a-tears

When Big Ghost first created the Big Ghost Chronicles on blogspot in 2011, the play between emulation and originality was essentially what initially drew readers. The iconic slang of Ghostface Killah was easily recognizable and the humorous persona redirected into pointed critiques and imagined interviews was original. Early on it seemed Big Ghost was considered more parody than authority. The humor tended to take the edge off the criticism, leaving some audiences unsure where to draw the line between witty levity and outright satire.

There were always going to be jokes, but in many instances the shit really rang true. The medium by which the message was delivered simultaneously added and subtracted, depending on how you digested his writing. His review for Take Care received 1 out of 5 Zeus slaps, while NWTS received 3.5 out of 5. The lens through which Big Ghost perceives and critiques hip hop music is subjective and debated; however, pretending there isn’t nuance and all is painted with a broad “’90s era only” brush is lazy.

Part of sustaining hip hop culture in a community is having dialogue about it, defining it, memorializing, and sharing its narratives. Ghost has a way of reflecting nuance through absurdity. When I first came across a “Top 10 Softest Rappers In The Game” list my friends and I not only laughed, (sometimes to the point of tears) but it actually helped us better explain why it was we didn’t like Drake’s music, or J. Cole’s. If we already knew how to effectively communicate it, Ghost’s takes added gusto. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of debating with loyal fans of either artist, you know where I’m coming from. It wasn’t literally that Drake was the “only cat on earth capable of turning sandpaper into moist towelettes,” but…well it kinda was.

Until recently, Ghost’s contribution to hip hop has been to write about music in an original way. The initial spontaneous combustion that brought forth Galaxy Knuckles appears to still be spiraling outward, leaving a new galaxy comprised of music in it’s wake. Prior to working with Westside Gunn and Conway, Ghost was making beats for years. Earlier this week I hopped on a chat with Big Ghost to discuss not only his current thoughts on balance in hip hop music, but also his recent work as a producer. The internet has known Ghost the blogger, but since 2015’s release of Griselda Ghost with Westside Gunn and Conway, the Ghost of the Living record with Vic Spencer in 2016, and the upcoming Cocaine Beach record with Hus Kingpin, Ghost is transitioning into a multi-dimensional artist. As capable as he’s proven himself a creative writer and commentator, he’s equally adept behind the boards. —Allen Poe


“Coke Casa” is a banger. Are you still using Reason and Pro Tools for all your production work?


Big Ghost: Yea fam…I mean I don’t necessarily wanna give up ALL the trade secrets and explain how the magic comes to fruition like that, but let’s jus say the process involves Reason, Pro Tools, some computers, exotic European beers, a lot of coke, a young Komodo dragon, and mad beautiful women.


Were you and Hus in person working on Cocaine Beach?
work?


Big Ghost: Naw we made that shit via highly advanced technology my G. Being that Hus is out in LA n The gawd is over here walkin’ all these different paths in life that force me to reside in various remote places in politically unstable territories…It wasn’t really feasible for us to do that, namsayin? But had we had that luxury you would still be gettin’ the exact same end result in the product yo. This was a wild meticulous process fam.


Be safe G. Regarding how everything came together, you said Griselda Ghost was organic, no contracts and just about dropping a raw record. How did Cocaine Beach come together?


Big Ghost: Same kinda thing. A little after Griselda Ghost had dropped Hus hollered and said we should do a project together. I think the original name he had in mind for it was Shampoo Wave or some shit like that. That was maybe around the beginning of 2016. I sent him a couple batches of beats and he was feelin’ ’bout maybe one outta every batch. We had actually knocked out 3 or 4 joints by April that year.. 2 of ’em made the album. Somewhere along the way we started choppin’ it up ’bout names and that’s when we came up with Snow Beach…which transmigrofied into Cocaine Beach. Thats a word right? Transmigrofied? A red line keeps poppin’ up underneath that shit but the fuckin’ autocorrect won’t turn it into another word..I should google this….Ok according to wiki Transmigro is some Latin shit..and the word I was thinkin’ of is “transmogrified.”


I like Cocaine Beach so shout out transmogrification. Is your process different working on an album you produce vs doing individual tracks, your work on “CC White” for Wale’s new record as an example?


