May 26, 2007

Ghostface Killah - Ironman (October 29, 1996)


A suck-ass night at the club, coupled with a need to step away from my screenplay for a few days before more revisions start (that's just how I roll), has led me to finally bless the site with another Wu-related review.

Ghostface Killah is a member of what fans would call the "Wu-Tang Clan".
Ironman, his first solo album, is the fifth from the group, and is usually considered the last "good" solo album, ostensibly because the remaining four members' albums collectively suck, but really because this album was followed by the group effort Wu-Tang Forever. For the Wu nerds (and there are many), The Rza mentions in the Wu-Tang Manual that Forever marked the end of his "five-year plan", in which he took complete creative control of the Clan's output, including executive producing all of the solo albums to that point. Don't believe me? Just look at the Wu solo albums after Forever, and you notice the difference in quality.

Anyway,
Ironman introduces the world to an artist who hasn't quite figured out how he wants to be perceived by fans. Sure, now he's known for his wicked visceral storytelling and his stream-of-consciousness rants (usually involving food, crime, or drugs), but back in 1996 he was a struggling artist. This is most visibly evident by the fact that this album credits two guest stars on the fucking cover, Raekwon (probably because Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... was fucking brilliant) and Cappadonna (because...well, I guess his verses on Rae's "Ice Cream" and "Ice Water" were cool). I don't recall if this album was marketed as Cuban Linx 2, but that's obviously the vibe they were going for.

1. IRON MAIDEN (FEAT RAEKWON & CAPPADONNA)
Look beyond Raekwon sitting back "jollying" (whatever the fuck that means), Ghost's recollections of running a train on Jamie Sommers, and Cappadonna's "by-myself meetings", and you'll notice that this song is fucking boring. The beat is very blah, as if The Rza wasn't really trying, and the delivery of the three rappers lacks the immediacy that Ghost brought us on the very first verse from Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).

2. WILDFLOWER (FEAT JAMIE SOMMERS)
Ghost talks shit about Jamie Sommers, and yet she appears briefly here. Huh. This song is actually pretty good, brutally funny, and yet, well, brutal. The sub-genre of rap songs about fighting with your ex-flame is a well that the Wu would go back to a few more times (see: Bobby Digital In Stereo).

3. THE FASTER BLADE (FEAT RAEKWON)
I have to assume Ghost wasn't 100% confident with his rhyme skills, as this is actually a Raekwon solo song. Taken as such, it's not bad.

4. 260 (FEAT RAEKWON)
Very meh.

5. ASSASSINATION DAY (FEAT INSPECTAH DECK, RAEKWON, THE RZA, & MASTA KILLA)
The original rap song that sampled Pac-Man sound effects. (Fuck you, Lil' Flip!) Anyway, as the required group collabo song, it's not bad, but once you realize Ghost isn't on this track either, it breaks your heart a bit.

6. POISONOUS DARTS (FEAT RAEKWON)
The most "Wu" song on here, but that's only because of the kung-fu sample found at the start. This song is also meh.

7. WINTER WARZ (FEAT RAEKWON, U-GOD, MASTA KILLA, & CAPPADONNA)
Most people say that Cappadonna walks away with this song, and I'll admit his verse is pretty good, but it's also, like, ten times as long as anyone else's verse on here. I would give the belt to Masta Killa, though.

8. BOX IN HAND (FEAT RAEKWON, METHOD MAN, & THE FORCE M.D.'S)
The CD booklet lists this as featuring Method Man and Streetlife, which makes this the first in a long line of "mistakes" on Ghostface Killah albums. This version is ok, but doesn't hold a candle to the original one with Meth and Street; that version can be readily found online under its pseudonym "Deadly Darts".

9. FISH (FEAT RAEKWON & CAPPADONNA)
"We eat fish, toss salads, and make rap ballads." That's a cool mission statement, I guess, but this isn't a ballad.

