Please, beloved. Back up. The birthday God needs some room.
“N—as gotta clear some space, B!” Ghostface Killah barks to his good friend Kareem “Kay” Woods. Woods — also fellow Wu-Tang Clan legend Raekwon the Chef’s younger brother — has been close to Ghost since before the Clan first told the world to “protect their necks” in 1992. For the past year, however, the two have teamed up on several business and charitable functions, including producing concerts starring the likes of renowned comedians Mike Epps and Monique. They are also collaborating on building a community center for kids in their hometown of Staten Island.
But on this late May night, Kay is the promoter at XL Nightlife club in Elizabeth, NJ. There’s a party and show celebrating the birthdays of Ghost and Mobb Deep’s Havoc. Ja Rule is also in the mix, and a guest of honor.
“What’s up, Ghost?” Ja says as he comes in and greets his friend. The VIP section, built above the dance floor and stage, is so packed with people that the hip-hop legend nicknamed Tony Starks is frustrated he cannot walk around comfortably.
“Come on y’all. Go downstairs. Give n—-as some room,” Ghost instructs the men in the VIP that’s not down with his, Havoc’s, or Ja’s crews. “I’m gonna have to call security.” (As one of the enforcers of rap’s most unf–kwitable collective, Ghost has never called security in his life, finding some humor in his own empty threat.)
During the evening, Ghost’s temperament rises. Not only does he get on stage and perform with Havoc, but he goes into the crowd, gives daps to his male fans, hugs the females, and seemingly takes photos with everyone who asks. The Staten Island-born hip-hop icon has been extra jovial the past few months, celebrating his birthday on May 9th (which New York City Mayor Eric Adams also declared “Ghostface Killah Day” in a public ceremony), starting huge entrepreneurial endeavors, and connecting with members of the Clan for shows. And oh yeah, there’s the call that Ghost got to guest appear on one of the year’s biggest blockbuster LPs.
“[Kendrick Lamar and his team] hit my manager Mike,” Ghost reflects in the back of his Maybach. “He was like, ‘Yo, I want you to do this record.'” The initial call between the two lyrical craftsmen had them declaring mutual admiration.
“I gave him his praises, his flowers like ‘Yo, listen bro. It’s an honor to be with the future, to be on the joint with you,'” Ghost further details. “For a lot these [fans] in the younger generation, [their favorite], it’s either Kendrick or J Cole. I gave him his praises, and he boomeranged that s–t back; ‘Supreme Clientele, I loved that s–t.'”
The result is the soulful “Purple Hearts,” a collaboration that also includes R&B star Summer Walker, from Lamar’s Billboard 200 chart-topper, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.
“He sent me a reference on how he wanted me to glide on [the track] too,” Ghost explains. “Summer Walker wasn’t on it yet. I guess she came in the ninth inning.” “Telekineses, I’m purifying these D speeches,” he raps on the track. “While I’m crying, I clean the feet of the sweet Jesus/ Dreams, visions get blurry of the Elohim/ It’s light/ It’s known to tear retinas in a single gleam.”
“It was like, the beat brings you [to a place],” Ghost breaks his bars down. “When he texted me, he said, ‘Throw ‘the Elohim’ [in your rap].’ I said, ‘Well, the Elohim is the most high.’ And Kendrick was like, ‘Exactly.’ I heard him say in the hook, ‘Shut the f–k up when you hear love talking.’ The most high is love.” He adds: “It was an honor for me to get the call from him. It’s like I’m doing something.”
Through their smoldering collaboration, Kendrick acknowledged the 30 years of excellence Ghostface has put into the rap game, and the Clan’s most flamboyant swordsman also got the nod by the City of New York in honor of his legacy.
Earlier in the day, NYC Mayor Eric Adams came to Ghost’s Staten Island-based coffee shop Killah Koffee for a ribbon-cutting ceremony commemorating the launch of Ghost’s new busines. He gave the indelible MC one of the highest distinctions you could ask for: his own day in his hometown.
“Well deserved,” Wu-Tang’s visionary, The RZA, beams of his brother-in-rhyme as he rides down the Westside Highway in New York City. “I thought it was well-deserved and a blessing, because Staten Island doesn’t have a lot of heroes, especially in [the] modern day. And something a lot of people may not know, out of all the Wu-Tang members, Ghost was born on Staten Island. A lot of us, we migrated. He’s a pure Staten Islander.”
