Today I celebrate the 43rd birthday of one of my favorite rappers of all-time: Ghostface Killah. If you’re unfamiliar with GFK — otherwise known as Tony Starks, Ironman, Pretty Toney, Ghost Deini and many other aliases — you might know him as one of the members of the rap supergroup the Wu-Tang Clan. If you don’t know the Wu-Tang Clan, I’m not sure why you’re reading Poor Scholars, but I’ll let it slide since this is a celebration.
Anyways, Ghostface is one of my favorite emcees because he’s a vivid storyteller that gets incredibly animated during his verses. In a nutshell: It’s just fun to listen to this dude spin hood narratives with the energy he brings to the table.
So in honor of GFK’s birthday, here is the story of a college-aged me — Scott Phillips — meeting Ghostface Killah during a meet-and-greet at DePaul University prior to the release of his fifth album, FishScale.
During the spring of 2006, Ghostface Killah came to DePaul University’s Student Center in Chicago, where I was a student at the time. Because of my rabid Wu-Tang fandom, I of course had interest in attending the meet-and-greet advertised all over campus in which Ghostface would answer questions and sign posters promoting his new album, FishScale.
After taking questions, an autograph line of a few dozen people began to take shape as we were given promotional posters of the new album for GFK to quickly sign through. I was about the 10th person in line and had brought a secret weapon for Ghostface to sign: My copy of The Wu-Tang Manual — which was Wu-Tang leader RZA’s book on the history and origin of the Wu-Tang Clan. Since all nine members of the Clan had a bio page with a picture, I thought it would be perfect for Ghostface to sign.
And when I got to Ghostface and presented his open bio in The Wu-Tang Manual, he quickly agreed.
Ghostface stopped his torrid autograph pace that he had quickly settled into to read over his bio from the book. I’ll never forget the amused smirk Ghostface had on his face while silently reading over the biographical information of his own life straight from the book.
The line paused and just as quickly as the silence and smirk had arrived, Ghostface stared up at me and asked, “What’s your name, Guy?” — with “Guy” being one of Ghostface’s trademark nicknames for people on albums and skits as an homage to Italian mobster films that the Wu-Tang so deeply loved.
Somehow I held it together and was able to calmly say to Ghostface, “My name is Scott and I’m a big fan,” even though on the inside I was freaking out as badly as a 14-year old girl at her first Justin Bieber concert. I was absolutely fired up.
“One of my heroes just called me one of his signature nicknames,” I thought to myself in stunned and euphoric silence.
“Scott, this is a trip, man,” Ghostface chuckled as he signed my book — as well as my poster. (Two-for-one autographs; veteran stuff.)
I thanked him for the autograph(s) as I was unable to further contain my excitement as I let out a huge smile exiting the line.
It’s one of my favorite celebrity encounters I’ve ever had and I’ve always remained a huge fan of Ghostface Killah ever since.
Happy birthday, GFK.