Life & Art Editor

Why’s the devil in it? Enter Ghostface Killah, the god himself, the Wu-Tang Versace “dusted like the black Boy George on his honeymoon.” Tony Starks is here to let America know that rap isn’t all about f-u-n and giggles and dumb white bitches crunk on Thug Passion.

No. Colored subway hoodlums from Staten Island were thinkin’ bigger than that way back in the early ’90s, blowin’ minds of NYU academics, local gangstas, and soon enough, suburban white kids country-wide alike. Wu-Tang Clan possessed the minds of elitists and the poetics of the meek streets, free from the Hamptons coke-slut fakery, but cream slaves to lowerclass black archetypes, the Clan taught the children right and then blew out like candles in a monastery.

Such is time to the rap artist. It’s a young man’s game. Those who are hungriest get fed. This is America, protect yr. neck and all that – there are no fucking exceptions here, less you may think.

Let’s not get caught up in Wu history – that’s simply a Random House scroll desperately waiting to be written, untapped veins more purpled with stories than Iggy Pop’s arms.

Here sits the Ghost Deini, Tony Starks, the God-body, Iron Man all that, surrounded by an MTV film crew at the Source Awards in a pressroom in the Miami Arena – more like a bitch room, bland blue curtains and no DSL connections. Nicely kempt beard, geared-out in a misty green velour robe, NY Jets cap tilted, black Reebok Classics, Jordan shorts, huge chain plate and sparkly diamond knuckles that blatantly read: GHOST.

Publicist is all like, “LL is in the next room.” Exactly bitch. You don’t get it. Ghost is rap. Nelly and Murphy Lee are outside hopping around like Band-Aid-ed rabbits, Lil’ Jon and Bone Crusher are on the TVs humpin’ girls live on stage and jiggling jellyrolls. Fine, 2003. Do what you do – have a huge Psychology of Gender metrosexual “whatever” complimentary of that gelled-haired dude in front row on us.

The point is, dig that pop shit if you wanna. Go to the Grove, live those college lives if you wanna, still blasting [insert a fave Nelly track], but you are living the lie, you are living the molded Lyor Cohen-UM alum skyscraper version of what rap music was founded on. Fuck punk – it’s dead. Rap is about slitting throats on the up-and-up – be it business or literal – the patriotic counterpoint to Michael Moore’s stellar Bowling for Columbine.

Sing-a-long to those anthems all two-beer-Tavern-drunk-like, but remember that poverty is right behind you, staring into your SUVs, into your privy lives of GAP and bullshit. Enter the 36 Chambers and Liquid Swords have been out for long enough.

Ghostface has been wanderin’ around like that wondrous kid in class, the cat who the schoolgirls dig but are intimidated by, that genius, the bugg-eyed innerly-confident visionary. Cop his albums, study that melty provolone vocab. Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out. This is a Life & Art interview with Tony Starks behind thin blue curtains after plenty of Corona Lights and drunken “Lil’ Kim has a plastic fucking head, err, everything” back stage observation.

Ghost is one of the top three rappers of our time: Big, Pac, Tony. But I’m only a white kid attending UM, so my opinion doesn’t count, agreed…yet.

L&A: What happened to your golden bird?
Tony: I got that. That’s in the cage right now, he locked up, he resting right now. I didn’t really feel like it was that type of event right now. Save it for the holidays. Save it for some big shit.

L&A: Word. What in the hell happened to Cappadonna?
Tony: Cap’s driving a cab you know what I mean? Cabadonna, that’s the craziest shit. Cap would say some shit like that too. But you can’t believe everything you read, that’s not really our fault about the royalties and all that. His money is his money.

L&A: Hit us with some new slang.
Tony: You know, I can’t really, a lot of things I say just come out my mouth most of the time. So, it just comes to my head and then I might forget it. It’s not like “Oohh shit yo, that’s the word!” But you know, when we puff our weed, instead of me saying, “We got murders,” I’ll say, “Yo, we got gurders.” We got the gurders. “That’s the gurders.” ‘Cause it’s stronger than murders, knowwhutImean? “This is gurders!” That’s what we dealin’ with right now. [laughs]

L&A: Earlier you said you’d challenge any rapper in Madison Square Garden. For real?
Tony: Yo, I’ll challenge anyone in Madison Square Garden, knowwhutImean? Anybody. It’s like, whatever, this is entertainment, it’s like WWF. I’m confident. Just for the goodness of it, we can shake hands afterwards. It don’t have to be violent. I know the good hip hop from back in the day.

L&A: How do you feel about Southern hip hop dominating every facet right now?
Tony: It’s all good. It’s like hip hop is one nation under whatever you wanna call it. You wanna call it God, or whatever. It’s like, yo, everybody, just do good music. And to each his own. Some brothers enjoy that type of Southern music, some brothers don’t.

L&A: Do you think Southern hip hop artists are advancing hip hop or taking it back a bit?
Tony: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that, I’d just say that the minds of the people, that’s the state of the mind of the people is in right now.

L&A: Don’t you think the state of the mind of the people today, you know…these are deeper times? Like what you’re doing lyrically, it’s just more thought out, complex, all that.
Tony: It is deeper times and I am aware of the times. Certain brothers are aware of it, but don’t give a fuck about it, youknowwhutImean? And how we live today is the outcome of everything. I guess that’s what it is.

L&A: Where do you see the world going?
Tony: It’s going down. It’s going down. It’s going down. There’s never been a time in history where things ever got great, even or a period of time. Day one, things, as you grow you get older, things age, like your body. So, it’s like, I never seen a time where the devil’s – where that time was good. You might look back at the good old days, your good ol’ days. Right now, I don’t think the children has a good ol’ days. This is what I say. I say what we’re living right now is the last two pages of the Bible, maybe it might be over in a thousand years, two thousand years, but then I think it’s finished.

L&A: A couple cats are worried now that you’ve signed to Def Jam. Is it r&b from here on?
Tony: It’s like, they might have a better machine than certain companies. But you know? It’s whatever is whatever. I’m just bending with the wind right now, wherever it takes me, that’s that. Whatever Def Jam does, all praises, it’s good, but Ghostface is Ghostface. I’m just happy to be here doing this, feeding my peoples. When I’m gone, it’s like, that was Ghostface.

L&A: What’s that chain? Whose face is that?
Tony: It’s just jewelry. It was a Versace symbol. See, what happened was, one day I was staying in this crib out here in Miami, and there was this statue of the face. And I was like, yo, I want that, I want a chain like that. So, it looked like a big fucking rock with a face on it, so I took a picture of it, sent it to the dude, like, “Just make it.”

Ghost’s fourth album, Pretty Tony is dropping in February on Def Jam.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at