Ghost Dog: Hip Hop and Incongruent Elements

Review of: Ghost Dog

Reviewed by:
On May 13, 2014
Last modified:October 30, 2017


An intriguing mixture of ghetto culture, hip hop, mafioso, and traditional samurai code, Ghost Dog is revealing of old and new. It is discordant intentionally, an exposition of hypocrisy, bias and violence.

Hip Hop has always been full of incongruent elements. Everything from disco beats mixed with cartoon audios, to the jarring but head bobbing beats, with horns and piano, of the Wu-tang Clan: Hip Hop has always been about dichotomies and juxtaposition.

Wu-Tang is a definite mixture of incongruent elements in particular: Hard, stripped down beats that seem to mimic the rhythm of a Kung-Fu brawl; music that is a mix of  gangster themes and references to the Shaolin Temple and its 36 Chambers which are levels of the monastery for progressive martial arts training; this metaphor of the 36 Chambers is not just about Shaolin Kung-Fu, it is also related to the chambers of revolvers in the hands of the Wu-Tang crew–Wu is contradictory, rough, hardened, poetic and creative. They are Shaolin priests in the middle of the ghetto.

It’s no mistake that Ghost Dog makes liberal use of RZA’s beats. (It’s also no mistake that RZA contributed to the soundtrack for Tarantino’s Man with the Iron Fists) The out-of-place Samurai in the movie fits well, ironically, with hard-core Wu-Tang beats as a musical back-drop for his clandestine activities. It doesn’t hurt that Italian mobsters bust some PE lyrics too.

After all, that is the flavor of Hip Hop. Celebrating pain and turning deprivation into style, with sagging pants and wife-beaters. Hip Hop is all about the contradiction.

Cash Rules Everything Around Me, the Wu-Tang song could have been an appropriate mantra for Ghost Dog: Except Ghost Dog is about honor and the Samurai code, in the middle of the ghetto, as he’s being hunted by the mafia who are taking care of family and business. The contrasts abound.

Just as Wu combines the gangster, the ghetto and martial arts, Ghost Dog combines the mafia, the hood and the Samurai code.


Ghost Dog: “The Bear” from Kristian Thompson on Vimeo.

Ghost Dog is Hip Hop.

Featured Image: By MikaV (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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