Circa 2001, Ghostface’s output was dominated by inspired metaphorical whimsy. Excised from the U.S. retail version of Bulletproof Wallets, “The Sun,” (featuring RZA, Raekwon, and Slick Rick) boasts happily insistent sampled horns (sometimes misattributed to The Stylistics or Sonny & Cher) that cleverly mirror the levity and profundity cohabiting in the verses. Ghost honors the life-giving, inspirational qualities of earth’s closest star through secular ode (noting the sun’s kiss as “scrumptious” and “nutritious”), religious incantation (citing “This Little Light of Mine,” a gospel children’s song turned Civil Rights anthem), and a hilariously botched science lesson.
Ghostface Killah "The Sun"
LISTEN – Ghostface Killah ft. Raekwon, Slick Rick, RZA “The Sun”
The song takes a turn towards genius, however, when the self-described Muslim (with Five Percenter sympathies) personifies the sun as the truest street warrior who “could never be pussy,” reliably coming out of hiding even at gunpoint. The normally stoic Rakewon then complicates this concept by cheerfully relating his nephew’s enthusiasm for the sun, suggesting that sunshine is best enjoyed following study and refinement, but couching the advice in familiar fatherly terms that still hearken back to NOI/NGE street ministry (“probably if you clean up and read a little”). Ghost’s sense that shining divinity is perceivable in “pictures and scriptures” but also within one’s immutable self is bolstered by Raekwon’s assertion that “you always see one in a building.”
In these utterances, the mundane transforms into the heavenly, and the similarities between the Five Percenter conflation of “Sun” and “Son” (claimed by KRS-One and other to have its origins in a Christian subversion of ancient Egyptian Cosmology) and Protestant (as well as Islamic mystic) notions of an inner transcendent light are rendered momentarily apparent. Ghost and Rae deftly utilize a mixture of Christian and Five Percenter concept to describe a “mentor” figure who is “one in a million,” and demands uplift (“makes me wanna climb, take a bite out of shine”) but can also be associated with the promise and purity of childhood – the Son/Sun of man, the “understanding,” the stars, the “best part,” etc. A future messianic figure, for sure, but far from a vaporous angelic being, more like your brother or firstborn son.
Slick Rick and RZA continue in a similar manner, with the former theorizing the sun as a gateway to the heavens as well as a complement to domestic bliss and the latter paraphrasing (in a stupefying show of eclecticism I might add) both the Lost-Found Lessons and the lyrics to “The Candy Man” to illustrate his sense of the Sun/Son as the architect of a universal order (exemplified by the water cycle). Thus, while “The Sun” sits squarely within a tradition of rap artists (Sunz Of Man, King Sun, etc.) and rap songs that make reference to the word’s symbolic associations (think the Roy Ayers sampling “Wake Up [Reprise In The Sunshine]” by Brand Nubian or Funkdoobiest’s “Rock On”), as well as a broader Black musical legacy that makes use of celestial motifs, it is also notable for its strangeness and brilliance.
And it remains a worthwhile listen some years later. — Thun