Smile Politely

Ghostface Killah: “I’m The Star”

Aside from the occasional listen, I never really got in to the Wu Tang Clan or any of the 324 solo albums that spawned from the group. I always, however, appreciated and respected them in the world of hip hop. I’ve heard some say that Method Man’s show in 2006 was the best hip hop show ever at the Canopy, but the same can definitely not be said for Ghostface Killah’s 2005 show.

I’m not sure what the man was calling himself when he was at the Canopy (Ghostface Killah, Ghostface, Fish something), but I’ll just refer to him as Ghost throughout my story. Anyway, the day started like most “big name” hip hop shows do: late. And as per usual, I actually had to convince the D.J. or tour manager (depending on the hour) to come to the club and actually test out the gear. Unreal.

Arriving back at the club, the late sound check had forced doors back and made for a late start for the opener. Business as usual in live music, though. No big deal. The show finally started and as the opener finished, I realized that there had been no sign of Ghost or his crew. A few phone calls and worried moments passed until they were driven up in a hotel shuttle, eager to get to the green room. As the title of this column indicates, The Canopy’s is nothing to be excited about. And they definitely weren’t.

Stressed and upset, the tour manager moaned about the lack of a real green room, and in keeping blow to blow, I moaned about why they weren’t on stage yet. They succumbed to my pushing eventually and Ghost’s warm-up rappers hit the stage, where every stage monitor was blaring like I’d never heard before. I headed out to the front of house.

As per normal with most hip hop shows, we had to rent all the gear they needed for their show, including wireless mics and even the turntables. Shortly after the warm-ups started, I got a call from security on my phone claiming that one of the mics batteries died. It was urgent.

I ran through the backstage curtains and up on to the side of the stage where the mic cases and spare batteries were. I pulled out a fresh battery and turned to everyone standing around and said, “Who needs the battery? What’s going on?”

Sean Sago, head of security at the club said, “It’s Ghost. He said he needs to talk to you.”

I looked towards the exit door on stage left to see Ghost sitting on the edge of the stage alone in the dark. Walking right up to him, I scream (because the stage volume was so loud even from the side of stage!), “What’s up? Your battery dead in that mic?”

“Nah,” Ghost says. “I can’t hear myself.” And then, while his warm-up crew is doing their tunes, he barks into his mic, “Check, check, check.” Even from where we were standing on the side of the stage, clearly behind and in no ear shot of the stage monitors, I could hear his voice bellowing over the top of all three of the MCs rapping on stage.

“I can hear you loud and clear, man,” I said. “And, you’re not even standing in front of the monitors. It’ll be fine when you’re on stage.”

Ghost leans in, looks me right in the eyes, and says, “Just make sure your (sound) man knows who the star is. I’m the one people came to see.”

With a look of total incredulity I said, “Of course, man.”

It’s a good thing he told me because I forgot to look at the ticket, posters and marquee at the club to know who the headliner was.

The show went on and Ghost spent most of his 45 minutes on stage bitching and moaning over the mic about the sound. Frequent personal insults to the sound engineer at the club that night forced him to slam his headphones down at one point and literally throw his hands in the air in disgust. Based on the amount of times the soundman was referenced during the show, you would’ve thought he was part of the act.

Ghost kept barking over the PA things like, “Come on soundman! These people paid good money to see me tonight.” Funny. Ghost was aware of that during the show, but couldn’t take 10 minutes to come to the club himself earlier and do a sound check.

Needless to say, if you are ever at a big name hip-hop show, and the sound is a little off, chances are, it’s the artist’s fault, and not the venues.

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