Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Village Voice: More, More, More + Kotori

The Village Voice keeps bringing the heat in terms of the recent assortment of Ghost/RZA/Wu shit that's sprung up in the leadup to 8 Diagrams & Big Doe Rehab. This time Rob Harvilla reports from a recent chat with the Ghost. I think readers & fans understand what Ghostface is trying to get at here--certainly those turned off by the sound of the new album--but Harvilla is right to point out the potential hypocrisy of Ironman's stances. It's not that I consider RZA infallible or even really innocent of never being shady--but then we get into talking about Divine & a bunch of business things nobody really knows about. Regardless, Harvilla's article takes the standard line of commencing with the just-arrived Big Doe Rehab before leading into the reason everyone really wants to talk to Ghost all of a sudden: his status with the Wu-Tang Clan. Earlier in the article Ghost discusses how he identified with Jay-Z's Kingdom Come album, how Jay attempted a more mature record, only to be lambasted by the populace. Ghost said, "The people want you to stay a certain way for the rest of your life...People don't want change, man. But you're becoming a grown man. You can't be 45 years old talking about how many bricks, how many kilos you turned over, how many you sold, at 45. People have to start talkin' grown-man shit. I respected Jay-Z on that shit, you know what I mean?" The excerpt below picks up with a recap of the history of the rift between Ghost & RZA:

First came a public spat over scheduling—briefly, both records were set to come out the same day until Ghost balked and Wu mastermind RZA politely (and publicly, and somewhat grumpily) agreed to push Diagrams back a week. But in addition to loudly complaining of financial mismanagement, Ghostface is also joining Raekwon (on record, at least, his closest Wu ally) in attacking Diagrams itself.

"RZA is fumbling the ball," Ghost says. "You know what I mean? Fumblin' the ball. He wanna do what he do, when we trying to tell him, like, 'Yo, man, do this or do that.' His music wasn't sounding like how it was when we first came in. And it's hurting us. People want that old Wu-Tang shit, but you tryin' to make new shit—tryin' to play live instruments, instead of just goin' to the crates and just do what you do best. You still a master at what you do, but right now you ain't lookin' like that master, 'cause you tryin' to do other stuff. We were just upset with the way things was comin' out."

To be fair, Diagrams is a dense, abstract, deliberately nauseating, deeply disturbing piece of work—you'd think extensively biting "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" would make a song more accessible, not dramatically less—unlikely to halt the Wu's slide in the public consciousness, losing ground to fresher entities (Southern rap, primarily), a calamity that Ghostface's recent success has valiantly battled against. But it's unfair that the main thing we know about this record, a week before its official release, is that two of its biggest rappers seem to hate it. And even if after five listens you find it repulsive, that's still five hours or so of deep, bewildered fascination. Diagrams deserves better than I fear it's going to get.

And furthermore, isn't RZA just trying to do what Jay-Z tried to do, what Ghostface says you must do: evolve? Grow and develop and experiment, even at the risk of pissing off your fans? "We just need to go back to what we been doin'," Ghostface insists. "If we not gonna go back to what the people—if you tryin' to get somethin' new, then do it right . . . Not just a beat with a bunch of rhymes goin' different types of ways, and the beat's not even all that, but you want everyone to sing on it."

Diagrams could undoubtedly benefit from some warmth, some familiarity, some semblance of sanity. But a drop or two of its wide-eyed, half-crazed eccentricity wouldn't have killed The Big Doe Rehab, either. As the tiff gets uglier and more public, interviewers lately have inundated Ghostface with Wu questions, to his understandable frustration: "I don't care if you ask me about it, but let's not just sit there and go for 40 minutes on it," he says. But a reconciliation is crucial here: It could reinvigorate what remains one of East Coast rap's most beloved franchises, and boost to new heights Ghostface, its star attraction, highly evolved relative to his competition but battling a whiff of staleness within his own outstanding catalog. But is it possible to make peace? "I'm not sure," Ghost says. "I can't tell you that, because it's serious with Wu-Tang Clan right now. It's serious. So I don't know." What would have to happen for everyone to reconcile? "I can't even tell you. I can't even tell you. I can't even tell you."

* * *

INS, U-God, Ghostface Killah

A much needed change of pace is now available in video form from KotoriMag.com. We've seen pieces of this long video interview before (specifically where RZA, sitting in a red booth, discusses The Heart Gently Weeps) but this more substantial cut is definitely worth your time. Unfortunately, only three members end up in front of the camera, but the good news is that two of these, U-God & Inspectah Deck, are fresh faces to the 8 Diagrams hype game. After 12 rounds of Ghost said this, RZA said that, hearing an extended, wholly positive description of the album along with some new faces is quite refreshing.

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