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Lyrical Breakdown : Bring Da Ruckus

each memorable verse of a true poet has two or three times the written content.
~Alfred de Musset, Le Poète déchu, 1839

But back in 1993 he was just another member of a nine strong group from Staten Island attempting to make a stand against the West Coast’s stranglehold on hip-hop. While the “Protect Ya Neck” single was the Wu’s introduction for those with their ears close enough to the ground, it was on “Bring da Ruckus” that most people’s got their first exposure to Ghostface Killah. At the time, he certainly wasn’t as big a character as Meth or ODB or as instantly appealing as Raekwon, but RZA placed his faith in Ghost by giving him the spot as the MC who took the first verse on the first track of their debut album.

Ghostface, catch the blast of a hype verse
A straight-out-the-gate “My name is...” introduction may be stereotypical hip-hop behaviour but it’s also vital for a member of a nine strong click to immediately distinguish himself from his associates. While all four MCs (Ghost, Raekwon, Deck and GZA) name check the Wu, Ghost is the only one to mention himself.

Ghost appears to be using the word “hype” here in two different ways; the first is making you aware of the effect of his tremendously good lyrics, indirectly warning you that this verse could literally knock you down with the force of his wordplay and imagery. But he could also be using it to mean that he’s arrived on the scene and will commence bursting the bubble of fake MC’s industry hype for all to witness.

My Glock bursts, leave in a hearse, I did worse
Glock handguns are a prized commodity among killers, thugs and drug dealers because of their reliability, simplicity (50% fewer components than conventional handguns) and accuracy. Stating that it will be “his” Glock that will be firing off is an admission of ownership, reinforcing the “I don’t play” vibe.

Making his first overt threat, “I did worse”, he makes the lofty claim that a simple gun slaying isn’t really a big deal. He leaves it to your imagination as to what could be worse than being shot to death. The album version of “Method Man” sees Meth and Rae offer up some torture suggestions if you’re at a loss.

I come rough, tough like an elephant tusk
This whole verse is basically a collection of statements pointing out that Ghostface Killah is not an individual to be trifled with. You’d best beware because he intends to approach you in a “rough” grimy way without thought for normal everyday etiquette or manners.

Tusks are pretty hardy items and have been recorded as growing up to 138 inches long and weighing 214 pounds, although tusks of this size are not found on elephants in Africa today. Hunters and poachers have taken animals with the largest tusks and tusk size out of commission—and tusk size is inherited. Toughness or durability is often measured on the Mohs scale, which is a nonlinear scale varying from 1 (talc, a soft gem) to 10 (diamond); ivory normally measures as a 2.5. Not really that tough is it?

Ya head rush, fly like Egyptian musk
The use of ”fly” here is standard hip-hop slang for cool / attractive and Ghost has no issues letting the ladies know that he’s an stylish individual. As time passed he became known for his smart fashion sense for both clothes and shoes (he single-handedly reinvented Clarks Wallabies as fly urban footwear). Ghost further proves his finesse by drawing a comparison to Egyptian musk. This brand of musk is known for its entrancing aroma of musk and as the basis of many classy perfumes, as well as being a warm sensual scent of its own.

Aw shit, Wu-Tang Clan spark the wicks
It could indeed be said that the Wu-Tang Clan lit the spark that re-launched the grimy East Coast sound. Their darker, scattered lyrical references became a brief antidote to the blunts, bitches n’ shotgun booms of the West Coast.

However, I master the trick just like Nixon
This is a reference to mischievous Richard Nixon who is now seen as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Watergate Scandal. Nixon was alleged to have sanctioned the CIA to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters and then to slow down the FBI’s investigation of the intitial crime. Notice how Ghost obliquely references Nixon’s nickname (Tricky Dick).

Causin’ terror, quick damage ya whole era
Seeking to inspire fear in the hearts of those who hear him, Ghost threatens to not only instil fear into the hearts of his foes, but also to negatively affect the entire time period around them. That’s some hardcore shit right there.

Hardrocks is locked the fuck up, or found shot P.L.O. style
At the beginning of 2003 the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported 10.4 percent of the US’ entire black male population, between the ages of 25 and 29, were in prison. A frightening statistic by itself, but even more worrying when placed alongside the NAACP’s claim that firearm homicide has been the leading cause of death among young African-American males for nearly 30 years. As a young black man Ghost will have been fully aware of the growing number of his “hardrock” friends that had fallen afoul of the prison system or another man’s temper.

There is still some conflict among Wu scholars with regards to the precise definition of the phrase within numerous Wu verses, depending on the context used. All we know for sure is that PLO refers to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which is an umbrella committee of groups dedicated to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Although it officially denounced acts of terrorism in December 1988, during the 1970’s several groups affiliated with the PLO carried out numerous international terrorist attacks. Another possible Wu interpretation of the phrase are the possibility that Ghostface and the rest of the Clan saw themselves as using ‘guerrilla warfare techniques’ to infiltrate the music industry. In the Clan’s “Method Man” promo clip Ghost rocks what looks like a cross between a motorcycle helmet guard and a Hannibal Lecter muzzle while his unidentified colleague is obscured by a Kaffiyeh. He’s too short to be Yasser Arafat.

hazardous, cause I wreck this dangerous
Little more than a throwaway piece of typical microphone bravado.

I blow sparks like Waco, Texas.
This last line is a straightforward but incredibly powerful metaphor where Ghost describes his rhymes as flashes of fire, comparing them to the sparks that burst from the 1993 fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Here the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI are alledged to have murdered David Koresh and approximately 80 of his followers by starting a fire which destroyed the compound. The repercussions of this controversy rage on to this day. As do the repercussions of the Wu. A fitting start to a legendary career.

By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2004-07-28
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