Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but not if Ghostface Killah thinks you’re copping his style. The Wu-Tang Clan veteran is fed up with the vocal comparisons to fellow New York City rapper — and relative neophyte — Action Bronson, and he aired his grievances like only Ghostface can. “You got this little, fake-ass nigga Action Bronson, running around town sounding like me,” blasts Ghostface in a homemade video released online yesterday. “I wanna tell this fat fuck something. I gave you a grace period, nigga! I was supposed to destroy you a long time ago.”
Ghostface was incensed when Bronson dismissed him on ESPN’s SportsNation by saying, “[Ghostface is] not rapping like this no more.”
A timeline of the rappers’ history shows the ongoing, tiresome comparisons between the two. Both have been plagued since the outset of Action’s career, circa 2011, though for a time they’d kept things diplomatic, even supportive. But with the recent success of the younger MC’s full-length debut, Mr. Wonderful, maybe it was only a matter of time before the two stopped being polite and started getting real. Whether this spawns a barrage of beef records or just ends up a blip on the radar remains to be seen. Braggadocio, jabs, and friendly competition make hip-hop great, and as long as these two can act like grown-ass men and keep it on wax, New York rap will be better for it.
May 2011: Dr. Lecter
Action Bronson emerges as a voice in New York City hip-hop with Dr. Lecter. The chef-turned-MC gets questioned about his vocal similarities to Ghostface Killah, a comparison that will continue to follow him. “It’s all good because [Ghostface Killah] is one of the best rappers alive, so if I sound similar to the best rapper alive, then that is fine,” he said in 2011. “To me there is no comparison; he is a legend and I am a newcomer.” Bronson added, “If I would try and emulate…anyone it would be Kool G Rap — he is the person I look up to the most. In the end, I am not upset, but at the end of the day I am my own person and no one can take that away from me.”
July 2011: “Meteor Hammer”
The future feuding rappers collaborate on “Meteor Hammer” in 2011.
2012: Action samples Ghostface
Action samples Ghostface Killah’s classic “Apollo Kids” for “Tapas” on his Blue Chips 2.
September 2012: Ghostface Killah cosigns Action Bronson
Back in 2012, things seemed copacetic between Ghostface Killah and Action Bronson. The vet even bestowed a cosign on the then-fledgling rapper. “His vocals sound like my vocals, but he’s not doing it on purpose,” said Ghost. “He mad, mad, mad cool.”
October 2014: Friends?
Action Bronson and Ghostface Killah are snapped in several photos together over the years. In 2014, they are spotted hanging with Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg. Raekwon has collaborated with both artists and may be the nexus of the friendship.
Dec 2014: Azealia Banks jumps in
Resident rabble-rouser Azealia Banks gets into a Twitter argument with Action Bronson. During the course of her tirade, the Harlem rapper calls him the “bootleg Ghostface.”
May 2015: Ghostface Killah mistakes HIMSELF for Action Bronson
Just months ago, Ghostface revealed that he’s mistaken himself for Action Bronson before. “I thought he was me one day! When I first got put on and shit, I’m asking myself, like, when the fuck I do that verse?” Ghostface said. Bronson apparently told Ghost that he’s not trying to be a copycat. “He was a good dude,” said Ghost at the time, before quickly adding, “Nobody can be me, B.”
May 2015: Who rapped it?
By now, everyone has made at least one Action Bronson–Ghostface Killah vocal parallel. In interviews, think-pieces, and reviews, the connection is made ad nauseam. Mass Appeal runs a Who Said It? quiz poking fun at the phenomenon.
July 2015: “He’s not rapping like this”
Action made the remarks that set Ghostface Killah off on a July 2015 appearance on ESPN’s SportsNation. He initially gave props to the O.G. (“I think it’s indifferent at this point. People compare Coke and Pepsi. People compare everything. No matter what, you’re going to get a comparison to something. I’m just glad it’s one of the greats”) but then threw in a little dig, referencing his own success in light of his debut, Mr. Wonderful: “[Ghostface is] not rapping like this no more.” Shots fired?
July 2015: Ghostface Killah goes in: “You’re done”
On July 20, Ghostface Killah fires back with a slew of disses in his response. He makes explicit threats against Bronson both professionally and physically. “You can never fuck with my pen — my sword, my blade — I’m too nasty for you. This is why the fuck you look up to me and sound like me,” he says. The six-minute-plus rant is aptly soundtracked by Teddy Pendergrass’s “Be For Real.” “Don’t let me hang you from a rope and gut you like a pig and leave you out to dry. Because you’re done.”
July 2015: Action Bronson apologizes to his elder
Action Bronson eventually took to Twitter to apologize. Although he didn’t directly address Ghostface Killah — which may lead to another rant — he did say that he made a mistake. “When ur wrong ur wrong and I was wrong. I apologized for the comments. I’ll always be a stand up human. Much love.” He continued, “Everyone says things they regret. I respect my elders and the forefathers of this art. Once again, I’m sorry.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 21, 2015