How Ghostface Killah helped break my puzzling relationship with reissues

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I finished the puzzle
  • I finished the puzzle
I dedicated a sizable chunk of my most recent In Rotation entry to a playable Biz Markie postcard—it's got grooves on it so you can slap it on a record player, drop the needle, and enjoy Biz's "Just a Friend." Boston label Get On Down released the postcard along with a picture-disc reissue of 1989's The Biz Never Sleeps, and I got so wrapped up in the entire package I went out and snapped up a copy of it as soon as I could. That was nearly three months ago, and I'm still so entranced by the aesthetic of that postcard I have yet to actually listen to it; part of the reason is because I'm waiting for the right moment, but I also fear ruining the thing I cherish by playing it.

I'm often quite taken by the very concepts the people behind Get On Down put into their physical releases, and at times that awe translates into a paralysis that prevents me from experiencing the actual music in the packages. Last month I spent a good chunk of time marveling the lavish physical design of the label's reissue of Nas's classic 1994 album, Illmatic. The CD-version comes in a shiny cherrywood outer shell, which after years of being bombarded with ads for Kay Jewelers one might assume contains a 24-karat diamond necklace. It's an impressive design that reflects Illmatic's place in the rap canon as an Important-with-a-capital-I album, but its lavishness has kept me from touching it too much.

Fortunately I haven't run into the same issue with the imprint's latest reissue—Ghostface Killah's solo debut, Ironman. Or at least part of it. Get On Down is rolling out a big package to commemorate the rerelease of Ironman, which includes a puzzle of the album artwork. I couldn't wait to get my hands on that puzzle as soon as I received it.

Once I got a block of time to hunker down and solve the puzzle I turned on Ironman and got to work; I completed it about 31 minutes later, which is roughly the time it takes to reach the beginning of Ironman's 11th track, "Daytona 500." Part of me wants to frame the completed puzzle, but I know that this is one thing I'll want to break out and play with more than once.

Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.

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