10. CAMAY (FEAT RAEKWON & CAPPADONNA)
Oh, here's the ballad! You were just setting us up! Well played, Mr. Ghostface.

11. DAYTONA 500 (FEAT RAEKWON & CAPPADONNA)
Better known for the
video, which is a bunch of clips of Speed Racer edited to seem like they're the ones rapping. (Not unlike the Wu-Tang/Simpsons mash-up.) Lesser known as being the 674,349th song to sample Bob James' "Nautilus".

12. MOTHERLESS CHILD (FEAT RAEKWON)
The second song recycled from a soundtrack to be featured here. (The first was "Winter Warz".) I never liked this song, and as this was the first Ghostface solo outing I've heard, that probably set the tone.

13. BLACK JESUS (FEAT POPA WU, RAEKWON, & U-GOD)
Apparently Popa Wu appears a lot on the back end of this album. Still hate U-God.

14. AFTER THE SMOKE IS CLEAR (FEAT RAEKWON, THE RZA, & THE DELFONICS)
The precursor to the soul-drippingly sweet songs Ghost is better known for these days.

15. ALL THAT I GOT IS YOU (FEAT MARY J. BLIGE & POPA WU)
Yes, the one where he raps about his mother. Back then, I never cared for it, but now, I'll admit it's alright.

16. THE SOUL CONTROLLER (FEAT THE FORCE M.D.'s & POPA WU)
This song is fucking awesome. The Rza's beat is a master's piece. Apparently sample issues have led to this track being removed from later pressings of
Ironman. Are you kidding me?

17. MARVEL (FEAT THE RZA)
An odd way to end this CD. Ghost and Rza rap for, like, two minutes, and the song continues for what seems like twelve hours.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Ironman is probably the worst solo album of the five, but it is leagues ahead of the solo albums to follow (with the exception of, well, Ghostface's own subsequent albums). Maybe it would have been better if the original "Box In Hand" was included, but we'll never know. I just wish that Ghost was more confident in his own abilities; he's evolved into one of the best rappers in the game, one with a distinctive flow that you just know will spit some good shit every time. But that all came later. For this album, he had his boy the Chef pick up his slack, which might have been cool if he were introducing Raekwon to the masses. But...

BUY OR BURN? I'm surprising myself by thinking this, but you should just burn this. I'm sorry, but this is not the best Ghostface album out there. Nobody seems especially interested in being on the album, the beats are boring for the most part, and I feel that your money would be better spent buying a second copy of Liquid Swords for preservation's sake. Cuban Linx 2, this ain't. I'll admit that every Wu fan out there has already bought this one, but for someone new to the Clan, not the best place to start.

BEST TRACKS: "The Soul Controller"; "Winter Warz"; "The Faster Blade"

Disagree with this review? Make your opinion known! Leave a comment!

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Method Man - Tical
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return To The 36 Chambers (The Dirty Version)
Raekwon - Only Buily 4 Cuban Linx...
The Genius/Gza - Liquid Swords

34 comments:

  1. i never realized ghost wasn't on assassination day, i disagree with the review i think this is ghost's best work

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  2. AnonymousMay 27, 2007

    I`ve just read this review & I have to honestly admit I do not! agree with this review whatsoever. See what the problem is here. You failed to look at the time frame when this album was released. Which was in the golden era of hiphop music (when it was in its baby prime stages). Wu had just started branching out with solo efforts. And back then and STILL this album will be considered jus as classic as Cuban Linx 1... Ghost couldnt have came off any better then the way he did on this release. Half the rhymes he spit was on some next generation shyt. You got 9 Generals, each coming with various styles. And keep in mind for RZA supposedly having been victim to a flood which he claimed damaged/washed away all his prerecorded beats (which he had mentioned were for each individual clan member albums). He did a pretty good job REcreating what he lost so-to-speak in a pressured amount of time... I agree with you on one issue w/ not all the solo albums being as great as Ironman but this album is a solid masterpiece all around. After that album came and went you noticed a lot of other artists switched their whole style up, starting wearing "wallabees" in their videos, mentioning "swords" in their rhymes, claiming they "gods" etc etc... Back then when Ironman was released, You had The West Coast who was really putting out the music at that time. New York was just getting warmed up. Plus you had in the midst; Tupac & Biggie going back n forth at it keeping the attention on them alone (RIP). HipHop music really didn`t have no major influences on the audiences until the Wu came out and cultured civilization with their words and ideas of just being creative and being themselves setting trends. Thats why the music biz is the way it is today becuz people/artists are afraid to be themselves worrying about what "critics" think, forever trying to be like the biggest thing out already..... Music is a forever changing artform, it will never stay the same way... we all know that.

