Raekwon’s seminal 1995 magnum opus Only Built 4 Cuban Linx paved the way for Mafioso albums such as Reasonable Doubt and Life After Death. Rae started rapping about having Tony Montana dreams and suddenly, quoting crime movies was something of normalcy in rap. Led by RZA’s beats, Raekwon rapped so poetically he should have gotten a pulitzer. Ghostface Killah’s 2000 masterpiece Supreme Clientele saved the group when Raekwon’s second solo album, Immobilarity was panned by critics. Ghost went to West Africa in the late ’90s after his diabetes was close to killing him, and came back with raps that not only show the joy in rapping, but stretched classic Wu-Tang crime narratives into his own separate style, apart from the group. Ghostface told us we could level up without sacrificing any of who we were.
The overlapping nature of this Verzuz presented a lot of questions to fans: Would Raekwon be allowed to do ‘’Criminology’’ even though Ghostface is on there? What about Ghostface doing the Rae-featuring “Apollo Kids”? Could they both do the many songs they have together within the Wu-Tang Clan? One thing was sure: We’d get great rap stories from two of the more interesting personalities in our culture. Ghostface is darkly humorous on records and in real life; Raekwon is more soft spoken, but has a preacher’s voice that makes you stand up and listen.
Wu-Tang is here forever. Here’s how Billboard broke down the scoring of Raekwon and Ghostface’s epic Verzuz battle.
Round 1: G. Dep feat. Ghostface Killah, Keith Murray, Craig Mack and Diddy’s “Special Delivery” Remix vs. OutKast feat. Raekwon’s “Skew It on the Bar-B”
‘’Special Delivery’’ is wavy, but that Raekwon and Outkast collab brought two entirely different worlds together.
Round 2: Ghostface Killah feat. Superb, “Ghost Deini” vs Raekwon feat. Cappadonna & Raekwon’s “10 Bricks”
‘’Ghost Deini’’ is like Allah himself was rapping in the physical form of Ghostface.
Round 3: GZA feat. Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest & RZA’s “4th Chamber” vs. Raekwon feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Method Man’s “House of Flying Daggers”
Cuban Linx Pt. II doesn’t get the credit that it deserves, but nothing can beat GZA closing an all-star track with the best verse. ‘’4th Chamber’’ sounds like a Pac-Man game at the beginning, being taken over by an impromptu concert.
Round 4: Ghostface Killah’s “Mighty Healthy” vs. Raekwon’s “Incarcerated Scarfaces”
This is the hardest one yet: Raekwon should have won a Pulitzer for what he spat on ‘’Scarfaces.’’ But, Ghostface’s charm on ‘’Mighty Healthy’’ is ubiquitous in our culture. We wouldn’t have Kanye’s ‘’New God Flow’’ without it. Ghost is not the herb.
Round 5: Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon & U-God’s “Black Jesus” vs. Raekwon’s “Live from New York”
Neither Ironman or Immbolarity is either of these two men’s best work, so it is a flex that they played songs from this. The winner goes to Ghost here though. Anything with Popa Wu gets the automatic advantage.
Round 6: Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon “The Watch” vs. Wu-Tang Clan’s “It’s Yourz”
Gotta go ‘’Its Yourz.’’ If you play ‘’Its Yourz’’ at any underground night spot in the gutter, people will go crazy.
Round 7: Wu-Tang Clan feat. Tekitha’s “Impossible” vs. Raekwon’s “100 Rounds”
Immobilarity is considered the biggest sophomore slump next to Michael Carter Williams’s second season with the Sixers, but it is better than given credit for. It’s just missing RZA beats. Rae takes the win here.
Round 8: Ghostface Killah feat. U-God and Madam Majestic’s “Cherchez LaGhost” vs. Raekwon’s “Ice Cream”
‘’Excuse me hon, the don mean no harm, turn around again.” Need we say more?
Round 9: Kanye West feat. Kanye West, Pusha T & Ghostface Killah’s “New God Flow” vs. Raekwon’s “State of Grace”
Raekwon said that ‘’State of Grace’’ was recorded in Miami while him and Ghostface rented a Villa down there to work on Bulletproof Wallets. They should have had a reality show together.
Round 10: Ghostface Killah feat. RZA, “Nutmeg” vs. Raekwon feat. Ghostface Killah’s “Criminology”
Impossible to choose but it has to be ‘’Criminology’’: Might be cliché, but it is the best RZA beat of all time. All praises due for Supreme Clientele though.
