Ghostface Killah Reflects on the Making of His ‘Ironman’ Album
Ghostface Killah on Ironman
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
This year, Ghostface Killah celebrates the 20-year anniversary of his debut album, Ironman. The LP was a part of the legendary first generation of solo LPs by members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Ironman would begin Pretty Toney’s run as one of the most prolific MCs in hip-hop. Almost completely produced by RZA, songs like “All That I Got Is You” and “Motherless Child” help solidify the LP’s critical acclaim. The Staten Island legend chops it up with XXL about one of his greatest projects.
Ghostface Killah: That was 1996. I just left off of Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...in 1995. I was ready but there were a lot of things going on. To me, Ironman was kind of dark for me. I wasn’t looking for it to be that dark like that. That’s why I say it could have been better. Going in there I’m thinking about music, I’m thinking about the block. It’s this over here, it’s family here, like everything just hit me after Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
I was 26. It was just like I was still coming off the streets. I remember one time doing the album; I even had The Delfonics with me. I had got into a shootout, they was with me. I was in one car and they were in a van in back of me watching it all go down. It was a lot of other stuff too. I just found out I was a diabetic around that time. It was stressful, but I did want my turn because back then it was, who’s the next one up?
Back then we were deciding if I should name [the LP] Ironman or Supreme Clientele. RZA convinced me with Ironman because of [my] Tony Starks [nickname]. If not, Ironman would’ve been named Supreme and Supreme would have been Ironman. I would take the beat and whatever it made me feel, I would just say it. If the beat felt like a rainy night like someone had just got killed, I would describe a picture like that. That’s how I go into things. Even the “All That I Got Is You” record with Mary J. Blige, RZA played that [when] we were in Ohio. He was playing the beats for Ironman. I was like, “Keep that, I want that one right there.” So, [the beat] just took me there. I just laid it, I just wrote it. On “Assassination Day” where everybody but me was on it, I couldn’t think. A couple of songs, my brain wasn’t clicking. Like that song, “The Soul Controller” and “After The Smoke Is Clear,” my head was just fogged out. That’s why I said it could have been more than what it was.
That was me bringing to RZA [the different movie clips] so he could put it in on the album. Like I gave him [the movie clip] and said, “I want this to come in front of ‘Wildflower” ’cause I was into like The Mack, Cooley High and The Education of Sonny Carson.
We did a bunch of songs and figured out which fit where. It’s not always just making the songs; it’s about how does the next song come after the next? See, these guys nowadays, they don’t do that. The sequencing, that’s how I did mainly all my albums. We basically try to keep you here when you put on the CD.