Date: 7th October 2006. Venue: Coronet, Elephant & Castle. In Attendance: Tes & myself. Occasion: GHOSTFACE KILLAAAAAAAH!!
Ayo, where my Killah tape at?!
Seriously, I lost my Fishscale album, has anyone seen it? Devoid of the latest work from master craftsman Ghostface Killah I set out in search of one better, the man himself live in concert…
As we passed some dudes leaned up on the railings outside the venue one of them practically ambushed us with an offer to buy his mixtape – his sales technique was awful!
Whilst we waited to go in Genesis Elijah worked the queue with more success, he stopped for a brief chat as he shopped his mixtape and we exchanged our music with one another.
Passing through yet another incompetent security check we grabbed a few Guini and waited for the first of the support acts as the place slowly started to fill up.
An energetic trio of double time rappers with forgettable beats was followed by Choong Family. Their beats and overall presentation were much better but unfortunately there was much more energy on the stage than off it. In fact the extended fam on stage (including a very sincere chap waving a little flag) seemed to dwarf the half dozen or so rows that were already stood at the front, and in what was a theme of the night none of the crowd was showing much love.
The extended family theme continued with the last support act, Wu family that is; having recently got a beat on Ghost’s Fishscale album Lewis Parker came out and rocked a tight set. The beats were great and he rocked the mic right wit good stage presence and charisma – clearly enjoying the fruits of his labour!
Most people are impressed by a good beat boxer, but when you can walk on and get the whole crowd open with your first note then you know you are nice! Faith SFX, playing the mic like a trumpet, opened up with strains of the instantly recognisable theme tune from The Godfather. He then mixed it up into a beat and even dropped it into a Dr Dre remix – sick! One of my favourite bits was when he held the mic to his neck, the effect was a muffled sound similar to music when stepping out of the main club, then he brought it back like the door had swung open again and you were back in the mix.
Everything stepped up a notch further when Theodore Unit took to the stage with Trife Diesel and Shawn Wigs bouncing verses off of one another. The last song was a poignant one about loss, Trife was rapping from the heart but still had to pause beforehand to make sure folks were feeling it: “I respect you London, I see you all stood out there in your b-boy stance but you gotta show some appreciation”. The end of their short set came with a warning – show a little more love or Ghostface will turn around and walk straight off the stage.
Tony Starks, Ironman, Ghostface takes the stage to his song of the same name from The Pretty Toney Album. “Peace bushes, trees hello” Ghost makes friends with the fictional cartoon folk of The Forest in an unexpected run out for this animated name dropper. Even Tweety Pie gets a mention, however he might have “tawd he saw puddy” but I believe he is mistaken – the crowd is a straight rugby match!
The direction of the show is scatter shot – there is no seeming consistency between songs performed, none that is except for Ghost’s impeccable, impassioned, heartfelt delivery. It is in this manner that we are taken through the next few songs including Metal Lungies, Ice Cream (a classic favourite), the insanely energetic Run and Trife’s excellent verse on Biscuits.
All this is marred slightly by technical incompetence: “Mic man, can we please get mic 1 turned up, and mic 2, and…can you just sort all of them out?!”
The light man gets it in the neck too – can it be that it is all so difficult to get a nicely mixed variation of soft lighting?! It would seem so: “Yo, I tell you what, just turn them all off!” it is in this way that Ghost hilariously performs in the dark for a while.
Response is lively as Ghost asks who has which of his albums and we are treated to more of the Wu-Tang classics from …Cuban Linx and Supreme Clientele. Ghost also explains how Wu-Tang’s influence is all over Hip-Hop:
“Apart from Slick Rick I was the first to really bring the jewellery in – I was rocking the Jesus piece first, then Biggie went to get his”
“Me and Rae were drinking Cristal back in the Heaven & Hell days, before your favourite rapper was rapping about it”
This included further expounding on how he made fake rappers switch up their actions around him back in the days when he was “still on some bullshit, punching people in their face”
None of this talk really comes across as a rant or bitter in the slightest, he is just telling it how it is. Nor does it break up the show at all, every utterance is absorbed and despite the indifference to the supporting acts the crowd finds its voice for Ghost. No one is lost for words as the place erupts with a Shimmy Shimmy Ya dedication to Ol’ Dirty Bastard and we all “bomb atomically” to Triumph.
The dedications continue with word to JDilla before Ghost harkens back to the good ol’ days of discipline on Whip You With a Strap. This type of bizarre subject matter is a perfect platform for Ghost’s unconventional rhyme mastery and it is testament to his authenticity that such imaginative strides never seem contrived.
Light up the broccoli kid…this is by far the most pungently smoked out audience I have ever been in.
More darts are sent truly from the heart on Holla and Be This Way which are accompanied by a description of this soul child’s upbringing – getting kicked out of the living room while his parents partied to classic records, you know, “the music that your parents used to fuck to”.
On that note it is time for the girls to come up on stage – the few that manage to elude a boyfriend’s grip that is. Females are few and far between but some do make it tentatively onto the stage.
Whilst some might decry the over-influence of Def Jam on the conception of songs such as Back Like That it seems to me that Ghost’s approach makes him incapable of selling out. This may be a hit radio song but it is still done very much on his terms and it sounds fantastic being banged out here. The extra dramatic effect of the performance may have a lot to do with this sentiment, delivered as it was on one knee pleading to the fairest of the few girls on stage.
Other Fishscale joints are banged out including Be Easy. This brings me back to the crowd – far too many people are running round with the fake frowns (sell ‘em on EBay!) too busy looking mean and acting cool to get down, enjoy themselves and make some noise. But it is what it is; I’m still having a great time, as is anyone else who is letting themselves be entertained.
One of my personal favourites We Made It ends an incredible show by the incredible showman. In an era of Hip-Hop that is preoccupied with lifestyle over art Ghostface is that rare thing – an almost mythological figure that puts his all into the execution of his artistic creation. Few have developed their art to the level of Ghostface, and it remains the main focus even for someone with such a story to his name. Drug dealing, getting shot in the neck, and a prison stretch during his career that put grey hairs on his head – all these remain a part of the whole rather than becoming sensationalist sideshow. It is these weighty considerations that add extra feeling as he sings “from Rikers to the Cayman Islands”.
The show doesn’t seem to have a natural ending, Lewis Parker is brought back out on stage and at Ghost’s bequest the fickle fan faction gives more love than they did for LP’s actual performance. Ghost is priceless as he struggles to remember the name of the song Parker produced on Fishscale: “damn, forgetting my own shit!”
It seems as though the show has been short, but as midnight ticks past on the timepiece I realise he’s been on for nearly 2 hours, time flies. After an enthusiastic send off we make our way into the night as the collective on stage gradually drifts off and the saga continues…Wu-Tang, Wu-Tang…