Ghostface Killahs (released Sept. 6, 2019)
I have one great regret in my life in the past couple weeks.
And no, it has nothing to do with Popeyes telling y’all to bring your own bread to their stores to recreate their chicken sandwich. That’s just sad.
Nah, it’s that I haven’t carved out time to watch Wu-Tang: An American Saga on Hulu yet. The miniseries focuses on the rise of arguably the greatest rap group of all time and it’s getting rave reviews.
So it’s no surprise that the Wu’s greatest ambassador is using this opportunity to fly the Iron Flag high once again.
Ghostface Killah isn’t just the most consistent (and successful) solo member of the Wu, he’s one of the most consistent artists in the rap game period. More than a dozen solo LPs, seven joint LPs, countless features – while most artists of his generation struggle to drop one album every five years, Ghost seemingly delivers a new album every six months. See what I mean?
GFK proves to be the hardest working man in the Wu with Ghostface Killahs, lucky no. 13 in his list of solo LPs. And in the vein of the Hulu series, he decided to go cinematic this time around.
To promote the album, Ghost unleashed a three-part mini-movie, featuring the tracks “Conditioning,” “Party Over Here” and “Pistol Smoke.” In an era where videos aren’t being played endlessly on BET and radio ignores anyone without a Ty Dolla Sign feature, it’s a smart way to promote.
“Conditioning” is probably the star here. Though its runtime is very brief, Ghost’s rough bars juxtapose nicely over the absurdly lighthearted beat. It’s like Ghost is freestyling while wandering through one of those 16-bit towns in Final Fantasy. “Party Over Here” is true to its name, feeling like one of those thumping, gritty hood party tracks from the early 2000s. It’s got Rap City Top 10 written all over it. “Pistol Smoke” is the odd man out of the trio – the beat is harder than the Hulk’s callouses but Solomon Childs’ hook is a bit too repetitive.
Don’t worry, Ghostface Killahs has more to offer. “Me, Denny and Darryl” is a classic Wu posse cut, with Pretty Tone, Cappadonna and Method Man going for the six-man championship. Meth goes IN:
Make ’em sing, this is not Sopranos, y’all, don’t make a scene
Making cream, how I make it up without the Maybelline?
Can’ with the laser beam, your favorite team’s
Not the playground to play around with, just try and take a swing
Nahmean? It’s not a seesaw battle
Not the bridge you wanna travel
‘Cause your life expectancy on the Verrazzano is narrow
“Flex” features Ghost really feeling himself, which allows him to dive into his over-the-top storytelling, which never fails to entertain:
Them Caribbean seminars, he flashy like menopause
Bet you get hit with the best shot like Pat Benatar
The Oscar winner, his collar is knitted with linen
His jeans, you can consider it illiterate denim
Fish tank so big even the babies can swim in
Ghostface Killahs is a very abbreviated listen – just over a half hour – which means there can’t be much room for error. Unfortunately things slow down on the second half. “Waffles and Ice Cream” is an obvious hat tip to Raekwon’s classic “Ice Cream” but despite really nice production it feels a little bit too much like a bite instead of a tribute – probably because Ghosts repurposes several lines from the original. Likewise, “The Chase” feels like a lesser clone of 2004’s “Run.” And while I love when the Wallabee Champ embraces his blaxploitation side, “New World” never really gets out of first gear. Also, where in the world did he dig up Eamon from?
The album certainly could have used a little bit more experimentation, like the album closer “Soursop.” Ghost sounds like a natural riding those Jamaican riddims. It’s a cool change of pace.
Ghostface Killahs winds up being a fun but slightly inconsistent listen. Not everything hits the mark, but there’s plenty here for Wu fans to embrace.
Regardless, it’s more proof that Ironman ain’t slowing down anytime soon.
Best tracks: “Conditioning,” “Me Denny and Darryl,” “Party Over Here”
3.5 stars out of 5