The Best Ghostface Killah Albums

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Prepare to feel old, rap fans – in just a few weeks, the Wu-Tang Clan’s landmark debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) will celebrate its TWENTIETH anniversary.

Half of you reading this post were probably 6 or 7 years old when that dropped. Good lord.

Back then, most assumed Method Man’s impeccable delivery would make him the group’s breakout star. Or maybe ODB’s manic personality would put him on top. Later, based on the strength of their debuts, I thought GZA or Raekwon would be Wu’s flagbearer.

We were wrong. Two decades later, that title goes to the Ghostface Killah.

Ghostface, Tony Starks, GFK, Pretty Toney, The Wallaby Champ, Ghostdini, Starky Love – call him whatever you like, just be sure to call him a hip hop icon. He’s one of the most consistent artists in the history of rap, knocking out diverse, quality albums with ease.

But which are the best? Let’s look back at Ghost’s 10 solo releases, excluding his joint efforts like Wu-Block and Wu-Massacre.

Ghostface is the greatest product of the Wu-Tang Clan. And here’s the proof.

10. Bulletproof Wallets (2001)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Every major artist has that one album that’s the black sheep of the bunch. Here’s Ghost’s wooly mammoth. But in hindsight, it’s not bad at all – in fact, it’s pretty good. Diehard fans were disappointed because it was released on the heels of a vastly superior set and because many songs lacked GFK’s trademark charisma and bite. Some mediocre beats didn’t help. But even at half-speed, Ghost is better than most.

Forgotten treasures: “Love Session,” “The Hilton,” “Flowers”

9. Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (2009)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: When word leaked that Ghostface’s 2009 release would feature an R&B sound, many of us assumed the worst. We should have known better – Ghost made his name flowing over soulful production so he sounded perfectly at home here. And the content was well-balanced too – once things got too soft and sweet he quickly ratcheted up the freak factor. It’s not a traditional Ghostface album but it works.

Forgotten treasures: “Stay,” “Guest House,” “Lonely”

8. The Big Doe Rehab (2007)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: This is probably the most overlooked album in Pretty Toney’s discography but by no means should you sleep on it. Ghost’s renowed storytelling is on full display here. From crime sprees to award show galas, Starks’ imagination is at its peak. The only thing it lacks is a signature single.

Forgotten treasures: “Yolanda’s House,” “Yapp City,” “Killa Lipstick”

7. Twelve Reasons to Die (2013)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: Remember what I said about Ghost’s vivid imagination? Along with Adrian Younge, Tone lays down a horror flick on wax. Ghost plays the role of a betrayed gangster who returns from the dead to wreck havoc on his former allies. Blaxploitation meets boom bap and the results are magnificent. The tracks work best as a collective unit and don’t hold up well individually. But as a single piece of work, they’re great.

Forgotten treasures: “The Center of Attraction,” “Blood on the Cobblestones,” “The Sure Shot (Parts 1 and 2)”

6. More Fish (2006)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: The follow-up to Starks’ renowned Fishscale continued the momentum established by its predecessor. This could have easily been a cheap cash-in, forcing fans to shell out $15 for cuts rejected from the main album. Never fear, GFK gave us quality. The soul samples were the perfect soundscapes for Tony N’ Friends’ epic adventures. The abundance of guest stars and lack of cohesion did make this feel more like a mixtape than a true album at times, though.

Forgotten treasures: “Street Opera,” “Blue Armor,” “Alex (Stolen Script)”

5. Apollo Kids (2010)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Raw, unapologetic and visceral. This is how I like my hip hop. It’s no coincidence that the album cover is essentially a rhyme book. After the experimentation of Wizard of Poetry, this album took Ghost back to basics, solely focusing on rock-solid writing and rapid-fire punchlines over scratchy samples. Basically, it’s the building blocks of the Wu itself. At times, the album feels too restrained but for longtime Wu fans, this was a fine return to form.

Forgotten treasures: “Drama,” “In Tha Park,” “Troublemakers”

4. The Pretty Toney Album (2004)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: I understand why some people dislike Wizard of Poetry. And I certainly understand Bulletproof Wallet’s bad rap. But I’ll slap a hater with Toney’s dinner plate medallion if they have something bad to say about this album. It’s GFK’s most unappreciated work and easily one of his best. The concepts are golden: Ghost flirts with Missy Elliott, runs from the cops with Jadakiss and somehow has a rap battle against himself. Top that off with some classic soul samples and it’s a winner. Yeah, the album leans much more mainstream that some of his more signature works but that’s not a bad thing. Stop hating on Pretty Toney.

Forgotten treasures: “Biscuits,” “Holla,” “Beat the Clock”

3. Fishscale (2006)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Sometimes buzz is a bad thing. When hype for an upcoming album looms too large, the finished product often can’t measure up to the sky-high expectations. But in this case, Ghost’s album was even better than what we hoped for. Stellar production from J Dilla, MF DOOM and Pete Rock have helped this album stand the test of time. It’s still one of the best rap releases in the past decade. Believe the hype.

Forgotten treasures: “Jellyfish,” “Whip You With A Strap,” “Crack Spot”

2. Ironman (1996)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Almost two decades later, it’s still hard to top Ghostdini’s debut. It introduced us to the Ghost we’d know and love – a master of soulful introspection, teeth-rattling punchlines and mind-bending storytelling. What really stands out here is that Ghost had no problem sharing his sensitive side, whether fawning over a woman on “Camay” or reminiscing about childhood on “All That I Got Is You.” Sure, he was sentimental but still gritty. It’s an authenticity that’s hard to find in today’s rap.

Forgotten treasures: “Fish,” “Wildflower,” “Assassination Day”

1. Supreme Clientele (2000)

Soul In Stereo rating: 5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Remember the year 2000, where rappers were obsessed with bling and other shiny objects like kittens with ADHD? Well, instead of focusing all his energy on cash and cars, Ghost used that era’s grandiose beats to transform himself into a true ghetto superstar. “Apollo Kids” (the single, not the 2010 album) sounded like the theme for a new millennium blaxploitation character. And I’ll put “Mighty Healthy” up against any rap record ever recorded. It’s one of the best of all time. The album is loud, pompous, yet undeniably soulful. Not only is it one of the best Wu-Tang albums ever produced, it’s one of hip hop’s true gems.

Forgotten treasures: “One,” “Buck 50,” “Wu Banga 101”

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1 Comments

  1. My dude. Ironman #1. Supreme Clientele #2. BULLETPROOF WALLETS #3. Twelve Reasons To Die #4. Fishscale #5. Apollo Kids #6. The Pretty Toney Album #7. More Fish #8. The Big Doe Rehab #9. Ghostdini #10.

    Wake up and smell the Wallys, man. No way did he top his Sony career, even with the tracklisting problems.

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