Round 11: Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” vs. Ghostface Killah’s “Holla”
‘’Cash rules everything around me’’ is the type of statement that affirms American life, for all its good and all its evil. It’s a matter of fact, like Method Man is speaking from the point of view of Uncle Sam.
Round 12: Raekwon feat. Ghostface Killah’s “Rainy Dayz” (Remix) vs. Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon’s “Daytona 500”
‘’Daytona 500’’ makes you want to disrespect the nun at your catholic school.
Round 13: Raekwon feat. Masta Killah and Ghostface Killah’s “Glaciers of Ice” vs. Ghostface Killah feat. Jadakiss’ “Run”
Tough go against the Purple Tape, but the Jadakiss verse on ‘’Run’’ is so damn good. Ghost and Jada are two of the most hilarious rappers of all-tine — they should have a full collaboration album by now.
Round 14: Fat Joe feat. Nas, Big Punisher, Jadakiss & Raekwon’s “John Blaze” vs. Ghostface Killah’s “Its Over”
Joey Crack, Pun, Nas, Rae: Murderer’s Row. Move over, 1927 Yankees.
Round 15: Raekwon’s “Yae Yo” vs. Ghostface Killah’s “One”
There isn’t one single bar that epitomizes life for Black kids in New York than ‘’the devil planted fear inside the black babies.’’ Ghostface is a poet.
Round 16: Raekwon feat. Nas’ “Rich and Black” vs. Ghostface Killah feat. Ne-Yo’s “Back Like That”
‘’Back Like That’’ is peak Ne-Yo (and Kanye on the remix) with Ghostface, now a Def Jam soldier? Yeah, that. What a flex for Ghost to pull this out.
Round 17: Raekwon feat. Nas & Ghostface Killah’s “Verbal Intercourse” vs. Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon & Carl Thomas’ “Never be the Same Again”
Nasir Jones is the owner of the greatest guest verse of all time, but we forget how nasty Raekwon is after him. ‘’Pyrex pots, we break, fiends licking plates/ In the building, n—as building, like little children staring/ The other n—as ain’t caring.’’
Round 18: Wu-Tang Clan’s “Cash Still Rules”/”Scary Hours” vs Beyoncé feat. Ghostface Killah’s “Summertime”
Ghostface and Beyoncé collaborating is a highlight on Fade to Black, but “Scary hours, no money out, smash the guinness stout” is what you hear before you get your Wu-Tang tattoo.
Round 19: Jodeci feat. Raekwon & Ghostface Killah’s “Freek’n You” Remix vs. Teyana Taylor feat. Ghostface Killah’s “Gonna Love Me” (Remix)
Raekwon pulling out the Jodeci feature is the equivalent to Prop Joe pulling out the ringer in the infamous basketball episode in The Wire: It changed the trajectory of the game.
Round 20: Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” vs. Ghostface Killah feat. Mary J. Blige’s “All I Got Is You”
Raekwon gets to double-dip here a little, playing Pete Rock’s all-legends “Tha Game” (also featuring Prodigy and Ghostface) and then going again with the 36 Chambers all-timer “Can It Be All So Simple” — which is a perfect illustration of what can be done with rap laid over soul samples, two artforms coming together. Controlled chaos in the form of Wu-Tang soldiers and Gladys Knight.
Wider Catalogue: Ghostface
Bringing out Kanye and Ne-Yo in terms of versatile is a headlock. Raekwon isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as Ghost is.
Biggest Snub: Ghostface (Point to Raekwon)
Was waiting for Ghostface to pull out ‘’Buck 50’’ but he never did. That would have easily given him the win on a round.
Best Banter: Ghostface
Ghostface showed up on time and then came late, which makes no sense, but Ghost can do whatever he wants, because he is Ghost. Also, everything that comes out of Ghost’s mouth sounds like something divine.
Biggest KO: Draw
Rae definitely thought he had it when he did ‘’Glaciers of Ice’’ — and then Ghost puts on ‘’Run,”, which is an overlooked classic. Poor Rae.
People’s Champ: Ghostface
This is a bit unfair for Raekwon, but Ghostface was on 30 Rock. Everyone loves him. He’s Ghost Deini. He’s Tony Starks. He was on the third while Bruce Lee was on the fourth. Everyone wants go shopping with Ghostface and hear him tell stories.
FINAL SCORE: 12-12-1, Draw