Ghostface Verzuz Raekwon: The Return of Slang Rap Democracy
I understand the appeal of trap music. Drill too. Really. The combination of heavy bass, minimalist lyrics. It reverberates in such a way that it becomes easy to lose oneself, become one with the vibes. It’s automatic, effortless, difficult to separate where the beat starts and the body begins. Lyrics. Flow. Little by little they are broken down, until they melt into the beat rather than stand apart. The goal is fusion, the music creating a space where a vibe can exist. And to partake in the vibe is to be the vibe.
I get it.
But I don’t get it enough to unbind the chains of a different era; an era I got to relive this past Saturday when Ghostface and Raekwon took the Verzuz stage.
90’s era hip hop was not a vibe. It required effort, both from emcees engaged in ever-escalating acts of lyrical acrobatics, and from the listener, fingers perched lightly over rewind, deciphering bars like lines from the dead sea scrolls. There are verses that elude me to this day, wordplay and trickery that conjure up silhouettes of meaning I just can’t bring to light. But that was the beauty of it. When the bass dropped, the gauntlet was thrown down. The world stood still. And fire burst from the speakers.
Both hands clusty, chillin’ with my man Rusty/Low down, blew off the burner, kinda dusty
The world can’t touch Ghost, purple tape, Rae co-host
-Ghostface Killah “Mighty Healthy”
This latest Verzuz wasn’t just a battle. It was a master class in lyrical virtuosity, a legacy written in liquid swords and cuban links. It was two gods stepping on stage as if they’d just stepped out of the hyperbolic time chamber. And as they traded banger for banger, Ghost and Rae made it clear to viewers what more than two decades of lyrical excellence looks like. This wasn’t just a battle. Quite simply, this was emceeing of the highest calibre.
As an old head, it’s easy to sit back and think: “No one rhymes like this anymore.”
But did they ever?
The Wu-tang vernacular is singular in hip-hop. It hits like a combination of myth and scripture, a poetic edda of crime families, street…