Hailing from the streets of Shaolin — that’s Wu-speak for Staten Island — Ghostface Killah entered his 16th year in the rap game with a first-ever trip to the Vineyard last week. The thin-voiced rapper performed for a sold-out crowd Saturday night the same gritty metaphors and rowdy on-stage antics that launched him onto the charts in the early 1990s as one of nine veteran emcees of the Wu-Tang Clan. Packed into Nectar’s airport venue, a sea of vintage hip-hop fans hailed Ghostface adoringly with hands spread above their heads and touching at the thumbs in W-formation. Spanning less than 12 hours, Ghostface’s premier Vineyard visit was short but sweet.
One of the most successful Clan members, Ghostface has cultured a loyal fan base that feeds off his seven solo albums catalogue of no-frills tales of raunchy escapades, drug busts and mom-and-pop shop shootings. The rap show, a nod to early 1990’s hip-hop that also featured a dual-performance by Clan members Redman and Method Man, sold 750 tickets at $30 apiece two weeks before the performance date. It drew the biggest crowd of any concert at Nectar’s — formerly Outerland, and before that the Hot Tin Roof — since the club’s June unveiling.
“That’s the glory,” Ghostface said, perched in the passenger seat of a taxi van after the show. “That’s the most love that you could ask for other than God, you know what I’m saying, and your kids and stuff like that. [To come to the Vineyard for the first time] and everybody comes out and [knows] your words and everything, it’s like . . . that feeling’s incredible.”
On an Island where folk-rock music reigns — the Vineyard’s own Willie Mason, a token of the local music scene, cultivated his talent as a youngster in West Tisbury — few rap artists make the lineups of clubs and music houses. Yet the lively throng of Ghostface Killah, Redman and Method Man enthusiasts, mouthing every lyric to 600-word rap songs, throwing $20 bills at vendors for Wu-Tang apparel and pushing to get ahead of one another in an after-hours line for autographs, proved that hip-hop music claims a place on this Island of indie rockers.
“It’s a blessing to still be here, you know, in these days and times when the music [has] changed and to still have people come out for you, even over here [where some people] don’t really know rap . . . it’s crazy,” Ghostface said, adding: “This might just be one of those Islands that’s just starting to open up [to rap].”
The only regret Ghostface had about his Vineyard visit was a lack of time to enjoy the Island. Aside from a whirl down Circuit avenue for an ice cream and a sandwich from Skinny’s Fat Sandwiches, he had yet to see much of the Island.
“I would definitely go somewhere to a nice beach or whatever, get in there, swim around for a little bit, probably get some massages and see the town. I mean, you know, I would even go to the movies, go to the bars — whatever, just chill out,” he said.
“I’ll come back if they want us back.”