Ghostface Killah has a lot of songs. Literally days worth of music for us to enjoy and bask in. There are 12 albums worth of material and that’s just official solo joints. He’s the most consistent cat in the game for the last 20 years and is still enjoying a Hall Of Fame career. Of every song and every verse and several hundred stanzas, the most important track he’s ever penned is “All That I Got Is You.” Without it, the Ghostface Killah we adore today wouldn’t be a thing.
Think back to Ironman, which is a very dope album. But from track 1-13, there’s a familiarity to it. For the most part, those 13 tracks feel like an extension of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. In fact, if Raekwon’s magnum opus is the The Godfather, Ghost’s first LP seemed to be angling for The Godfather Part II. But then track 14 hits and it immediately becomes Carlito’s Way–sorry, Loso. Soulful, honest, remorseful, and reflective. Far removed from the steely-eyed glaze of Rae’s Michael Corleone, Ghost let the world know there was more to him than “Louisville pain kill rap.”
Ghost did what so many rappers at that time were afraid to do and that’s be relatable. This wasn’t quite the super thug era inspired by 50 Cent and all those S’s on his chest, but it wasn’t far off either. Keep it real was the mantra for an entire decade. That’s 10 years of never showing any emotion unless it was anger and that anger better be because you lost a homie or someone played Monopoly with your money. But lamenting on your past in a way where you’re damn near crying was just not done. Especially when you’re a part of a rumble-tumble group like the Wu, who’s whole mystique is built around that old cheerleader adage: B-E aggressive.
With that in mind, “All That I Got Is You” also functions as a deconstructive rap song; one that pokes holes in genre cliches while also exploring the soul of a group that would soon follow his lead with songs like “I Can’t Go to Sleep.”
What followed in the years to come were all direct results of him being the one guy in Wu who wasn’t afraid to be emotional and tell his mommy he loved her. Whether it’s “Holla” or “Child’s Play” or “Wise (In the Rain)” or “Momma” or an album like The Wizard Of Poetry, we accepted each and every time Ghost would go away from the norm because that was his normal. To say nothing of how touching the song is. It’s one of two rap songs to ever make me misty-eyed. He and I didn’t grow up in the same conditions, but loving and appreciating your mother goes beyond zip code.
What makes the song so relatable, so important, and a watershed moment in his career isn’t him saying they picked roaches out the cereal box or slept head to toe in one bed. It’s not the heartbreaking details on how he cared for his sibling with muscular dystrophy, nor is it Mary J. Blige doing that thing she does oh so well. It’s the five words that seemingly put Dennis Cole back to being a kid.
“Word up, mommy. I love you.”
That’s why we love Ghostface Killah and that’s why no matter where he takes his career or how often he experiments, he’ll always have the support of the fans. Yes, even when he’s got Carl Thomas on the hook saying how he’d never be the same again after his woman broke his heart. In a time where everyone screamed how hardcore and real they were, he kept it realer than most by being the total opposite.