Raw Side Hip Hop

THE DUST OFF: Ghostface Killah – Ironman (1996)

ghostface killah ironman

It’s been TWENTY FIVE long years, and now it’s time we celebrate one of the dopest hip hop albums of all time, and certainly one of the best to come out of the Wu Camp – and Ghostface Killah’s discography. It’s timely too, as the Wu Tang series is on Hulu, there is talk of the infamous ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ finally seeing the light of day, a proposed Wu Tang video game in the mix AND Ghostface Killah himself, letting fans know there is going to be a remix of ‘All That I Got Is You’ to celebrate the silver anniversary.

Originally released 29 October, 1996 – ‘Ironman‘ the first ‘solo’ album from Wu Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah was nothing short of exceptional. Until this point, Ghost has been biding his time as part of the movement that was taking hip hop by storm. On the back of ‘Enter the 36 Chambers‘ plenty of Wu members were front and centre – RZA of course for his incredible production, but GZA with his insane lyricism, ODB and his enigmatic character and Method Man for his marketability and his easy-to-connect-with persona (much like Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – but we digress) but Ghostface had yet to really make his mark.

Ironman would change all of that.

On the back of some incredible features such as ‘Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane)‘ on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut album, and his ‘lieutenant’ role on eleven of the eighteen tracks for Raekwon’s classic solo debut ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx‘ it was now time for Ghostface Killah or ‘Tony Starks’ to take centre stage for the next installment of the Wu Tang Clan takeover. And in true form, he would also repay the favour bringing Raekwon along for the ride and introducing the hip hop world to Cappadonna in the process.

Revisiting this album on it’s 25th Anniversary is crazy. It was a moment in time, and it truly feels like a trip down memory lane. When you first hit play, you completely forget that Ghost doesn’t even have the first verse on his solo album! But that production…. RZA was (and still is) something else. In fact, Ironman was one of the last Wu albums to be almost solely produced by RZA himself – so it’s a big deal. The grandiose gangsta, the mafioso vibe, the kung fu flick soundbytes….it’s a complete sensory experience.

The persona and passion with which Ghost delivers this album, is what really catapulted him into stardom. He may have had to wait a minute for his shine, but Ironman soon showed the world that GFK might just be the best emcee in the crew. His versatility is always on show and with Ironman, it was clear as he was able to deliver a host of 5 Percent Nation references, explore his authentic emotive side with ‘Motherless Child‘ and ‘All I Got Is You‘ while also feeding that charismatic side with ‘Daytona 500‘. Ultimately though, it was the ability to create incredible chemistry between production and rhymes, work so seamlessly with his fellow Wu crew all while continuing the growth of himself as an artist and of the Wu Tang Clan as a force to be reckoned with, that makes Ironman so iconic.

If you know your Wu history, you’ll recall that this was the ‘last’ of the five album series that RZA often speaks about. He even mentioned in his book ‘The Tao of Wu’ about the process for releasing albums, the way the artists were introduced to the world and even how the infamous flooding of the basement made Ghostface Killah sound slightly different on his debut album than he had on 36 Chambers due to new mic and recording equipment. For those who never knew all of this, ‘Ironman’ still cemented itself as a classic from the content alone. Tracks like ‘260‘, ‘Assassination Day‘, ‘Camay‘, ‘Wildflower‘ and ‘Winter Warz‘ delivered vicious verbal darts and wordplay wizardry that made everyone sit up and take notice AND still revisit twenty five years later.

While we await the official anniversary and the new bonus remix of ‘All I Got Is You’, it’s time to throw that Ironman CD back in the player, roll up a lil something, pop the headphones on and just bask in one of hip hops most memorable debut albums.

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