In the year 2000, the Wu-Tang Clan was in the middle of sea change. A string of disappointing solo albums from Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, and GZA followed Wu-Tang Forever while RZA forged an alias, Bobby Digital, to make beats that sounded nothing like the vintage Wu production of the ’90s. In short, the group needed saving. Ironman was their hero.
Supreme Clientele came out on January 25, 2000 (February 8 is often cited as another release date for the album) and was met with immediate critical praise from The Source (4.5 mics), XXL (XL rating), Vibe, and other publications. Supreme Clientele came nearly four years after Ghost’s breathtaking debut album Ironman, but more importantly, it was the first Wu-Tang solo album that RZA oversaw as executive producer since that first wave of classic individual debuts from Meth, ODB, GZA, and Rae. The result was a vivid, original masterpiece that found Ghost essentially creating his own language out of thin air. It debuted at no. 7 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart and solidified the return of the Wu, even if the movement was only fronted by Ghost.
Speaking on the album, Ghost told The Source in 2000, “We just say fly shit, that sound fly to our ear.” On a surface level, that’s exactly what Supreme Clientele is – a batshit crazy album that makes little lyrical sense to anyone – but we’ve always loved it, and the LP has stood the test of time thanks to it’s mix of brash irreverence with hints of throwback sounds.
Today we celebrate one of the most unique rap albums of all time by letting you in on a couple secrets. Here are 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele. Go heat up some ziti.
1. Ghostface consciously invented a new rhyming style on Supreme Clientele.
Ghost’s free association rhymes became the signature hallmark of Supreme Clientele, and he explained how he came up with the style in a 2007 interview:
“‘Cobra Clutch’ was abstract, an abstract joint. People get me twisted and sh*t. See I created a style when I did ’Nutmeg’ and ‘One’ and all the other sh*t. I was in Africa and I was like, ’Yo Ima make a rhyme not meaning nothing.’ Just put words together but what the sentence might mean, might not got nothing to do for nothing. I did it on ’Nutmeg’ and I the first verse on ’One’ and all the other sh*t. People started getting me confused. Like, ‘Damn I dont know what hes talking about.’ But it wasn’t meant for you to know what I was talking about cause it was just a style that I created.”
2. The first track, “Nutmeg,” was produced by Ghostface’s barber Arthur Wilson.
Wilson, who is Ghost’s cousin, also went by Black Moes-Art, or Mo the Barber, and he produced “I Declare War” off Shyheim’s 2001 Manchild album, too.
3. Parts of Supreme Clientele were written in Africa.
In 1999, Ghostface went to Africa to seek out alternative treatments for his diabetes. RZA went with him, and that was apparently where some of the first rhymes on Supreme Clientele were written. RZA talks about it in his second book, The Tao Of Wu.
4. In February ’99, Ghost pled guilty to robbery charges and served four months at Rikers.
The charges stemmed from a 1995 case where the parking valet of a Manhattan club called Palladium claimed Ghost and his clique assaulted him and stole $3,000 from him. Ghost opted to settle for a six month sentence and five years of probation instead of going to trial. He talks about it on “Saturday Nite.” (“You mind popping your trunk? Slow your pace / Starks fixed your face, copped out to six, five years probation.”)
5. “Mighty Healthy” was inspired by Divine Force’s “Holy War.”
This is crazy. “Holy War” was a 1987 song by Sir Ibu of the rap crew Divine Force. In it, you can hear very familiar lines like, “Make you snap your fingers or wiggle” and “Party that body, don’t fuck with me, you’ll feel sorry.” Ghost was paying tribute to (or, depending on how you see it, stealing lines from) “Holy War” more than a decade later.
In an interview with Hip-Hop Core, RZA revealed that he ended up paying Sir Ibu over “Mighty Healthy”:
“Well, All in Together Now never really disbanded. We’re cousins, so we always made tapes and demos together. But GZA had a man called Melquan, he’s president of a record company called Jamaica Records. They call him Funky President Melquan. He had a group named Divine Force, with Sir Ibu. “It get Busy…” Ghostface did it over on his “Supreme Clientele” album, on ‘Mighty Healthy’. When Ghost did it over, Sir Ibu, who was my buddy, came over and said: “Yo, I need money for that!”. So I gave him 2500$. Motherfucker! (laughs)”