Ghostface Killah Says Prison Had Its Benefits

Wu-Tang rapper's incarceration held up second album's release but also, he says, made it better.

The Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah said the four months he spent in a New York state prison last year were a blessing in disguise.

While the sentence for attempted robbery delayed the 29-year-old rapper's second album, Supreme Clientele, it also gave him a second chance to refine the disc, he said. It left him with what he said is a perfect release date, Feb. 8.

"Truth out of season could kill a person, so could have been coming too

early," Ghostface Killah said. "[Going to prison] made me just come out

right now when I'm about to come out. It could have been the wrong season

[before], even though my stuff was right" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Ghostface Killah (born Dennis Coles) began work on Supreme Clientele

in 1998 but abandoned it after he was sentenced to six months for trying

to take money from a club attendant during a January 1998 fight at the

Palladium, a New York nightclub (he served only four months). The album suffered several production delays after his release last June.

Supreme Clientele continues Ghostface Killah's love for ghetto storytelling and reflection. "All That I Got Is You" (RealAudio excerpt), from his 1996 solo debut, Ironman, is a gut-wrenching but loving memoir of growing up poor with his mother. He explores the grief of losing a family member to a shooting on the Wu-Tang Clan's "Impossible," from the album Wu-Tang Forever. "Child's Play," from Supreme Clientele, takes Ghostface Killah back to grade school, as he recalls recess in the lunchroom, where pounding on the tables provided makeshift beats.

The album also features several songs, including "Malcolm," with explicit tales of drug running, criminal paranoia and car chases. The songs use an internal monologue that focuses on consequences, on making decisions and living with them. The Curtis Mayfield–style wah-wah guitar on several tracks evokes the spaghetti Westerns and cop dramas of the late '60s and early '70s.

Cappadonna, a Wu-Tang associate who appears on several tracks, said the album is "dedicated to deep, deep soul. We went and journeyed back to the '80s. That's what we can reflect on the most."

Supreme Clientele's lead track, "Nutmeg," features scorching acid-rock guitar. Producer and Wu-Tang mastermind RZA used a similar guitar sound on Ol' Dirty Bastard's song "Nigga Please" last year but makes it louder here.

Ghostface said he wanted to work with other producers, as well, this time around — RZA produced virtually all of Ironman — and enlisted the help of Allah Mathematics, Juju of hip-hop group the Beatnuts and Carlos Broady, a member of Sean "Puffy" Combs' Hitmen production team.

The Hitmen's music often uses obvious samples (the Police's "Every Breath You Take," Duran Duran's "Notorious"), while RZA mostly relies on live instrumentation. But Ghostface Killah said he saw little difference between the two producers' approaches.

"RZA's my brother; we been together for years," he said. "Of course, I'm going to feel comfortable [with him]. But Carlos, that's my ni--a, too. He's a good ni--a."