Fishscaling: "9 Milli"

I'll be stepping up the Fishscaling here in the next few weeks, because Ghostface Killah is dropping the sequel to his Fishscale on December 19 (same day as Nas' eagerly anticipated Hip Hop is Dead). This new one will be called More Fish. My task, perhaps Herculean but worth the reward, is to finish translating Fishscale before the 19th and jump on in with the sequel. Who's with me?

So.

Track 6 is called "9 Milli," slang, of course, for a nine-millimeter handgun. It features all members of the Wu-Tang Clan, though unfortunately RZA only makes a cameo in the intro as the narrator. It's a big loss, but the sheer epicness of the track makes up for it.

"9 Milli" is Fishscale's Greek dialogue, a rich conversation among a chorus of voices. The RZA, a.k.a. Bobby Digital, introduces the chorus at the opening of the song, and they are the Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to RZA, they are: Ghostface Killah; U-God; Raekwon the Chef; the Inspektah Deck; Method Man; Masta Killa; and the GZA; the late, lamented Ol' Dirty Bastard, rises from the Great Beyond to address his brothers. Angel ODB (a.k.a. the Blessed Big Baby Jesus) has troubles with his headphones at first, can barely make his voice heard through the gauze of the afterlife. But it doesn't seem to matter, because the members of the chorus don't seem to hear his voice, either. It's as though the recording was simultaneously recorded in both this life and the afterlife.


Despite the song's relative brevity (4:14), the Wu-Tang Chorus manages to tackle in quick, multisyllabic machine-gun rhymes a number of issues, from compassion to pride, from temptation to regret, from vengeance to patience.

Ol' Dirty Bastard: Turn up the headphones. Can you hear me? Cappadonna: Hello, Ghostface. Ghostface Killah: Hello, Cappadonna. ODB: I think you're going to have to turn the headphones all the way up. Ghostface: You know how we do it. Cappadonna: Let's get this together. Ghostface: You are correct. Cappadonna: Let's go, fellas! ODB: Can the headphones go any higher? Ghostface: We're about to do some Wu-Tang stuff. Cappadonna: Wu-Tang Clan! Ghostface: Okay, I will provide the hook right here. ODB: Please turn the headphones up. Ghostface: I am about to discuss the Wu-Tang Clan. Cappadonna: The Wu-Tang Clan. RZA: Let's hear it for Ghostface Killah! Ghostface: I will recite the hook for you first. Check this out.

Ghostface steps up to the microphone to address his people.

Ghostface: The guns are hidden. Money is very important to us. We have women, some young and golden, which tempt our audiences. I see men in the auditorium that have stolen ideas from me. Well I am a singer and a dancer, and we will live forever. We have the Answer. And I would do everything the same. I will not draw my weapon.

He steps back, looks down, then returns to the microphone.

Be nice to crackheads! Pay attention! I shot one of my prostitutes because she wasn't pretty enough. Glory to Cappadonna who appeared in movies, "tapping dustbones out with starwriters like I fucked Celine Dion." [note: untranslatable -- and why mess with perfection?] I made love to everything, and that's the truth. We are identifying all thiefs, that's just who we are: Official Wu-Tang Clan Headbangers. We will flood your homes with big waves, and you, anchorless, will wash away!

Raekwon the Chef: I drink gallons of fine Champagne, I am the star of the show. Lesser men are making money selling shoes and clothes. One has a big yellow head with a matching hat, he's holding a gun. On the streets these men recite their oratories for free. But when we arrive and recite our oratories, you pretend to be our equals. Our lines arrive digitally, and even though we all have received our share of injuries, I am very much alive and recuperating. Two of my hardiest men will walk through your packs of wolves, and it will not faze them. Me, I'm relaxed, sipping Cognac, and have a pile of crack rocks.

The Angel Old Dirty Bastard, winged and floating, arrives in the form of his alter-ego, Dirt McGirt.

Dirt McGirt: Can you hear me? Is this thing on? I am Dirt McGirt! I am holding a very solid Smith & Wesson. It has five bullets in it. But after I shoot it, your head will look like a Shaolin monk's, and it will have six holes in it! Brooklyn Zoo!

Dirt McGirt floats to the side.

Cappadonna: Osama Bin Laden has returned! Grab your armor. We will smash the pretty boys, crush their karma. We will join the alligators in eating bones. My entourage rolls deep; we are all just out of jail. One of us, Cappadonna, while at the peak of his fame, dispossessed himself of all of his material possessions and became a cab driver. If you drop him off in the middle of a gunfight, he and the rest of us will have to drag all the bodies back to Staten Island. Me, I knock men out, hurt my hand.

Method Man: I recall in our youth we used to play a game called corners in the elevators of the housing project. Now when we rap on the corners of Staten Island, the police show up to watch us. There is a war in Staten Island; it's so bad the court system has run out of warrants. People are running from their Ford Tauruses. (I love a woman named Lucy because she is lawless.) Squealers better swallow your tongues, because you know which island I am from. You don't want any problems from Staten Islanders.

Genius: We have a record full of quick victories and conceptual breakthroughs. It's no mystery why: Vision. We have a history of lightning victories. We are rap czars, and we provide magnificent flows for all of your daily needs. From Asia to the city, from the West to the hills, we write incredible verse, and encourage skill. Even when we arrive in small groups, our verses are enormous. We hit fast and effortlessly. Other orators run away by the dozen, especially those susceptible to heat and shock.

Inspektah Deck: We are grinding down to the bone. My name is etched in stone. They call me Mr. Violence, and I am hanging with someone named Chrome. I stay at his home, and then go to Rome. I shine like $100,000 stones. I move mountains with my poems, and have a craving for money. In my songs, I throw elbows. The ladies cling to me, for sure. I know royalty, but still I choose to live in Queens.

Masta Killa: We are wild like rock stars who smash guitars! Toast that guy, but then spit in his face, because he's pretending to be Ghostface Killah when he's not. We're not fooling! Shoot him, take a toke of a blunt, then shoot his throat. Before the marijuana takes effect, watch the killing, note the crime scene, especially the fallen body. His eyes are still open from the shock of being shot in the neck! He still has a lit cigarette between his fingertips. See? There is danger when you step into the chamber with the master. Disaster. I have to shoot you -- because I have to!

U-God: We are the rat pack, and we have returned from Staten Island. We will leave you cursed, because you worship the gun. Hey, the first one to get drunk on Smirnoff vodka has to shoot the bouncer's ear off. And let the DJ scratch! He's handcuffed to the turntables like Grand Wizard Theodore. My cocaine is pure; let it rain from the sky! Kill that man with the gun that's hanging from your trousers. If you don't want adventure, stay away from me, because I am on fire! Most take one look at me and run away fast!

-Randall Roberts


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