Of all the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah has probably aged the best. He consistently produces the most interesting solo records and his storytelling remains some of the best in rap history. While the Wu-Tang Clan has become almost a parody of itself, more of a brand than an important rap group, Ghostface, now 47, still seems relevant, experimenting with collaborators like BadBadNotGood and Andrian Younge in recent years instead of trying to make 36 Chambers for the 200th time.
So the first reaction to Ghostface Killah playing at the Bullingdon was probably that it was mistake, and he had to be at the O2 at least. After all, Ghostface is a bona fide rap legend. So what was he doing in Oxford? And even more, what was he doing at the Bullingdon? Although it is a fantastic venue for up-and-coming indie rock bands and jazz, it's not the best venue for a rap hero, not that anyone was complaining. It's hard to imagine a smaller place featuring a bigger rap name ever happening in Oxford again.
Opening for Ghostface was an energetic set from the London group Jungle Brown calling back to the likes A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots, setting the tone for the old school flavour of the night. And then the wait started, and with the extreme heat in the Bullingdon, every one of those minutes was felt.
As with many rap shows, it becomes not a matter of when the headliner will go one, but if they will at all. After half an hour of the host Astrosnare doing his best to keep the crowd interested, Ghostface took to the stage with a good dose of crowd-pleasing and classic Wu-Tang. He began with 'Bring the Ruckus' and spending the rest of the night following it up with a slew of genre-defining hits, from the Wu-Tang's own extensive catalogue to Ghostface's own relatively lengthy solo output, as well as classics from his guest spots on the likes of 'Incarcerated Scarfaces' off of Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. It would be hard to say anyone was disappointed in the show, despite the 45 minute run time. Ghostface, whose stage presence has never matched the excitement of his verses, stayed mostly planted on the right side of the stage, but with the material he was drawing from, it was still a triumph.
At times it felt like the whole performance was just a cash grab (because after all, cash still rules) particularly at the end when Ghost sold t-shirts and random mixtapes to be signed, but given the incredible chance to see a legend in such a small venue in Oxford of all places, it was well worth it. Even if Ghostface won't remember ever playing this show, the couple of hundred lucky fans will never forget it.