost was finally on board, & then as the first three songs leaked, wham, Ghostface was on each of them. End of story.

But of course that would be too easy, & as the 8 Diagrams release date slid back through October, through November (briefly landing on November 13th, which will be the 3rd anniversary of Dirty's death), onto December 4th, the Ghostface situation reappeared, this time much more serious. This report came from MTV's Mixtape Monday:

You'd think all would be well in the land of the Wu-Tang Clan right now. The Shaolin set finally settled on a date for their long-delayed The 8 Diagrams comeback. But if you ask Ghostface Killah, things actually aren't that sweet with the Wu. Ghost is fuming that the group's album is set to drop on the same date as his next solo album, The Big Dough Rehab. According to him, he had that date already secured, but setbacks with the Wu project planted The 8 Diagrams on the same day. And now he's not budging, he said. At all.

"I had December 4 for the longest," he explained. "But the Wu album, brothers was kinda late on doing whatever they were doing and pushed it back ... on my date. You can put this in there, I'm not [mad at] all the members. It's not based on the members, but the hierarchy at Wu-Tang Clan is on some bullshit. They trying to fuck around and make me push my album back and doing all this. But niggas ain't fucking around or give us money when we did them Wu-Tang tours. The first one, they paid us after a while, but this last one, niggas is holding onto a lot of money. And [they're] upset based on that. It's a battle right now." Ghost did not specify exactly which Wu members are the "hierarchy."

"The Big Dough Rehab is my album," he continued. "8 Diagrams is their album. But it ain't got nothing to do with the regular members. 'Cause I love Raekwon, Masta Killa, U-God, Genius, all them. But it's on right now."

Ghost said he's frustrated because his album would have been finished by now had he not chosen to be loyal and go on tour with the Clan over the summer as part of the Rock the Bells ticket with Rage Against the Machine. He even claimed Steve Rifkin, who signed the group to Loud and is releasing their latest album, put calls in to execs in hopes of stopping Ghost's album from seeing the light of day. (Inquiries made to Rifkin's office had not been returned as of press time.) In the meantime, Ghost is moving ahead with his album. The first single, "Celebrate" — featuring Kid Capri and produced by Sean C. — should be leaking soon, he said. Others set to contribute to The Big Dough Rehab are Scram Jones, Raekwon and Method Man.

Ghost is also set to drop a book, "The World According to Pretty Toney," on December 4. The book — based on skits from MTV2 — will feature Ghost dishing out his particular brand of advice on a number of topics, from gambling to education. As far as Ghost's participation on The 8 Diagrams, though, so far he's only jumped on a handful of tracks.

"I got on some of them," he said. "A few of them. ... Niggas better pay my fucking money. Matter of fact, they can keep the money — just get me out of their life right now. They can keep that money, it's all good now. I don't even wanna talk about it no more."

Such a report was public & serious enough to trouble any serious Wu fan. At this time, also, we'd only heard a few tracks, & the fate of the album was surely in doubt. This report was quickly followed by a response from RZA, also on Mixtape Monday, which revealed the current 8 Diagrams release date, December 11th, video of which follows.

The hope among Wu fans was that with the release date duel settled, Ghost might calm down again. But after a few quiet weeks, yesterday we received this report, from a show on NYC radio station Hot97:

Cipher Sounds just played Take It Back.. But before that he was talking about the drama with Ghostface & Wu... He said Ghost left him a voicemail saying, "Yo play my new record [Celebrate] ... make sure it's MY shit... not that WU-TANG shit."

Then Cipher Sounds was just saying how this hurts him, because he grew up listening to Wu, etc...
& then, almost as if it is too much at once, we get the Raekwon interviews which further elucidate the rift between RZA & the Clan.

But several facts go against Raekwon's points in these videos. He argues for quality control, saying the entire Clan is not on board with what RZA is doing musically, while the latest project Rae has helmed, the Ice Water record, is barely worth listening to. Furthermore, while Ghost's two 2006 albums had plenty of quality material on them, there were some serious mistakes, especially with personnel. I mean, how are you going to put Shawn Wiggs on a track with Redman? Also, Rae's performance on the tracks we've heard from 8 Diagrams is decidedly understated--occasionally just lazy. There are times in this interview when he acts more animated than during his verses on the album. & all of this coming from someone who can't even get a label to release the supposedly-classic followup, Cuban Linx II, to 1995's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. & how have Raekwon's RZA-less projects been in the intervening years? Ice Cream pt 2, anyone? & what about the fact that the music we've heard so far from 8 Diagrams is pretty much undeniably dope? I could go on.

Raekwon does bring up a very interesting concept--a Clan album without the RZA. Of course, the chances of a project such as this actually happening are pretty slim at this point, given the fact that for one, most projects announced by the Wu never materialize and two, RZA is the organizer of the Clan. Without him, they wouldn't be anywhere. It seems that Raekwon remains aware of this fact, at least moreso than Ghostface, but given some of the utter shit that has appeared on Rae's recent projects, it is certainly his ears that are broken, not the RZA's. His report is troubling, but if Rae becomes the new leader of the Clan, then I am truly concerned for the welfare of the group.

Yes, the Wu-Hierarchy, especially Divine, has been notoriously shady about money owed, but such are internal issues. The music is external, & right now the music is good.

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