IGN Interview: Pretty Toney reveals the ugly side of the music business in this candid interview.
Last Updated on Saturday, 13 August 2005 13:52
Saturday, 13 August 2005 13:52
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Pretty Toney reveals the ugly side of the music business in this candid interview.
August 12, 2005 - Born Dennis Coles, Ghostface Killah began his career with a seemingly indefatigable series of lacerating verses on both Wu-Tang Clans historic debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, the first album released by his longtime partner-in-crime Raekwon the Chef. But Ghostfaces own solo debut, Ironman, heralded the arrival of a hip-hop savant - an artist who re-invented emceeing even as he offered some of the genres most exhilarating verses - and announced that his was a talent that didnt require an ensemble in order to bolster its strength.
Three more albums came and went - including Supreme Clientele, Bulletproof Wallets and The Pretty Toney Album - and even if Ghostfaces record sales didnt always grow, his status as one of the most respected rapper in the industry continued to appreciate; last year, he landed a recording deal with Def Jam, and intends to release a follow up to Pretty Toney by years end.
During his recent appearance with Raekwon at the Rock the Bells concert in San Bernadino, California, Ghostface sat down with IGN Music to discuss his future as a rapper on Wu-Tang projects and as a solo artist. As he reveals, the lifestyle of a successful lyricist isnt always the decadent stuff of music video fantasies, but a difficult, dispiriting experience where one album flop can land you at the bottom of the hip-hop heap.
IGN Music: Do you follow any kind of guiding principle when you put together the music and lyrics for your songs?
Ghostface Killah: Yeah. Its all in the music first. The music is like women to me. Its like how you pick your music: everybody got their own different way how they pick their women and their music, and I guess thats what the album becomes. I cant even describe what I like; what I like is what you already heard, from Ironman to Supreme Clientele to Bulletproof Wallets - thats what I had felt - to Pretty Toney to whats going on right now. Its all about the beat first, and after the beat, the beat makes me go ahead and work my album, once I hear the beat and whatever mode Im in to approach that beat or whatever that beat makes me feel. Like on "All I Got is You," it made me feel like thats what needed to be said, and its like the beat made me do it. People say the devil made me do it, but its the beat that made me do it. But from hip-hop music, God gave me an ear - its a soulful ear, a fresh ear - its just something that where my soul is at, it just grabs it, and thats where I come up with all of my beats.
Its [also] what you do to the beat. Its like how you get a woman, its like how you f*ck her. Some n*ggas cant f*ck, and a lot of n*ggas think they know how to rhyme that cant rhyme. But its how you make love to the beat. Thats what I kind of try to do, and thats how you get Ghostface albums.
IGN Music: Your music continues to employ sampling despite the industry trend towards more live instrumentation. What is it about sampling that appeals to you over the use of an actual band?
Ghostface: The reason why I hold onto samples is because thats me. Thats what made me. When I sample from old records, those records were in my heart when I was a little kid. I feel like thats the best music that ever was made, ever in time. The new sh*t, like you said, is synthetic; its like a body with no heart, you know what I mean? Like you are a clone. Its like with no heart, no nothing. They make love songs now that I cant really feel, but when I heard The Moments and Isley Brothers and Marvin Gaye and all of the greats from back then, you could feel it. Otis Redding and them- you could feel it. And I always thought that music was better than the music that we come with right now. Its like, everybodys using keyboards in everything, but back then we were using straight instruments and making albums. We dont do that no more. Theres no creativity in what were dealing with, so theres no feeling.
IGN Music: How much are you influenced by your own personal experiences when you write lyrics for your songs?
Ghostface: It depends. Like "Save Me Dear," I did on my last album, it was like yeah, I loved a girl that much, like I really liked a girl, you know what I mean? But with that right there, I made it about a girl that I wished that - the story is true, and a lot of things that I added on to wish on how she would fit that mold right there to be my kin. There arent too many other stories on there too much, though, [but] I got "Love," and I love that beat right there. It felt like you needed some love on it, so I did "Love," the sh*t I did with Musiq [Soulchild]. I did "Tooken Back," and I did some and it was based on this girl with a little bit of other herbs sprinkled on it though to try to complete the record, but mainly based on a true story. So sometimes you make true stories, and sometimes you make fiction stories, or whatever, as long as the picture that you can paint to the people [is something] that somebody else can see, or that somebody else went through.
IGN Music: I have a bunch of your white-label 12" singles that have been released in the past couple of years, including tracks like "The Watch." How do you come up with the flow and content of these songs, which seem so unpredictable?
