Dennis Coles (born May 9, 1970), better known by his stage name Ghostface Killah, is an American rapper and prominent member of the Wu-Tang Clan. After the group achieved breakthrough success in the early- to mid-1990s, each member was free to pursue solo careers. Ghostface Killah took his name from one of the characters in the 1979 kung fu film Mystery of Chessboxing. GFK was raised in the Stapleton Housing Projects in Staten Island, New York.
In his autobiographical song “All That I Got Is You“, Ghost tells the story of his childhood. He raps about how he grew up in a three bedroom apartment without his father who left him at the age of six. Growing up poor he experienced hard living conditions like “Pluckin roaches out the cereal box. ”
He debuted with the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan on their critically acclaimed debut, 1993’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). A roommate of Wu-Tang founder The RZA, Ghostface helped bring together the other seven members, and would function as executive producer on all the Wu-Tang Clan releases.
In 1995, Ghostface would guest star extensively on fellow Hip Hop Clan member Raekwon‘s debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, appearing on almost every song. He also contributed songs to the Sunset Park and Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood soundtracks, which would be included on his first solo LP, Ironman, in 1996. The album, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, had a more pronounced soul influence (particularly 1970s soul) than previous Wu-Tang releases, and Ghostface’s future albums would continue this stylistic trait.
Ghostface became well-known for both his up-tempo, seemingly indecipherable stream-of-conscious Hip Hop rap and, later in his career, for his emotionally charged raps and his smooth constant flow. In 1996 he would discover that he was diabetic, a condition that would severely weaken his health. According to “Trials of Life “, a 2007 song with fellow New York rapper Prodigy (himself a sickle-cell anemic), Ghostface assumed he had been stricken by a sexually transmitted disease until he received the diabetes diagnosis. This assumption was brought on by a rapid weight loss he experienced and that he had “hit it raw aplenty “.
He would return in 2000 with his follow-up to Ironman, Supreme Clientele. “Cherchez LaGhost “, a single off the album, became a minor club hit, and the sentimental “Child’s Play ” brought numerous comparisons with Slick Rick.
Ghostface wasted little time in recording his next album, the heavily R&B-influenced Bulletproof Wallets, released a year after Supreme Clientele. He had another minor club hit with “Flowers “, which features guest vocals from fellow Wu-Tang members Method Man and Raekwon, although the album would be met with disappointing sales and reviews.
The chaotic “Run” with Jadakiss and the more commercial “Tush” with Missy Elliott raised the anticipation for the rapper’s first album for Def Jam and his first under the simpler moniker Ghostface. The Pretty Toney Album hit the streets in April of 2004.
Ghostface and Raekwon “subliminally ” dissed The Notorious B.I.G. on 1995’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… skit, “Shark *****z (Biters) “, wherein the pair make angry references to Bad Boy Records’ use of cover art motif from Nas‘ debut (a portrait of the artist as a child, although Big’s cover is of his then-infant daughter) for B.I.G.’s Ready to Die album. Nas refers to this episode in his song “Last Real ***** Alive ” (from 2002’s God’s Son), where he confirms the tensions between Raekwon, Ghost and Biggie. Despite this conflict, Biggie was a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan, collaborating with Method Man and The RZA on his first and second albums respectively and performing live with Ol’ Dirty Bastard on occasion. As Method Man would say in a 2004 XXL interview, Ghostface and Raekwon “don’t like anybody “. However, Ghost has gone on record praising Biggie in two later albums. On “Ghost Deini ” from Supreme Clientele he croons “Tupac, Biggie / ohh how we miss you so / We want y’all both to know / We really love you so “. Also, a bonus track featuring the late B.I.G. (as well as Raekwon) was included on Ghostface’s 2006 album Fishscale. Additionally, in the song, “I Can’t Go to Sleep ” from the Wu-Tang Clan’s The W, Ghost raps, “Technique is ill, son, watch how I spill one/Peace to Biggie, Tupac, Big L, and Big Pun. ”
The Top Ten hit Fishscale, along with More Fish, followed in 2006, but not before 718 — an album from his Theodore Unit. Always prolific, the rapper put out The Big Doe Rehab — whose release date had originally coincided with Wu-Tang’s long-awaited fifth full-length, 8 Diagrams, which RZA agreed to push back a week so as to not coincide with Ghost’s effort — in early December 2007. Ghostface returned in 2008 with a pair of compilations: The Wallabee Champ (rarities and B-sides) and GhostDeini the Great (including remixes, alternate versions, and career highlights). Influenced by R&B and focused on the ladies, his 2009 album Ghostdini the Wizard of Poetry was a significant departure. The more traditional effort Apollo Kids landed in 2010 with special guests Redman, Busta Rhymes, and The Game. Another significant departure arrived in early 2013 with the release of Twelve Reasons to Die. The album was a collaborative effort with film composer Adrian Younge and was inspired by the Italian murder mystery/slasher film genre known as giallo.
Other recent releases are studio albums 36 Seasons (2014) and Twelve Reasons to Die II (2015), as well as the experimental collaboration Sour Soul (with BadBadNotGood) (2015).