Poor Ghostface Killah. After the legendary emcee and his entourage tore through the first several songs of their Saturday-night set at Velvet Jones-including the great “Be Easy” from 2006’s Fishscale-a visibly sick Ghost approached the front of the stage with a confession. “They told me I had to come out here and do this show tonight. Hey, I can barely move. : My name is Iron Man-Tony Starks. And y’all gotta be my battery, ‘cause when my battery run out, I run out.” Performers always say they feed off the crowd, but rarely has the fuel/fire relationship been so explicit.
The comment was fitting and symbolic coming from the 39-year-old rapper, who, after two decades with hip-hop fraternity Wu-Tang Clan, apparently believes that rap music’s electricity ran out a long time ago. “Nothing inspires me anymore,” he told the audience during a rant against contemporary rappers. “It’s all just bullshit.” Ghostface has never been shy about his disappointment with today’s tunes. When he was at the top of his game as a solo artist, he told the Onion’s offshoot, the A.V. Club, “Fuck hip-hop. I ain’t feeling that shit right now. I don’t even listen to hip-hop. I just do this shit because I gotta feed my family.”
There was another battery hard at work on Saturday night, though: nostalgia. And that’s not simply a reference to the shout-outs to Biggie, Tupac, and other past greats. The selections from Ghostface’s newest album, Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, offered fans beats and mixes that sounded better suited to Barry White than a hardcore rapper.
Ghostface possesses a voice that, under normal circumstances, shoots through the mix like a harpoon. At Velvet Jones, however, other forces took over. His co-emcees sometimes commanded the stage for him, and 2007 Wu-Tang inductee Cappadonna-packing a Jason Voorhees mask and 36 chambers of thuggish charisma-carried the group and traded lines with the front row at point-blank range while the main man hung back to swig from a water bottle and check his cell phone-even during his old troupe’s classics, like “C.R.E.A.M.” “Where my Duracell at?” Cappadonna shouted at one point, attempting to jolt the crowd. Maybe Iron Man could use a recharge before his next show.