At a time when Death Row Records was the dominant faction in hip hop and the west coast reigned supreme, the Wu-Tang Clan helped level the playing field for the east, unleashing their platinum-certified debut, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers in 1993. Producing multiple star artists — accounting for numerous classic solo and group albums — as well as timeless records, RZA and company have etched their names in stone as one of the more powerful units in not only rap, but music history.
However, two artists in particular would form a creative brotherhood that would make each synonymous with the other: Ghostface Killah, a Staten Island bred ruffian with imaginative bars bordering on the abstract; and Raekwon, a former street hustler with the ability to turn a high stakes drug transaction to an epic, cinematic affair with his intricate brand of verbiage. Initially at odds due to their respective allegiances within the Staten Island underworld, the common cause of making it out of the projects and putting their borough on the map brought them together, as they built a rapport while recording 36 Chambers. One cut in particular, “Can It Be All So Simple,” was so potent that it would be released as an official single and accompanied by a music video, leaving fans clamoring for future collaborations between the two.
Those wishes would be granted and exceeded with the arrival of Raekwon’s solo album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, in August 1995, as Ghostface Killah appeared as a co-star on a majority of the songs on the project. Although billed as a solo affair, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was for all intents a collaborative effort, and with the pair’s joint appearances on various remixes, their emergence as one of the more exciting tandems in rap became imminent. Returning the favor by showcasing Raekwon on his own solo debut, Ironman, the following year, Ghostface and The Chef have since built a body of work that puts them in the running for the honor of rap’s ultimate tag-team.
That in mind, when news of Rae and Ghost going heads up in a Verzuz battle raised an eyebrow. However, upon further examination, as each are equally capable of delivering classic material individually, an iron duel between the two would open up countless possibilities, making this one of the more intriguing, yet anticipated matchups to date.
To get the fans ready for the event, which will take place on Saturday (March 20) and debut Verzuz’s new partnership with streaming platform Triller, REVOLT compiled a list of Ghostface and Raekwon’s most notable hits that you can expect to hear during their showdown. Peep below. See y’all at the main event.
1. “All That I Got Is You” featuring Mary J. Blige
Ghostface channels Dennis Coles, the man behind the mask and mic, on this heartfelt number from his solo debut, Ironman. Featuring a guest spot from R&B icon Mary J. Blige, the song is preceded with audio clips from the blaxploitation film “The Education of Sonny Carson,” and includes a sample drawn from “Maybe Tomorrow” by The Jackson 5. A testimonial of GFK’s impoverished upbringing in Staten Island’s Stapleton Houses, “All That I Got Is You” was a modest hit that reached No. 51 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.
2. “Incarcerated Scarfaces”
Raekwon litters criminal slang all over this heater. Produced by RZA, this street banger earned real estate on every radio system in every hood across the country and helped Only Built 4 Cuban Linx attain its rightful place among the holy grail of albums.
3. “Cherchez La Ghost” featuring Madam Majestic and U-God
The second single released from his 2000 release, Supreme Clientele, this mid-tempo ditty sees Ghostface phoning in Wu member U-God and songstress Madam Majestic, as the trio beckons listeners to the dance floor. Peaking at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart at the time of its release, “Cherchez La Ghost” incorporates samples of “Greedy G” by Brentford All Stars and “Cherchez La Femme” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.
4. “Knowledge God”
Composer Stanley Black’s “Meadowland” gets looted by RZA, as he sets the age for “Knowledge God, an epic lyrical showcase on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. From the ad-libs at the onset of the track to the inventive slang and vivid imagery supplied by The Chef, this deep cut is prime material for enthusiasts of the fly hustler talk its author became synonymous with during his mid ’90s reign.
5. “Mighty Healthy”
Wu producer Mathematics pairs dialogue from the 1979 Kung-Fu flick Shaolin Rescuers with a myriad of samples for this murky composition. The first single from the album, “Mighty Healthy,” captures Ghost Deini riding high off of his noteworthy performance. And having been sampled in modern classics like Kanye West’s “New God Flow” and “No More Parties in L.A.,” this record could connect whatever generational gap with the Verzuz audience and result in an unexpected highlight during the proceedings.
