Michael Jordan's head rested on Scottie Pippen's chest with his arms around Pippen's torso and Pippen's right arm over Jordan's shoulder as they walked to bench with seconds remaining in game five of the 1997 NBA Finals. A game where Jordan played 44 minutes and scored 39 points after waking up the previous night nauseated and sweating profusely. It was Jordan's defining game, known as The Flu Game.
Ghostwridah's Flu Game may come to be the defining point in the 29 year old's career when the pressures of creating a hit-single takes and touching on some of Miami's favorite subjects, Bugattis, Versace and making it rain at King of Diamonds and LIV, take a back-seat to settling into his place in Miami's rising hip-hop scene.
More than a month removed from the release of Flu Game, the Miami emcee speaks with Crossfade about battling Pitbull, his relationship with his father, his life changing conversation with DJ Don Cannon, working with Lowkey, the New Miami scene and, of course, MJ.
Crossfade: Before we get into anything, I want to ask you about this one guy. Tell me about Ciph Murda.
Ghostwridah: Ciph Murda, wow. Damn, I don't even know how you found that. Ciph Murda, he was a relentless battle, crazy rapper individual. He was the total opposite of who this guy Ghostwridah is. Very ambitious, very driven, yet very hungry, and ready to attack and tear anybody's head off at any second. He and Pitbull actually went at it a couple of times.
Really? Tell me about these battles.
It was lunchtime, South Miami Senior High. I could remember the period before lunch having butterflies in my stomach because I knew how talented he was and there was this rumor going around the school that he had battled Drag-On, which actually turned out to be true.
We had a crowd of maybe 30, 40 people in the hall way and two individuals in the middle of this cypher, this circle. I remember looking into his eyes and he looked at me as if he wanted to kill me. I knew that wasn't the case but it was so intense that it felt like a fight without touching one another. It felt like a real boxing match. I remember this one line where he said, and I'll never forget this, there's this parking lot in South Miami, this small little parking lot and it's called The Creek, this is where all the gangsters come out, all the dudes that cut dice and all the street guys went out there. Some people got banned from The Creek. You weren't allowed to go out there. I remembered he knew that. He used it against me. He was like, "When I open my mouth you be quiet when I speak nigga. Everybody knows you aint a Creek nigga, you a weak nigga." And everybody just went crazy. Everybody was like, "Ohhhh." I was so mad. He pulled my card.
I never got a chance til this day how bad he embarrassed me. But I definitely will when I see him, when I finally catch up to him. I'm sure we'll share the stage one day, and I'm definitely going to tell him how badly he embarrassed me and I think I want my battle still. I want my battle still. I'm dead serious. I can't die knowing that he embarrassed me that bad in front 30, 40 of my peers and I never got a chance to get my get back. He still owes me a battle. My brother, but he still owes me one.
This is Pitbull when he had braids.
That's exactly who that was - Pitbull with the braids. I'm going take you back before that. This is when he was growing his hair. He had the braids at the end. He didn't have the braids yet. He had a low, low, low-boy. He started growing his hair at the end of the year. He used to wear Timbs to school everyday. Timbs and shorts.
If Ciph Murda was a hungry and determined individual, then what does that make Ghostwridah?
Even more hungry but smarter, wiser. Same heart, just a bit more understanding of how life works. When you're young you feel like life owes you. Just because I'm here I feel like somebody's got to give it to me because I'm nice, because I'm talented, but that's not the case, you know. You really have to work.
Tell me about your life altering discussion you had with DJ Don Cannon.
He just told me, "Look man, just rap. Don't abandon your hip-hop roots, just rap. Don't fall subject to the single talk to where you have to have a hit major record to proceed, but just rap." And he told me, "What you're doing right now is the right thing and a lot of rappers don't know what the right thing is. They just go out and make music and they pop bottles and they rap about how many bitches they got and how many cars they drive, but they don't know what the right thing is. And when you're a hip-hop artist the right thing to do is stay true to hip-hop."
That discussion he had with me on South Beach one day was like, it just changed a lot for me because I felt like I needed a single so bad. That was my biggest thing. I'd sit with so many labels and I sat with them and the deals that I almost did with them all revolved around the single, the single, the single. So my team and I almost started to change the way we made music because we were trying to fit the criteria the labels wanted in order to get that major budget open.
