The 37th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums and songs, comes from MC/producer/writer Zilla Rocca, whose first solo project, Bring Me the Head of Zilla Rocca, was released Sept. 23 (a mixtape to which I give my highest recommendation). He’s also got a blog, Clap Cowards, and is the co-founder of Beat Garden Entertainment.
You can download Bring Me the Head of Zilla Rocca right here and get a taste below.
Ironman (Razor Sharp/Epic Street, 1996)
“What you doin’ on our turf, punk?”
“Got a message for Smokey”
Enter Ghostface Killah’s “Ironman,” the most essential album of my life. People wear those “Dilla Changed My Life” t-shirts, but the Wallabee Champ aka Black Jesus did it for me in 1996 with his debut album.
Ironman was a reference to Tony Stark, the womanizing drunk billionaire who put on an ill metal suit and smashed supervilliains, but Ghost’s “Ironman” was a blaxploitation superhero with poisonous darts coming out his cabbage, suede butter cream joints carrying him into a cocaine spot, long cables with Jesus piece’s swaying side to side as he crushed his girl’s best friend late night January 17th.
Ghost displayed a poetic and emotional depth not found in the average Wallee shoe observer. And man oh man, was his slang diabetic. As a lover of words, I was hooked to Ironman before I even wrote for my first rhyme. Check Ghost’s bars from the opener “Iron Maiden”:
“Tremendously obnoxious, no blotches,
My telephone watch’ll leave bartenders topless,
Deadarm the prosecutor, smack the juror,
Me and my girl run like Luke and Laura
We sit back on Mayalan islands
Sipping mixed drinks out of a boat coconut bowls, we wildin”
I had never been pulled into a world via a rap album that was so exotic, gritty, and frankly so fucking weird until I hit play on this album Christmas Eve night twelve years ago. I couldn’t always process what the hell Ghost, Raekwon, and Cappadonna were talking about, but dammit it sounded good. They could be breaking into a stash house, pissing out the window on the turnpike, eating fish, or singing with the Delphonics. Hell, these guys would’ve made filing a tax return sound like some supreme nuclear Aramani explosion shit. The slang was that striking, god.
The beats on Ironman, produced almost exclusively by the RZA, had some of the most complex and oft-kilter arrangements I’ve ever heard on a hip hop record. Check “Wildflower,” “Box in Hand,” or “Winter Warz” for a clinic on making your ears into a swivel. “Daytona 500” is the greatest flip of Bob Jame’s “Nautilus” ever. The gospel choir on “Black Jesus” makes me wish I didn’t skip church every sunday. “Camay” is one of the sultriest, sexiest, pimpest beats ever laid down to wax. “All That I Got Is You” rivals Jay-Z’s “Can’t Knock the Hustle” for greatest Mary J. Blige cameo ever. The video for “Daytona 500” made Speed Racer look like Golgo 13 or something.
Ironman was dope because it featured Wu members everywhere, from Masta Killa to Method Man, but there was never a doubt that it was Ghost’s album front to back. He wasn’t as high profile as Rae and Meth before this album, but everyone knew Starks after this album dropped. This album singlehandedly made me want to do hip hop in some capacity, and I’ve been chasing that rush of listening to this album for the first time ever since. Ghost’s offerings have ranged from pretty good to classic over the years, but Ironman effortlessly touches on so many stlyes, moods, and vibes that I can never shake it–I have to listen to this album for the rest of my life. Thanks Ghostface!