Big Ghost: Oh absolutely yo…Like when it comes to a full project I’m all the way invested in that shit b. I can’t even picture what it’s like for cats to just throw beats at somebody and let em do they own thing wit it…I mean at the same time I can’t knock nobody for doing that. That shit can be a very lucrative income stream for some cats, nahmean?

For me personally I need to have a certain level of control over the project though. I’m tryna pilot the ship. I’m tryna navigate these vessels b. I think of it like I’m directing a movie. The actors gotta perform and deliver lines and all that shit…but it’s the director that tries to tell the story. Whether it’s through editing or adding some CGI shit or whatever, I try to give y’all the aesthetics. I’m tryna frame shots on some young Orson Welles shit and give y’all that fly cinematography. The Wale record was a different story. He had asked me to splash some seasoning onto that track. I never really expected anything. We been cool for a minute though so I wasn’t tryna pass on the opportunity. Shout out to Wale.


Being that close to the music in your process for albums, what qualities do you consider when determining which emcee you do an album with? Have you been pitched ideas for records you turned down?


Big Ghost: Fam…I get approached by cats to do a whole project wit em around 5 times a week. Not even on some YO WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN WHATEVER WHATEVER…” shit…but on some like, YO LET’S GIVE THE PEOPLE THIS ALBUM THEY BEEN WAITIN’ ON MY G…shit. It’s like yooo…relax b. Nobody outside of maybe 8 of ya 78 twitter followers tryna check for that shit. I mean do I come across as somebody that’s lookin’ for new and improved ways to waste my damn time b? But to answer ya first question…I look for originality and that unexplainable “je ne sais quoi” namsayin? That’s France language for somethin’ dope.


Who are your favorite producers at the moment and do you consider yourself a student of the production game? Does anyone inspire you to go to new levels as an artist?


Big Ghost: I mean off top I gotta say Alchemist. It’s undeniable at this point yo…Son is elite. Other than him I gotta say Daringer. Not on some super technical shit but on some grimy ass gritty shit. He brought a crucial element to beatmakin’ back, not complicating shit for the sake of complicating shit. Son finds the illest loops too. Also my guy Bozack Morris. He’s got some crazy ill shit. Harry Fraud, Giallo Point, Camoflauge Monk, V Don, DJ Skizz. It’s a lot of dope producers in the game right now.

I’m a student of life my G. When it comes to hip hop though, I been listening to music a long time yo. I remember shit like where I was and what I was doin’ when Illmatic dropped. I remember where I was when Ready To Die and Reasonable Doubt and All Eyez On Me and The Infamous and every Tribe album or the first three Outkast albums dropped. I been studying shit so long that it was only the logical next step that I would wanna dip my toes in this shit. I’m still only dippin’ the toes in yanno? Still not even in the water like that…yet.


There’s a misconception that you only rock ’90s hip hop and are automatically adverse to anything current, but you’ve been consistently creating impactful, new hip hop records. That’s funny to me. Westside Gunn and Conway just signed to Shady. I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation, but prior to their signing Griselda Ghost was another undeniable banger in their catalogue. I’d love to hear another record from you all.


Big Ghost: Naw I stay up on shit that I genuinely wanna hear. I love the latest Kendrick album. I love the latest Rozay album. I love the project Da Villinz did with DJ Skizz. I also reached out to some new cats about doin’ full albums wit ’em.. One of ’em is like 20 I think. I mean, but dope is dope. I don’t just hate a whole entire generation of muthafuckas yo. Is this generation of kids being repped heavy by wild corny minimally talented tatted up pastel braids havin waverider ass fuckboys? Is this a question that needs askin’? But do I hate this whole generation for it? Nah…

Yea and I’m proud that when you flip back through the history books I was the first one to really think about approaching ’em ’bout ‘doin a whole project..They obviously already had Daringer and Monk but I saw something very special in those brothers. I remember when I copped the Hitler Wears Hermes 2 vinyl from Daupe!… That shit had been out for a good minute and I ordered the record and got number 12/100…Nowadays when Daupe! drops a new GxFR joint the shit sells out in like 17 seconds b. So yeah I do believe I was ahead of the curve on that one. As for a Griselda Ghost 2…they got bigger fish to fry… I couldn’t be happier for ’em though.. I’m in no way tryna take credit for anything but I hipped mad people to what they was doin’. I been a fan. I wanna see ’em get the recognition they deserve. Shouts to the whole Griselda family.