Your father is Super Bowl Champion Mercury Morris. What is your relationship like with him now?
It's cool man. At this age we're still getting to know each other. My father, you could understand, when you're on top of the world and you're a two-time Super Bowl champ and you're young it's a lot of different things that's being thrown at you everyday. Women, the lifestyle, the drugs. I'm sure it was a lot that he was faced with that prohibited him from being the kind of father I needed when I was a kid. So, I don't blame him. I don't look at him like he owes me something.
Right now we're just still working on our relationship. We're working to be father and son. We're working to rehatch what we lost when I was a kid.
On "Turn My Back" you said you had no parents to guide you. Why is that?
Those verses weren't about me. I was more so a reporter. When you hear those verses, those lines in there, it wasn't per say about my life. It was more about the individuals in the inner city that go through this every day. These are stories that people don't really tell, that people don't really hear about in hip-hop. You're so busy hearing about he Mollies, the bottles and the bitches. You don't get a chance to hear these true stories that go on in these neighborhoods and I think that "Turn My Back" was one of those records that I felt like I just wanted to sit behind the camera as a reporter and report live what I know and what I see what goes on in the neighborhoods. It wasn't more so about me because my mother was there for me very much so.
What's your first memory of Michael Jordan?
I'd seen him on an Upper Deck card and I'd already known he was some huge entity when I was a little boy but I just didn't realize how big. And I'd seen him on an Upper Deck card and he looked like he was flying. It was crazy. I don't know if it was some slam dunk competition or he was just in stride dunk, but he was just floating in the air and I remember being a kid looking at the card like, "Wow. Is it possible a human being can actually fly," because they called him Air Jordan.
What do you remember about the "Flu Game"?
I was so distraught when I seen him play because he was leaning on Scottie Pippen like this might be his last breath, and it was just really scary. That's what stuck out to me the most. I was really afraid for him.
What was your reaction when you heard about Michael Jordan's former trainer, Tim Grover, say it was food poisoning and MJ didn't have the flu?
My first reaction was like, "Damn, you're fucking up my theme." But then again, I didn't trip because it's all speculation. I wasn't there. If Michael said it was the flu then it was the flu. Michael speaks it's holy grail.
What was the reason for the censorship bleep on "Hall Of Fame"?
I won't speak on who the name was, but the reason I put that bleep there because there's a lot of people, again, remember I told you this project is a hand-crafted shoe, a one size fits-all shoe, and there a couple of individuals that know their name should be there. I didn't want to put just one individual. I bleeped it out so that it's subjective. Now it's like no one knows who I'm talking about. And then a couple of people might think that it's about them, now they're talking. The people are talking. And they're like, "Who's he talking about?" I was able to cast a wide net and grab all of the individuals who I felt I had, not really issues with, but something to address.
What's your relationship like with Lowkey because there's no project without some involvement by Lowkey?
Lowkey is a really good friend of mine. I go to his house. We bar-be-que. He's one of my closest friends. He's my partner. I feel like there is no Ghostwridah sound without Lowkey, because he gets it. He knows my BPM. He knows what I sound best on. He knows what snare I like, what kick I like. What feeling I like when I want to bring out an emotional record. What strings to use. Me and him have developed such a great rapport that he knows to the point that I don't eve have to speak sometimes. Sometimes if I'm not around and someone has to make a decision based on something he'll say, "Ghost won't do that." And then they'll say, "I'm sure he'll do that." He's like, "No, he won't do that." And then they'll give it to me and I won't do it because he knew.
He understands that I'm not making music to get rich, but that I want to make history. And if you make history writes the biggest checks. We'll have the most money if we make history.
Him knowing what you what you like or what you make not like doesn't put you in a box and prevent you from going outside of your comfort zone while keeping yourself original?
Not really because when we want to step outside the box like we did with Flu Game, Flu Game sounds totally different from the rest of our projects, and when we want to step outside we'll have that discussion first. When we grow we grow together. In doing something different and growing out of it we know we have a particular temp we like.
If you're Shaq and you're almost seven feet, nine times out of 10 sitting in that 360 Ferrari is not going to be comfortable for you. You look like an idiot in it. You want to make sure you do something that's going to suit you best. I look at that with everything in life. I don't necessarily call it a comfort zone. I feel that it doesn't take us out of the creative space that we're in, but I just feel like he knows what I like the best. And he knows even if we do move on, we switch sounds, he knows what I like inside of this new sound.