    And you had a featuring wrong. Raekwon was not on Poisonous Darts.. Ghost banged that out solo! Matter fact that was the second joint I heard before Ironman came out. I heard Motherless Child, but there wasn`t no talk about it being on Ghost`s solo until the album was announced in the public eye (it was a great idea that he had those two songs featured on dif. sound tracks, exposure is the key esp. for beginning artists). That was when the days of radio was graceful enough to represent playing hiphop music.......... All in all, this review just simply means nothing.. but just another critics opinion.. This album hangs on the telephone pole wire by its LACES!

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  3. I appreciate that the two of you disagree with the review, but my opinion stands. I bought this album back on its release date, since I'm a Wu freak and need to have everything even remotely associated with the group, and at the time, I thought it was the best shit ever. The purpose of this entry, which I admit may not have been easily accessible, is that Ironman doesn't hold up as well as people would like. Cuban Linx and Liquid Swords are undisputable classics, and Tical and ODB's Return... also sound pretty good today, but Ironman does NOT.
    I stand by my theory that he wasn't fully confident in his own skills, so he relied on his boy to pad the tracks. His follow up work deserves to be championed, and when I get to that point in the Wu timeline, I'll react as such. (With the exception of More Fish, which is only "ok".)
    And Raekwon is on the chorus of 'Poisonous Darts'. Maybe I shouldn't have credited him in the review, but I try to be as thorough as possible.
    And before anyone brings this up, I'll debunk one of the possible theories of the bad review: Yes, I had a bad night at the club the night before, but that just means I wanted to write something to process my anger in a positive way. Ironman just didn't sound very good, and after the review, before I posted it, I listened to it again to make sure. Rest assured, if I wanted to attack an album for no reason, I would have written about Tony Yayo or something equally unimportant.
    I realize that there are many champions of Ironman, and I respect all of your opinions, so thanks for reading!

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  4. I kinda agree with Max on this, if it wasnt for just a couple of bangers this would have easily been just "another" album which the industry was churning out at the time. But Iron Maiden for me was and is never boring, i love that track!

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  5. Iron Maiden is an amazing track. That's my favorite track off this album and Cappa took that song to the next level. I will admit however that this album was not as good as I had hoped for. I always liked Ghost and had a feeling that he would last the longest out of the clan. He only got better after this album, but this is definitely his most focused and consistent album. His later albums always felt stitched together to me, even though they were better. Back around the time I bought this, I sometimes had to go to 2 or 3 different stores because the distribution of cds was not done very well. It's cool, it was worth it.

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  6. I gotta disagree with you on this one, too...
    You may be right that this wasn't as good as Liquid Swords, OB4CL or Enter the 36 Chambers... but it's right behind and I can't think of any other Wu release that comes close to this.. It's also Ghost's best record and a classic IMO...
    when it came out I had my doubts,too but it has definitely grown on me...

    peace

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  7. I love this site, seriously Max I do...but your kidding right? "Fish" is one of the illest beats EVER!! It's so organic in its mellowness but raw at the same time. The funny thing is RZA didn't even produce that one, True Master did. This album is fantastic and in my humble opinion is only one notch below OB4CL. On the flip side I agree with your assessment of "Box in Hand" with the original joint sounding far superior to the Ironman version. However the bridge which starts off the Ironman version of "Box in Hand" takes a dump on both beats. 4th Disciple loops this 20 second bridge for his Boston based group Tragic Allies to spit over, which gave me great satisfaction. I always get pissed when the beat changes. I always wondered why they decided to only leave that portion of the beat as the opening bridge. One never knows...