“I’m humble,” Ghost echoes matter of factly. “I know I make music, but I really don’t give a f–k about it. So like when I do my music, I don’t even listen to it after I put it out. I don’t know when’s the last time I listened to Iron Man or Supreme [Clientele]. I don’t get stuck on the moment. I’m always moving forward. I was like, ‘Let me get this proclamation and meet the [Mayor].’ It didn’t really start to sink until my man said ‘Yo, you know how big of an honor that is? It’s gonna be there forever.’ That’s when it started to sink in like, ‘Oh s–t. You might be right. This shit is kinda like on some Martin Luther King s–t.’
Not even 30 days removed from his birthday (now “Ghostface Killah Day”) festivities, the 52-year-old reveled in another huge milestone: the 25th anniversary of Wu-Tang Forever. The lauded double-disc was the follow-up to their culture-shifting 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Fans and peers took to social media to show love to the Clan on social media on June 3, the anniversary date.
A month later, Ghost, Raekwon, and Method Man joined forces in New Orleans as part of The Roots’ stellar Essence Festival set at the New Orleans Superdome. The overall lineup for the four days of concerts in New Orleans during the Fourth of July weekend included New Edition, Janet Jackson, The Isley Brothers, and Nicki Minaj. Not only did Black Thought, ?uestlove, and company bring surprise acts The Lox, Ashanti, and Lil Kim, the Wu’s triangle of terror came out to maraud the stage and perform classics such as “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Ice Cream” and “Cherchez LaGhost.”
“The feeling in there was electric,” he recalls. “All these beautiful Black women and Black men, everybody was having a good time. And they were singing all the words. Especially when it got to New Edition.”
In August, the entire Clan will be aligning for one of the most anticipated outings of the year, their NY State of Mind Tour, alongside co-headliner Nas.
“Bombs!” Ghost promises of the two combustible forces igniting venues. “Expect bombs. It’s gonna be beautiful, because Nas is my favorite rapper of all time. Him and Genius [GZA] are my favorite rappers, but Nas is that Golden Child.”
God’s Son isn’t Ghost’s only high-profile Queens connect these days. Recently, Ghostface hung out in the Q-Boro with a guy Mets fans affectionately call “Uncle Stevie.” Ghost was at Citi Field with the team’s owner, Steve Cohen. The two linked through one of Cohen’s right-hand men during the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel in Manhattan a couple of months ago, and Ghost was invited out to a game.
“Wu-Tang Forever. I’m over here at the Mets’ Stadium,” Ghostface, dressed in full Mets regalia of a Jersey and matching snapback, said as he talked into one of the cameras held by a Mets social media coordinator. Ghost and his friends sat in Cohen’s personal owner’s box during Saturday’s game, where Mets legend Keith Hernandez had his number 17 retired.
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“It’s a special day today; we out here baby — you see the hat, you see the shirt,” Ghost added in the Mets’ social media video.
As the day progressed, Ghost took pictures at the stadium with Cohen, the Mets staff, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who held up a bag of the “C.R.E.A.M.”-flavored Killah Koffee.
“I felt like a five-year-old man,” Ghost says of his time at the ballpark. “We had a mad good time. We were up in the suite, eating, drinking, [and] taking pictures with Steve. He had the Wu hat on. It felt good, because he doesn’t do that for anybody. He doesn’t wear anyone’s merchandise. It was comfortable.”
During the latter part of the game, you could see a picture of Ghost and Cohen on the Citi Field scoreboard giant screen, as the billionaire held up a street sign that read “Wu-Tang District.”
“When you’re growing up, and you’re not successful in school [or] you’re not successful in a nine to five job market, you got a felony on your rap sheet, [and] sometimes you get counted it out. That’s because you’re a victim of circumstance,” says RZA. “But in the middle of all that, we always say the Lotus Flower grows out of the mud. Ghost is one of those flowers that grew out of the mud. They always say Staten Island is the ‘forgotten borough.’ Thanks to one [of] its favorite sons, Ghostface, it can’t be forgotten.”