Ghostface Killah’s Mighty Healthy Was Inspired By A Divine Force That Brought Wu Together (Audio)
Earlier this month, Wu-Tang Clan released The Saga Continues. Charting at #15, the album is produced entirely by DJ Mathematics—creator of the Wu logo, and longtime touring mix-master for Method Man as well as Meth & Redman. Originally, in 2016, RZA—who executive produced the project and raps—stated that the next Wu release’s production was in the hands of Ghostface Killah. “He’s been the most prolific—the one that’s really got [his] feet on the ground in music,” RZA told Sway In The Morning less than one year ago. It is unclear what happened between then and now, other than the beats Mathematics made (using some of the same equipment RZA favored in the ’90s) impressed the gods. On Saga…, Ghostface appears on four cuts. He joined RZA and Cappadonna for a recent televised collabo performance with The Roots. However, his history with Queens’ Allah Mathematics runs deep—and alludes to some 30-year-old Wu-Tang history.
The history of Wu-Tang is intrinsically linked to their emergence from Staten Island because the majority of the collective’s members (Method Man, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Cappadonna) grew up in Shaolin. Meanwhile, there are strong Brooklyn roots too. During the mid-to-late ’80s the crew’s founding co-members The GZA, RZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (tka The Genius, Prince Rakeem, and Ason Unique, respectively) were an unknown teenage trio called All In Together. Ghostface Killah was an early associate of the proto-Wu trio due to his longtime friend and roommate, RZA.
One of the best songs in G.F.K.’s catalog is fan favorite “Mighty Healthy,” from his album Supreme Clientele. The single, first released in 1998, is derivative from a seed planted by another unsung Brooklyn trio with an early Wu connection from 30 years ago.
The group was named Divine Force, and it was comprised of rappers Sir Ibu, female MC Ice-T (aka Lady Nefertiti), her brother Supreme, and DJ Jizer (short for “energizer”). They were managed by a young entrepreneur named Melquan who owned an independent label called Yamakka (pronounced ya-make-uh) Records, a title formed by a word contraction that meant “you-make-a-record.” In 1987, Divine Force released a 12″ single called “Holy War (Live)” on the A-side, and “Something Different” on the B-side. It was engineered by legendary Universal Zulu Nation DJ Jazzy Jay (T La Rock, LL Cool J) and Ezee A. The single was produced and arranged by Divine Force with interpolations of Rufus Thomas’ 1972 hit “Do The Funky Penguin” accompanied with the drum pattern from Melvin Bliss’ “Synthetic Substitution.”
Melquan also managed RZA, GZA, O.D.B., and Ghost ahead of Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The four MCs’ concept of melding their passion for martial arts and the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths ideology with Hip-Hop were already aligned. Most of Divine Force’s records were cut at I.N.S. Studios located in Brooklyn—one of the Wu’s first workspaces. “Holy War (Live)” was an underground hit that made traction for the crew on mix-shows and tapes during that era. It eventually secured a solo deal for the track’s lone lyricist Sir Ibu on Eric B. & Rakim and X-Clan’s home, 4th & B’way Records, in 1989.
“Holy War (Live)” and “Mighty Healthy” have glaring similarities, including Ghostface paying homage by repeating Sir Ibu’s lyrics and exaggerated, Brooklyn vowel-stretching nasal accent:
“When we hug these mics we get busy / Come and have a good time with G-O-D / Go ‘head snap your fingers or wiggle / Scream shout, laugh and just giggle / Shake that body, party that body /Don’t f*ck with Ghost you’ll feel sorry / That’s word, I’m not the herb / Understand what I’m saying,” Tony spits. DJ Mathematics, the producer of “Mighty Healthy,” used the same beat from “Holy War (Live).” He subtly sped up the BPM on the sauntering guitar lick from a sample of The Sylvers’ 1972 song “I Wish That I Could Talk To You,” and then had a bassist add the song’s resounding baseline “to make it chunkier.” Additionally, Sir Ibu’s phrase “Let’s go ahead and walk these dogs” is a reference further popularized on hits by Raekwon and Method Man.
#BonusBeat: Earlier this year, Masta Killa told Ambrosia For Heads he grew up one block away from both Big Daddy Kane and Sir Ibu in Brooklyn:
The video erroneously credits another BK Hip-Hop grew, Divine Sounds—which hails from East New York (a place M.K. later called home).
Special thanks to Easy Mo Bee.