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  8. Nighttime VultureAugust 26, 2008

    Yo Max, wanna send the albums you have and dont like or rather appreciate to my house. I'd love to build an album collection like you got but dont got the funds and cant find this kinda shit in Canada. If so....holla at me...martin.asante@hotmail.com

    I'm dead serious by the way


    *Bumps "Fish" and shakes head at this review*

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  9. i don't agree this review, this chamber of the wu is definetly different but not for that less than a classic. Most beats are more armonics, yet the spit fire flow is unique, not even OB4CL has as much fast rhymes.

    I will put this over Meth work and ODB albums just because this album has a much better production and overal theme.

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  10. My favourite album. I still hear new things when listening this 1.
    Didnt use to like the album so much, but maybe it is the secret of the longetivity.

    peace

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  11. the reviewer is a crack head...he hates everything like spoilt bitch

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  12. I agree with you on your review. Some of the beats are kind of weak and not really anything like the four solo albums preceding this one.

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  13. i myself am i wu die hard fan myself and have to agree wit hmax here, this album is kinda boring, i was expecting this album to be good as liquid swords or cuban linx but there were only 3 tracks that caught my attention spam, if u want to see a really good GFK album buy supreme clientele, its better than this one

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  14. Ironman is the weakest of the first wu-releases (between Enter the Wu-Tang and Wu-Tang Forever), but it stills a classic and the best ghostface album ever

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  15. Everytime Cappadonna nearly ruins a great Wu track for me (example: 'Buck 50'), I just come back to 'Winter Warz' and all is forgiven.
    That's enough for a buy IMO.
    I get your feelings though; there aren't that many great songs to put the album on par with the previous Wu releases. Supreme Clientele is superior.

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  16. wow...
    2 out of your 3 recommended tracks don't even feature Ghostface.
    that's harsh.

    -keeshawn

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  17. I can't disagree more. The beat on iron maiden is beyond great.

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  18. AnonymousJune 09, 2011

    you're an idiot. this album kicks ass

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  19. what people dont understand is that he's giving u an opinon on the album from his point of view, just cause he says burn this shit doesnt mean u have too dats how he feels, imo the album is a classic im listening to it now as im writing, i been listening to dis album on and off since 96 and its only for certain ears, and the newer generation wont give dis album any burn, it doesnt hold up today i argee cuz it was at a different point and time, but the album holds up for me til dis day but maybe not to the newer generation like i said anyways nice review max.

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  20. Took a while for me to see the brilliance of this album. Now I find it to be a masterpiece.

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  21. AnonymousJuly 03, 2012

    I felt about Supreme Clientele the same way you did about Raekwon's 2nd release. This album shits on Supreme Clientele and wipes its ass on Supreme Clientele liner notes. Best Ghost Album...he's reached his peak here and I haven't purchased another album since Supreme Clientele (which I sold back to the record store for probably 3 bucks). It's been years..maybe I'll give Supreme Clientele another spin.

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    Replies
    1. AnonymousMay 08, 2013

      nope.

      supreme clientele is the best hip hop album ever.

      Delete
  22. This album is a grower for sure. It took me a long time to "understand" this record, as opposed to Tical, Liquid Swords and OB4CL, which I loved immediately.

    It's its own beast, and given enough time, it really sinks in as a benchmark statement, for Ghost and for the Wu collective. Like one guy said previously, it was from its own place and time. And going by what was happening in rap back in mid-tolate '96, there was NOTHING like this going on at the time.

