Album Review: Supreme Clientele
Updated: Jul 14, 2022
The Wu-Tang Clan are arguably the most iconic and influential group in rap music. Their 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has become one of the most revered albums in the genre, with amazing chemistry between each member over the sample-laden production from RZA.
Following their classic debut, over the next few years, the core members of the Wu-Tang released their own solo material, most of which produced by RZA. Album after album, the Wu-Tang proved themselves to be some of the best rappers in the genre, producing countless classics throughout the 90s. Among these albums released was Ironman in 1996, the solo debut for Ghostface Killah. It had the same quality production and consistent performances as their group debut, with fast-paced flows and fiery verses from Ghostface. However, I find myself revisiting it far less than the other members' 90s releases, such as GZA's Liquid Swords, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx or even ODB's Return to the 36 Chambers. Something about Ironman didn't quite hook me like the others.
Ghostface Killah's next album, Supreme Clientele, released in 2000. Upon first listen, I instantly preferred it to his debut, but with time I've even come to appreciate it more than Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, to the point I'm debating whether it's the best release ever for the Wu-Tang Clan. Ghost's flows have a newfound vigour, densely packing so many rhymes and so much meaning into his quick, fiery verses. The production is explosive, with each song sounding so strong and unique thanks to RZA overlooking most production. The entire album comes together as a cohesive whole, containing some of RZA's best beats, Ghostface Killah's best verses, and some of the best hip hop songs of all time.
The opener, 'Nutmeg', is a prime example. The production sounds so crisp and clean, with a groovy bassline and a cinematic Eddie Holman sample. Where the track truly shines is in the rapping, where Ghostface has the same confident and swift flows as always, but with a new style to his verses where countless rhymes are packed into just a few lines:
"Scotty Wotty copper tipped me, big microphone hippie
Hit Poughkeepsie, crispy chicken, verbs, throw up a stone, Richie
Chop the O, sprinkle a little snow inside a Optimo"
The style is not dissimilar to that of MF DOOM, who uses the same dense rhyme schemes, albeit with a far less dynamic and energetic delivery. The song also features a vicious verse from RZA, making for one of many incredible features across the album from Ghost's fellow Wu-Tang members.
The following song, One, is even better. Ghostface's flows are so quick and his rhymes so frequent through his cryptic and often nonsensical lyrics. He describes his aspirations and his time in prison among other things over a punchy piano sample. The sample of a singer repeating "One!" weaved into the beat sounds as though it should get monotonous after three minutes, but coupled with Ghost's ardent flows, the production matches his rapping. It creates a strange symmetry between the rapping and beat, where Ghostface matches the energy and character of the beat perfectly like no other rapper could, turning something potentially monotonous into a masterful hip hop song.
This punchy sound continues throughout the rest of Supreme Clientele. The first leg of the album is such a strong beginning to the record, with other highlights such as the short and sweet 'Saturday Nite' and the cold, sinister sound of 'Ghost Deini'. Furthermore, the explosive 'Apollo Kids' is one of my favourite Wu-Tang songs ever, with abrasive production sampled from a martial arts film to match the aggressive verses from Ghost and Raekwon.
Each song has such engaging production, sampling an array of classic songs from the past century and reworking them into some of the most eclectic, energetic beats in hip hop. Ghostface Killah is able flow over each beat perfectly. Whether it be the more subtle, repetitious 'The Grain', the dark and moody 'Mighty Healthy', or the distorted scratches on 'Stroke of Death', each beat embodies its own mood and personality, but Ghost never fails to deliver with such dynamic and entertaining flows. The beats aren't so avant garde that no other rapper could possibly use them, but I believe only Ghostface could consistently master each one, without a bad verse across the whole album. The production and rapping go hand in hand, tightly connected, making for such a cohesive and satisfying album experience.
On the surface, some of Ghost's verses may sound like meaningless jumbles of rhymes, but across Supreme Clientele he highlights his skill as a storyteller, such as the aforementioned 'One' conveying his life in the hood and his experience in jail. More notably, 'Child's Play' is a carefree and upbeat track describing Ghost's youthful romance, and 'Malcolm' sees Ghostface comparing himself to Malcolm X, critcising the system which keeps the lives of black people from improving. Ghost's lyrics are often cryptic, but beneath the surface each track has its own stories to tell and themes to evoke.
As mentioned previously, Supreme Clientele is filled with features from other members of the Wu-Tang Clan who all pull their respective weights. RZA has a handful of ferocious verses, Raekwon has amazing chemistry with Ghostface, and U-God is such a highlight on 'Cherchez LaGhost', with his deep voice fitting well over the bass-heavy production. 'Wu Banga 101' is as the name describes: it's the classic formula for a Wu-Tang posse cut, with the rappers trading verses with so much passion and chemistry. The best performance on the track has to be GZA, who delivers his incredible verse with such a suave, nonchalant delivery.
Overall, Supreme Clientele is everything I could hope for in a Ghostface Killah album. He carries so much energy with every word, delivering some of his most entertaining verses with complex rhyme schemes, an unpredictable delivery and limitless charisma. The production feels crisp and modern for Wu-Tang, yet each rapper involved sounds so comfortable over the abrasive beats. The album has such a unique and cohesive sound, and Ghost delivers on every song, never failing to deliver even on the more chaotic and distorted beats. It's a perfect balance between the classic sound Wu-Tang was known for and a fresh, ambitious sound filled with explosive production and unpredictable flows. Every aspect of the album is executed perfectly, making for another classic album in the Wu-Tang Clan's incredible discography.
Fav Tracks: One, Wu Banga 101, Nutmeg, Apollo Kids, Malcolm, We Made It, Buck 50