Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Ghostface Killah: Ironman [Sony, 1996]
The most street of the Clan--not comic like Ol' Dirty Bastard or mack like Method Man, not deep like Raekwon or Genius either. In a word, gangsta--East Coast-style, reflective and observant, only he doesn't vow to go straight all the time. By his own account, he's done a lot of bad things, and within five minutes he's spewing some of the vilest woman-hate in the sorry history of the subgenre. But the detail is so vivid and complex that for once we get the gripping blaxploitation flick gangsta promises rather than the dull or murky one it delivers. True crime tales like the vengeful "Motherless Child" and the unstoppable "260" are gritty and action-packed, and even the spew plays out as exactly what a long-dicked knucklehead would want to say to the young thing who done him wrong. Then there are moments like "Camay," in which social-climbing crew members move on a legal secretary and an assistant manager at Paragon, and the social-realist family reminiscence "All That I Got Is You." Most decisive of all, RZA's music is every bit as literal as Ghostface's rhymes and rap, giving up tunes, even hooks. As soulful as Tony Toni Toné--maybe more. A