    Winter Warz, Iron Maiden and Soul Controller absolutely KILL. Remarkable stuff for those who have the patience.

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  23. AnonymousMay 10, 2013

    Where exactly are the pac-man samples on ASS. DAY? I hear 2 creepy jadek-y guitar notes, stiff bleak dry drum samples, fierce violent raps, some scratching, and the usual suspects "there's no coke! you heard me you dumbfuck there's NO COKE!!!!!!!" .... is it that sound effect going "BWAOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" which sounds like a weird bleep layered with a sliding out of tune guitar note?

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  24. AnonymousMay 10, 2013

    soul controller is fucking amazing, my version doesn't have it and I'm PISSED.

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  25. Ok this is the worst site on the internet period. How the fuck can you be dissing classics like these. If you ain't got anything good to say don't say anything. Nobody wants to see you say how wu tang is your favourite group ever and all that shit, then turn around and say that your pretty much saying this album is shit. So what if ghostface didn't wanna make an album featuring himself all the time? Everyone knows wu tang delivers best when they have multiple members jump on the same track. You have no heart, you are a disgrace of a reviewer, you need to retire, and you need to protect ya neck before someone cuts you with the wu tang sword for being so disrespectful. Don't EVER fucking review albums again.

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    Replies
    1. ...he says on a review I wrote six fucking years ago. Pretty sure I've written many more since then, too, so vague threats to a younger me don't really work.

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  26. Time for some truth.

    This album is just as much of a classic as the four solos before it.

    ESPECIALLY CUBAN LINX..

    Only complaints I got is that Ghost shoul've appeared on "Assassination Day" and shoould've rocked that "Faster Blade" beat.

    It screamed Ghostface KILLAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

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  27. I agree with lots of people here, especially Joe Make-Up stating it's a grower.
    And I think that has all to do with how awesome musically orchestrated this album is.

    Sure, this isn't pullin' you in directly like OBFCL or dark & brooding like Liquid Swords & Tical, but off all the first round of Wu-Tang solo's, this is the one I ended up listening the most, with GZA's album a close second.

    Songs like "Poisonous Darts" & "Iron Maiden" do have that OBFCL flavor, commanding your ears instantly (though mixed a tad cleaner), but "Camay", "The Soul Controller", "Wildflower", "Assasination Day" reveal themselves after multiple listens, having so much detail, these are true masterpieces. Same goes for "Marvel", it never bothered me that the last two minutes don't have no rhymes, the instrumental is so well-constructed and since it's the last song on the album (a bonus one at that), it's only right it stretches out a little.

    I think "Iron Man" is nothing less than a undisputable classic.

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  28. I'm actually a bit surprised by this. I like Ironman better than Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... and probably even a bit more than 36 Chambers. It's my second favourite Ghostface album after Fishscale.

    In any case, we're all entitled to our own views, hopefully people didn't attack too much (I didn't check).

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  29. For me this album was never in a row with 4 first solos. It's better be linked with "wu-tang forever era" and clearly states the point when things became worse.

    Few tracks are classics and Marvel is dope, but average overall.

    k/

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  30. I think the reason people like OB4CL more is that Ghostface tends to talk a LOT more about women than Rae. I mean, you could see it bubbling from the Purple Tape with Wisdom Body. But I stand my ground all the time in saying this was a more reality-based album than Cuban Linx, but not any less lacking in metaphors. And besides, OB4CL was NOT perfect in my eyes. It's a bona fide classic, that's for damn sure, but songs like Ice Cream and Wisdom Body, IMHO, had NO place on an album like that, regardless if you think they were good songs or not. They fit Ironman more.

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  31. This album is right up there wth the Purple Tape. I've always loved how Ghostface had more variety with his subject matter than Rae, although he and Oh Donna followed Ghost's direction admirably on this album.

    However, Liquid Swords trounces both so bad, it's not even a fair comparison.

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