The greatest hip hop group, certainly in terms of depth of talent, remains the Wu-Tang Clan. And their greatest emcee is Ghostface Killah. The Wally Champ has, in Ironman, Supreme Clientele and Fishscale, created arguably a higher quantity of classic solo LPs than the rest of his clansmen put together, forging a truly unique style as one of the genre's greatest ever storytellers.
Famed for his difficult to decipher slang and skill at switching between aggressive polemic and heart wrought introspection, he's become one of the cult favourites among hip hop fans across the globe. Ahead of a slew of UK dates this June, we've assembled the perfect, chronological introductory guide to one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Wu-Tang Clan 'Tearz' (1993)
Wu's debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) doesn't contain a duff track, but 'Tearz' remains one of its most underrated. Which is a shame, because it pits RZA's anguished story of a friend slain with Ghostface's cautionary tale about the needs to practice safe sex, lamenting that the protagonist of his verse "Moe tried to be down with O.P.P, Ain't nothin' wrong, but he got caught with the H.I.V."
Raekwon ft Ghostface Killah 'Heaven & Hell' (1994)
The closing track on Raekwon's seminal debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the track first appeared on the soundtrack to 1994 film Fresh. It's one of the perfect examples of Rae and Ghost's effortless chemistry in full effect, the duo finishing each other's sentences like a lovelorn couple.
Ghostface opens this masterful Wu posse cut and is at his vintage best basking in the gully nature of his clan. "Wu whole platoon is filled with racoons, corner-sitting wine niggas sipping Apple Boone" is one such example, before comparing himself to Constantine the Great, Henry the 8th and Genghis Khan. As you do.
'Poisonous Darts' 1996
For most of Ironman Ghostface is rapping alongside his Wu cohorts, predominantly Raekwon and Cappadonna. And it's that ability to contrast and compliment other rappers which marks him out as such a premier emcee.
This, though, is one of the cuts where he just goes all out for dolo, getting busy atop of one of RZA's neatly looped beats in ferocious fashion. The result is breathless and brilliant in equal measure, and proof he's just as captivating when holding the mic on his lonesome.
Wu-Tang Clan 'The M.G.M.' (1997)
This is another example of Rae and Ghost goodness, the pair brilliantly recounting their exploits people watching during one of boxing's most infamous bouts, Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell Whitaker's epic welterweight tussle in 1993.
It's basically just a lads rendition of what happened on their night out, with loads of aggressive posturing, insight on the outfits of the attendees, and, occasionally, a reference to the boxing. Who wouldn't wanna sesh with these two though?
We've previously referenced how Supreme Clientele proved to be the moment Ghostface wrestled the top Wu emcee crown from GZA on 'Wu Banga 101', but there remain better points on that album - one such being 'Nutmeg'.
The LP's opener is a flurry of guitars stabs and sharp strings, Ghostface going all out in his wild nonsensical slang and stream of consciousness flow, in the process showing from the off he was entering a new stratosphere as an emcee.
'The Forest' (2001)
The most Ghostface of all Ghostface tracks, 'The Forest' sees Tony Starks telling a ghetto story utilising a bevvy of cartoon characters and nursery rhyme mainstays, adding a darkly childlike innocence to the vivid imagery of the crime shenanigans that populate his lyrical world.
Droopy turns to Islam whilst in jail, Daffy Duck rats to the police, and, in a glorious riff on slang, "Tweety did the Bird" for the murder of Scooby Do's Shaggy. One of the most wondrously amusing hip-hop songs of all time.
'Whip You With A Strap' (2006)
Fishscale was one of the last great Wu albums, notable for it being the first time RZA was completely eschewed on a production tip by Ghostface in favour of an all-star ensemble including Just Blaze, Pete Rock and MF Doom.
This utilised a classic J Dilla beat, always destined for the rapper but previewed on the late producer's timeless Donuts LP, and acts as a sequel of sorts to Ironman's 'All that I got is you'. Here's he's lamenting how he was beaten as a child, but through misty-eyed reverence for his mum's parenting skills.