What does balance in hip hop look like and how far off from that do you feel the game is currently?


Big Ghost: Balance to me is when the culture is self governed and self sustainable, not dependent on mainstream acceptance. Straight Outta Compton went triple platinum in the ’80s without any radio singles or support from the mainstream b. There wasn’t no compromises. Okay maybe there was “Something 2 Dance 2” but that was it yo. Commercial artists aways have and always will exist, but if you look at past decades the cats at the top of the food chain really deserved to be there. LL Cool J, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, they all really deserved gold and platinum sales. They repped the culture, they pushed hip hop forward. When Ice Cube was goin’ platinum in the ’90s he really was the dopest artist in the game.

Biggie was considered the king of NY and he deserved to be that. Pac was really that dope. Nas, Jay, these cats all deserved to be the kings at different points in time. Now who y’all give the crown to? Homie who takes duckface selfies and sings half his shit? This who y’all consider great? Worse than that the game is worshipping cats wit zero talent. The machine is constantly tryna turn a spectacle into substance b. Half these new rappers, man I can’t tell if they serious or if I’m watchin’ some type of sketch comedy shit from Instagram or some World Star shit. I would say balance is when 75% of the artists in the game are pure hip hop shit. Cats who paid dues and stay true to they own self and actually try to find they own lane, while 25% or whatever do all that fuckshit to get radio and Billboard love. Right now it’s the opposite of that.


There’s a similar critique in hip hop journalism too, in that the majority of it is written to be quickly consumed and profitable for clicks, as opposed to insightful and original. When you write about music do you feel obligated to help offset that aspect of it?


Big Ghost: There’s a lot of credibility to that theory b… Hip Hop has gotten mad diluted in so many ways. As far as the journalism we need some new Bonz Malones and Bobbito Garcias’. We need more Dart Adams’ and Ironside Hex’s. Cats who live and breathe the culture and bring experience and knowledge along wit the shit they talk ’bout…some depth. AND they got jokes and original ways of writing. When I write I try to make my points but do it in a way that’s relatable namsayin? I don’t come from a academic direction wit shit. When you speak to a child you don’t flex all ya vocabulary muscles on ’em and try to go over they heads. When you talk to grown folk you don’t talk to ’em the way you talk to ya kids. When you talk to ya mans you probably don’t speak to ’em the way you speak to ya girl. When you at ya job in the office you don’t talk to clients and bosses wit crazy slang and shit. But the trick is to be relatable. So that in itself is a balancing act namsayin? But I got cats like Robert Christgau and Toure readin my shit. I get compliments on my writing from people you would never expect to read my shit. So yeah, I feel like I did a few things right in that regard nahmean?


Over the course of the last three projects you’ve kept the music reviews coming. Do writing and music production occupy two separate places for you creatively or are there any unexpected overlaps you notice where one colors the other?


Big Ghost: Once I started to really focus more on the music I kinda fell back from writing shit. I never really planned on writing or doing music reviews b. I jus follow the signs. I do what makes sense at the time. And once it starts to feel like I’m jus doin’ it for the sake of doin’ it then that’s when it’s time to let go and move on to the next thing. I wanna write a book yo. I wanna make a film.. I say “film” not “movie” ‘cuz I really take the shit seriously fam. I would never do some watered down bullshit for a check. I’d rather make some Wong Kar Wai shit and let that shit go straight to DVD. Naw the shit ain’t gon’ do Avatar numbers… Shit probably ain’t even gon do Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 numbers. But at the end of the day the shit is Chungking Express… It’s In The Mood For Love. It’s some shit I can look back on and be like, ‘Yo that shit was fire. That was art.’


The integrity to originality is peace! Thanks for the interview.


Big Ghost: No doubt fam thank you for taking time to peep my words. Rest in peace Sean Price. Rest in peace Phife Dawg. One love. PEACE.