Ghostface: The music makes me feel it. Catch me in a crisp blue six, deep dish, doors is crisp, velour stopped at the wrist, and once I got the velour jacket that stopped at the wrist, my watch is right there (looking at his watch). Also, talk to me trick daddy, and I was just like, oh, let me make it like [my watch is] talking to me. Thats what is was, and then we start arguing because he started getting smart like, yo, you aint live no more, and were beefin, and Im like Ill put you back on the shelf and Ill stop your heart from ticking and it just went like that.
IGN Music: Well, after you work so hard to come up with an idea like that, how do you decide what goes on an album and what doesnt, since these tracks are as strong as anything that shows up on your LPs?
Ghostface: It wasnt that. They wouldnt clear my sample (Barry Whites "Im Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby"). I wished that would have been on my album.
IGN Music: Do you make a distinction at all when you are writing or producing tracks for yourself as opposed to your collaborations with Wu-Tang or Raekwon?
Ghostface: No, its all the same. I just do it just to do it, but I know when I do Cuban Link, Ive got to get way, way, way more street and grimy, but other than that it depends on what theyre saying on the track. If Im on a Clan album, then I might have to follow suit; it just depends on how it goes, but if Im setting it off [by myself], then Ive got to just feel how it should sit on the beat. Because if a beat is too soft, Im not really going to say no hard sh*t, but it depends- what the beat calls for, you know what I mean? Like the beat gets what is called for at that time.
IGN Music: How have those experienced how the new record sounds or will sound as you are assembling it?
Ghostface: I could never really tell you what direction. Its just however God just makes it; thats how all of my albums are. I dont really aim for a direction, but I just pick the best beats I can pick and thats it.
IGN Music: How far along is the new album?
Ghostface: Thats finished. Im just waiting for he guys to get on, because I did like thirty songs in like four months because I broke my ankle. God gave me a lot of nice beats through people like MF Doom, Pete Rock, Lewis Parker from Europe, Ive got Scram Jones...
IGN Music: Are you trying to explore production outside the lines of the commercial mainstream?
Ghostface: Im resting with the underground right now, and all of that other stuff. Its like I had Missy Elliot on the last track, but it was kind of commercial and people said I shouldnt have made that move right there, but Def Jam released it at the wrong time - they should have released it when I did that Beyonce thing ["Summertime"] when Missy was kind of bubblin. After I came with "Run," I came with that, and it kind of f*cked me up. They thought it was going to take me out of here on some commercial sh*t and it backfired on a kid, you know what I mean?
I dont want to deal with too many $60- 100,000 producers, because I dont have the type of money to be putting in their hands anyway, but Ive got a bunch of smaller guys - come on, Ive only got five gs, g - and Ive got three, Ive got ten, but anything over that, I cant sling that like that. Its a beat; its just going on the album, its not even making like if thats going to be a single, so I stay with the underdogs.
IGN Music: Do you have a favorite album or track from all of the material you have produced?
Ghostface: I dont know. I cant really tell you, because Supreme was funnier, more live, I guess based on the skits, and maybe sometimes the feel of the music. Like I said, Ive got a certain feel, so on Bulletproof Wallets, if people would have gave me those kinds of beats, then I could have f*cked around and did that. But I didnt get those type, so I gotta work with what I work with, and thats how you get certain albums.
At the same time, I dont want every album to sound the same anyway, but if somebody respects, say, Supreme, I would love to go ahead and do it again for them. Like how they say hey, Cuban Link, but if all of the Cuban Link beats had the same feel, then its going to be a different feeling, and it might be a better feeling - you never know. Its always hard to try to knock the next one that you had just put out.
IGN Music: Has changing labels changed your approach or your creative freedom on new songs or albums?
Ghostface: Its all the same. This is my second album made on Def Jam, and the first one flopped based on [the fact] they made a transition there, they switched bosses, and my album was just left in the air. It was a good album, though, but I couldnt do anything. The only thing [changing labels] gives me is a bunch of headaches or something, knowing that I can do good. If these were drugs, this would be the top of the line of coke, like the top of the line, but it just didnt get marketed right. Its not going all over the world and its not getting distributed how it should be. [But] I got L.A. Reid and Jay-Z up there and I think they understand because I wouldnt be there if it was like that, so I just hope that through Gods will everything will just be fine and I can go ahead and feel how Im supposed to really feel. Sometimes Im making the music, but then when its only selling 100,000, it seems like it weakens you a little bit, so you can be doubting yourself, and it can tire you. So youve got to be string and fight through all of that, and thats what Im going through right now. Im just fighting, because thats how I eat - just by doing records and then going on shows and getting money from shows, surviving.
-- Todd Gilchrist