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​Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage. Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.
Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage. Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.

A Bulletproof Catalog: Ranking Ghostface’s First Five Albums

From his brilliant debut to 2006’s Fishscale, we’ve ranked The Wallabee Champ’s best projects.

Hip-hop’s rich history contains a lot of incredible MCs and artists who deserve to be honored. Today, we celebrate one of the most unique rappers ever, Ghostface Killah, on his 54th birthday. Coming up in the 1990s as a member of the timeless Wu-Tang Clan, Ghost is truly gifted — known just as much for his free-form stream-of-consciousness rap as he was for his vivid street tales and sharing his deep, personal emotions. In short, there’s nothing Ghostface can’t do; his diverse skills only added to his longevity, allowing him to keep his sword sharp decades after his debut. Okayplayer ranks his first five albums (Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Bulletproof Wallets, The Pretty Toney Album and Fishscale) as a nod to Ghost's illustrious career. All five have their strengths, and this goes to show why Ghost is still so beloved; his style and approach change shape throughout the years, without ever losing its essence. Still in love with hip-hop, Ghostface is releasing his latest album, Set The Tone (Guns & Roses) via Mass Appeal Records on May 10th, 2024.

'Bulletproof Wallets' (2001) #5

A more loose and upbeat album than his previous work, Bulletproof Wallets is a departure from Ghostface’s past. The album features a happier Ghost making more songs tailored toward a good night out, than the darkness of street living. The production is even more varied this time around, featuring three beats from The Alchemist as he was turning into a production legend. The album returns closer to Ghost’s roots as it comes closer to the end of its 16-track run. Ghost still has his touch here, but it isn’t in the stratosphere of his first two albums.

Standout songs: “Never Be The Same Again,” “Theodore,” “Ice”

'The Pretty Toney Album' (2004) #4

A truly excellent album, The Pretty Toney Album is Ghostface tying together the flows and approach he perfected on his earlier albums, with the free-flowing fun of Bulletproof Wallets. His beat selection is flawless here, with everything feeling varied and creating a really easy listen. GFK is a gritty street rapper, but at his core, he wants to enjoy life. The Pretty Toney Album is where he perfectly struck that balance. In all reality, Ghost has mastered both sides of his rap persona, and his evolution has been beautiful to watch.

Standout songs: “Beat The Clock,” “Metal Lungies,” “Ghostface” Bonus: “Run”

'Supreme Clientele' (2000) #3

Sophomore slump where? Ghostface’s 2000 sophomore album was incredible and was an evolution of his wild and winding style. Here, Ghost’s storytelling abilities took a leap, and the production was unique, thanks to Ghost bringing in outside producers and letting RZA weave everything together. Rapping over brighter but still gritty beats, Ghost sounded reinvigorated and more thoughtful here. The 4 year gap between Ironmanand Supreme Clientele made one of the most creative rappers of more time, reach even deeper.

Standout songs: “Nutmeg,” “Ghost Deini,” “Mighty Healthy”

'Fishscale' (2006) #2

On Fishscale, Ghostface surprisingly turns back the clock and centers an album around his time hustling. What’s special about this is it doesn’t sound dated or like a veteran rapper trying to get back to his glory days; it’s simply something he wanted to do and pulls off at a very high level. The more R&B-leaning songs are still sprinkled in, but the supremely focused block hustler is still here, a switch he can flip whenever he wants. He has the same hunger he had in 1996, except it's now buoyed with the wisdom of being around for a while. It’s also the “warmest” sounding Ghostface album; there’s a distant familiarity within how each song sounds. GFK outdid himself here.

Standout songs: “R.A.G.U.,” “Clipse of Doom,” “Back Like That”

'Ironman' (1996) #1

Ghostface’s 1996 debut album, Ironman, is one of the greatest rap albums of all time, and further illustrated that Wu-Tang was a crew of talented MC’s with their own style. A seventeen-track voyage through the streets and the abstract thoughts of Ghost, Ironman was a perfect storm of sorts. Incredible RZA production, a fresh and hungry Ghostface, Raekwon rapping at a very high level on his 12 appearances, along with 5 sharp Cappadonna verses. Everyone involved with Ironman’s creation was fully engaged, and cooked up a classic in the process.

Standout songs: “260,” “Daytona 500,” “Motherless Child”