Ghostface Killah is never shook, even when shit hits the fan.
“We didn’t do the setlist! That’s why it was so crazy,” he says, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. The rapper is offstage at House of Vans in Brooklyn. It’s almost midnight, but the September air is balmy — it’s almost 90 degrees — and filled with hungry mosquitoes. We stand in an empty lot surrounded by remnants of a carnival that took place earlier, but the deflated bounce house, oversized novelty boxing gloves, and tall tube dancer (which eerily resembles Mr. Peanut) doesn’t perturb Ghost.
Earlier, the rapper headlined a show with fellow Wu-Tang Clan members GZA and Cappadonna, but due to scheduling issues, they never rehearsed. “It was throwing me off,” he admits. “I didn’t know what song was coming!” So the 45-year-old Staten Island native (born Dennis Coles) finessed the situation as only a rap veteran does: He performed beloved verses and Wu classics like “Ice Cream,” and the crowd was none the wiser. “Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it, know what I mean?”
It’s been an interesting summer for Ghostface Killah. He released the sequel to his gangster-themed concept album with producer Adrian Younge, Twelve Reasons to Die II. He describes feedback on the road as “awesome” and points to the onstage chemistry he has with Raekwon, who also appears on the release.
In July, he made headlines when he publicly harangued Action Bronson for slighting him on ESPN. “I wanna tell this fat fuck something. I gave you a grace period, nigga! I was supposed to destroy you a long time ago,” spat Ghostface, blasting the neophyte, whose vocals are often compared to his own. In a six-minute-plus online rant (soundtracked by Teddy Pendergrass’s “Be For Real”), Ghost made explicit threats against Bronson 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.” Action ultimately apologized, but Ghost rebuffed his mea culpa.
On this night, the beef appears to be squashed. “I’m past that,” says Ghost. “He threw a dart. I threw one. And I’m not really trying to go all the way into that shit right now. So you know what? I just leave him alone.”
For now, Ghostface is focused on a collaboration project with MF Doom in October (but forewarns that Doom often changes up release dates, unbeknownst to him) and, of course, the highly anticipated Supreme Clientele 2. “I can’t wait to drop my shit,” he says. “A lot” of Supreme Clientele 2 is complete, and Ghost expects the follow-up to his 2000 classic to appear in early 2016. Despite his twenty-year-plus legacy, the rapper is taking a grassroots approach with this album. He’s hands-on with producer selection (he listens to literally every beat he’s sent) and he promises tracks from a bevy of unknowns. “I got a bunch of new people that I never heard of. I really take the time out to listen to these guys.”
He also feels the need to plug the album to impact hip-hop’s larger radar. “I got my hardcore fans, but a lot of my fans still don’t know when I drop,” he says. “Radio presence, TV presence; all that still counts.” Given New York hip-hop radio’s notorious reputation for not supporting local artists, this may pose a challenge. Ghost knows what he’s up against. “New York radio, they don’t support New York artists, but you’re gonna have to fight for it.” He’s undeterred. “I’m gonna have to fight.”