6. “Live From New York”
Released as a single from Immobilarity, “Live From New York” is an anthemic number that Raekwon shows his pride for the five boroughs on. Powered by percussion and a sample of Chris Spheeris’ “Eros,” producer Infinite Arkatechz cooks up a composition tailor-made for The Chef’s sinewy flow. While a regional hit is a risky deal when playing to a worldwide audience, “Live From New York” has huge replay value.
7. “Back Like That” featuring Ne-Yo
In 2006, Ghostface touched on matters of the heart with this collab with Ne-Yo. Produced by the singer/songwriter and Xtreme, and released as part of GFK’s Fishscale album, the record peaked at No. 11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart and remains Ghost’s highest charting solo single on the Billboard Hot 100. Incorporating a sample of “Baby Come Home” by Willie Hutch, this heartbreak anthem may very well be the most popular solo record played during the battle between Rae and Ghost.
Pete Rock laces the production on this rollicking number. Espousing his adoration of fly kicks of all brands, flavors, and varieties, Rae drawing this number from his deck of classics should go over well with his die-hard supporters, as well as streetwear enthusiasts immersed in the era of “drip.”
9. “Run” featuring Jadakiss
A master in the art of collaboration, Ghost turns in one of his signature lyrical duels with “Run,” a frantic offering featuring Jadakiss from the rapper’s 2004 LP, The Pretty Toney Album. Powered by a sample of “Hogin Machine” by Les Baxter, RZA’s hodgepodge of noise makes for the perfect setting for Ghost and Kiss’ narratives of elusion, as the two hard-rocks make a getaway from the authorities out of fear of a long stretch upstate.
10. “Catalina” featuring Lyfe Jennings
In 2009, Raekwon linked up with R&B crooner Lyfe Jennings for “Catalina,” a single from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, the long-awaited sequel to his lauded debut. Flowing over a festive backdrop provided by Dr. Dre and Mark Batson, Lex Diamond holds court, warning of the backstabbers and pitfalls of the game while celebrating the trappings of his lavish lifestyle. The record that signaled his return and creative rebirth, “Catalina” is a sleeper of a gem that captures the opulence of Rae’s artistry and is sure to garner rave reviews from the Verzuz crowd.
11. “Daytona 500” featuring Force MDs, Cappadonna and Raekwon
Flipping Bob James’ infectious groove “Nautilus” has become a cheat-code of sorts for various beat-smiths over the years. However, RZA was one of the few to build on the template of the original in masterful fashion, gifting Ghost with the backdrop to “Daytona 500,” one of the signature selections in his catalog. Bolstered by the presence of The Chef, “Daytona 500” is a raucous selection that could possibly be one of the biggest winners of the night when The Ironman and The Chef face off.
12. “Ice Cream” featuring Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Cappadonna
Wielding a healthy amount of street records in his arsenal, Raekwon shifted course for this hit single. Produced by RZA, who chops and loops up a sample of “A Time For Love” by Earl Klugh, the record thrust the rapper into the spotlight, peaking at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helping push his debut to platinum certification. Rounding up Wu brethren Ghostface, Cappadonna, and Method Man, the Four Horsemen put forth one of the quintessential jams to be released under the crew’s umbrella.
13. “Apollo Kids” featuring Raekwon
Shades of singer/songwriter Solomon Burke’s “Cool Breeze” can be found within the sonic fabric of this meeting of the minds between GFK and costar Raekwon. Cascading over production by Haas G, rap’s resident Wally Champ leaves the track rife with quotables, alluding to his emergence as not only one of the Wu’s more popular members, but a beloved figure within hip hop as a whole.
14. “Can It Be So Simple” featuring Ghostface Killah
Raekwon and Ghostface collide on “Can It Be All So Simple (Remix),” one of the duo’s more high-powered collaborations to date. The track finds the pair picking up on the original, with Ghost suffering a gunshot wound in retaliation for a territorial street dispute. However, being the trusty cohort that he is, Rae vows that retribution for the opposition will be eminent, as he recollects his rise in the drug game. Produced by the RZA, who does work with a sample lifted from “The Way We Were (Try to Remember)” by Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Can It Be All So Simple’’ (Remix)” captures a visceral performance on the part of The Chef, who phones in his partner-in-rhyme for this bonafide fan-favorite.