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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010

Ghostface Killah @ The Rave

Nov. 2, 2010

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When The Wu-Tang Clan swarmed out of Staten Island with 1993’s landmark Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), they did more than just reconfigure the face of hip hop, they launched an artistic empire that has infiltrated all levels of pop culture, from fashion to film and television. They blazed trails business-wise as well, demanding a label deal that still allowed its members to pursue solo projects elsewhere. While this freedom led to a variety of classic releases (Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Method Man and Redman’s Blackout!, GZA’s Lquid Swords, etc), Ghostface Killah seems to have thrived on it the most, dropping album after album to fan adoration and critical accolades. In short, he’s the breakout star of a crew loaded with breakout stars, so it was more than a little shocking that his rare Milwaukee appearance Tuesday did not take place in the massive Eagle’s Ballroom, but the miniscule Rave bar.

The setting (complete with a photo backdrop of a vault door with big red letters reading “MONEY IN THE BANK” which I saw only one trio of girls sheepishly pose in front of) was more appropriate for a local rap showcase than a visit from a world class MC. Compounding that feeling was the seemingly endless parade of mediocre local acts, hype men, DJs and other openers that went on for nearly four hours. Each had varying degrees of success placating a crowd which, judging by all the W hand signs in the air, was there for one reason and one reason only.

But when Ghostface finally bounded on stage—with Cappadonna in tow!—he proved resolutely that Wu-Tang Clan still ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. As he boomed through a set filled with fan favorites, including a sing-along melody of Wu classics, the room’s small dimensions provided an intense intimacy that allayed nagging questions as to why Milwaukee heads hadn’t shown enough interest to fill a bigger space. For about 45 minutes he owned the stage with a charismatic swagger before providing the night’s final irony by claiming that, although he wasn’t ready to go, they were rushing him off the stage. Maybe if they had cut one or two (or three or four) of the warm up acts, people could have enjoyed a bit more of what they actually paid for.