Going back to you saying about needing to make singles and hits in order to gain recognition and not really doing music that you want to do. With Flu Game, that seems to have changed especially after Downtown Lights. Downtown Lights shows that you were getting more into the music you wanted to create but still doing more songs about wealth, bravado, and you seemed to have humbled yourself more with Flu Game. What happened in between these projects?
It's just growth, man. If you listen to all of my projects they all stem from what I'm through at the moment or what friends of mine may be going through or what the city is going through. I look at what I did with In Love With My Future to right now, to the Flu Game, and all of these projects sound different. They all sound like my life at that moment. And when I was signed to Poe Boy, when I was making Downtown Lights that was my life at that moment. I'm driving Bentley GTs, I'm around Flo Rida and some of the biggest stars in the world. I'm at the Playboy mansion. I was in that mode. So much so that it's scary because you can get sucked up in it. Nothing wrong with being successful and driving a nice a car and having a nice home, but at the end of the day you just don't want to lose sight of what's important which is the music.
You have a pretty good relationship with MAYDAY. Many look at you as the beginning of New Miami. Now there are younger guys coming out. Groups like Da Camp, Raider Klan, Flight School Preps, ArtKlub who are united together in order to push each other's music and have done events, but you haven't been a part of it.
I see them working. The only person I really know form the Raider Klan that I speak to when I bump into is a guy by the name of Lil Champ. And I like homie. I listen to his stuff and I like how confident he is. He believes in himself more than anybody does. He doesn't really care whether you believe in him or not.
There's not a situation where there's no love for them or anything like that. I just do what I do. I'm not a trendy rapper. I don't have this Miami buddy system situation going where I feel like I'm out and about trying to make music with every single Tom, Dick and Harry in the city. I have a goal, a vision and a plan, and it starts with me and it ends with me. I just stick to my crew. That's not to say I wouldn't respect or appreciate or support anything else in this city, because whatever comes out of Miami I try to make sure I support it if I can.
A lot of major cities right now, their hip-hop scene seems to me growing in a new direction. In California you have Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q. In New York you have the A$AP crew and Joey BADA$$. In Detroit you have Danny Brown and Jon Connor. Chicago has Rockie Fresh. You have guys in the south like Travis $cott in Houston. Where is Miami or South Florida in all this?
Tough to say. Miami is a really trendy city, man. One thing that we don't do well in this city is support each other. My first sold out show wrapped around the corner was in New York. When I thought about that and I put it in perspective I was like, "Wow. Why didn't that occur in my own city first?" But Miami is just not that city. I tried to unify the city. That phrase "New Miami" came from me. I started that. And that's what it was about. And I see these young kids now, these 18-year-old kids like, "New Miami. We got a new revolution. We started this." And I look at it and I'm like, "Damn. You don't even know what the New Miami means."
I started that movement because I felt like there were so many camps and circles outside of the state of Florida banding together and making incredible music and making noise, and I felt like if I started this movement, me and my team, that we could do the same thing. We could have as much success because there's a lot of talent here in Miami. But I just stopped because the city, these guys are, they're different man. I don't know what it is in Miami. I don't know if it's something in the water. I don't know if it stems back from the Uncle Luke days, it's just different. We don't support each other the way we should.
But they are. If you say they don't support each other, there was an event a few weeks ago at Finnegan's and all of these guys were together. If you feel that nobody is supporting each other, why wouldn't you take an initiative to show support with an event such as this?
Well, I have. And when I say they don't support each other I mean not as in us hip-hop artists don't support each other, I mean as the consumers in the city don't support the hip-hop artists. You named all those guys, right? Put on a show at Revolution Live and good luck with packing that show out unless there's a J. Cole headlining.
Without bring a major headlining act it's difficult for these people to come out of their houses for you no matter how talented you are. They just don't do it.
Have you been successful?
If you ask me by my own terms, no. If from the outside looking in, from my fans and my neighborhood's perspective, I've made it. But in my mind all of the successes that I've had they don't make me successful. They're just spurts. I feel like the moment I feel successful it's over for me. So I never look at myself like I'm successful.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Successful is Summer Jam with Michael Jackson. That's amazing. That's Jay-Z. But, I got a long way to go before I could say I'm successful.
Download: Ghostwridah's Flu Game
-- Lee Castro