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Ghostface Killah on ‘Rehab’ and His Many Inspirations

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Ghostface Killah was responsible for two of 2006’s best hip-hop releases with Fishscale and More Fish, and this year he’s done it again with his excellent new solo album The Big Doe Rehab and 8 Diagrams, the long-anticipated new record from Wu-Tang Clan. He spoke with Vulture about Rehab, his record label, and why he’s not competing with other rappers.

What does the title, The Big Doe Rehab, mean?
Big Doe Rehab is basically like being in rehab. Boom! You put yourself in the rehab for having too much money. Know what I mean? And rehab is somewhere where people go when they’re fucked up — too much alcohol, too much drugs, too much money. I love the title. It came to me when I was sleeping, and I liked the sound, so I said, “Okay, name it that.”

What other titles were you thinking about?
Man, I got a few titles. I don’t want to bring my titles out there.

It’s sort of a concept album, right?
The first skit is like these Colombian guys, Cuban Guys, owe me some money. They’re sitting at my table talking about me, but I ain’t know they was there until I came off the dance floor. What the hell they doing sitting at my table? They owe me some money. So for that night, until they paid me, I had to take one of their girls and she had to just come with me.

Did you set out to make a specific kind of album?
It wasn’t nothin’. It was just to try to make a street album with some rougher beats, and that was it.

Wasn’t Fishscale a return to the streets?
No. Fishscale was like a knapsack-y hip-hop thing.

What did you listen to growing up?
The greats. Marvin Gaye, the Stylistics, everybody that was making music back then.

Who do you like now?
No one.

Uh, no. Uh-uh.

So you’re not competing with other rappers?
No, especially not to sell no records. They’re just records. I don’t care about that. It’s not about that. Right now, it’s about taking care of family and surviving and doing the music. I just do me. My style is different, my swagger is different, the way I dress is different, the way I write my rhymes is different, you know what I mean? The way I appeal to people is different, and that’s that, you know what I mean? But I don’t try, it’s just me, it’s just my character, and that’s that.

That’s that shit. All that other shit is irrelevant, you know what I mean? We’re grown men. I’m not fucking your girl, I never broke bread with you, you know what I mean. I don’t really even know you like that anyway. I didn’t steal nothing from you, I didn’t take nothing from you, I don’t owe you nothing. And so there’s really no reason to have animosity with another rapper like that based on whatever, if it’s not one of those five things I said.

Earlier this year, in a radio interview, you said you were going to stop cursing on your albums (“I don’t think God wants me to curse too much on my records … So I’ma start singing for God, not singing but rapping, singing good stuff for the women, the children and for us”), but Big Doe Rehab has the usual cursing and violence. What happened?
I did change my mind because people respect violence. I felt like I just had to go into that world. I thought about it before. I wasn’t going to go into it like that, but it was like, “You know what? Fuck that! I’ma just go in and, you know, see how the people take it.” That was it.

Will you ever make a record without cursing and gunplay?
It just depends on the time. It’s like a tone that you have to set, know what I mean? It’s almost like being with a girl. You say you ain’t gonna do this, but if the mood is right, then you go ahead. But if the mood isn’t right, then obviously you change the plan.

Are your songs autobiographical at all? My favorite on the new album is “Walk Around.”
A couple people like that one. It’s not about my life. It’s about a picture I paint.

That didn’t happen to you?
You think I killed somebody and had somebody’s flesh on me?

Have you ever been near a situation like that?
No. I’ve never had nobody’s flesh on me. No. You think somebody gonna get their head blown off and I’m gonna have their flesh on me? Come on, baby. You gotta start thinking. You think I’d sit here and tell you in an interview that that happened like that?

This is your seventh solo record. Are you doing anything to gear up for the release date?
Nah. It’s just another day, that’s all. You just go ahead and you do what you have to do. You got an album come out, okay, it came out and that’s it. It’s not the first album, so it ain’t like you gotta celebrate. Your first album, yeah, then I can see you celebrate and do whatever you’re doing, you know, “Oh shit, yo!” and trying to toast to whatever you want to toast to. But, no, this is just a regular day.

This is your fourth album for Def Jam. How’s your label situation?
I mean, it’s alright. Def Jam gotta promote me more, that’s all.

You have two albums out this month, yours and Wu-Tang Clan’s 8 Diagrams. Where do you see your focus in the future?
It’s whatever God got for me. That shit, I don’t know. God got control over all of this, and it’s up to me to just make the right decisions. Wu-Tang, movies, whatever whatever — I’ll keep doing all this shit if I could.
—Sadia Latifi and Jada Yuan

Ghostface Killah on ‘Rehab’ and His Many Inspirations