Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ghostface Killah - Fishscale

As a fan of a wide range of hip hop, I try to stay current on everything that comes out fairly close to when it comes out. Then I found that my 20-gig iPod (which is actually 18.55 gigs, greedy Apple bastards) is hovering around 2.5 gigs of free space, which is not as much as it may sound like considering how quickly I went through the 16.05 that are currently occupied. I did all that math in my head, too.

So, I'm playing catch up on what 2006 has had to offer so far. But truthfully, nothing really mattered music-wise until Ghostface's new album got released.

All personal biases aside, this album is the shit. Apparently, 04's The Pretty Toney Album was not well-received (news to me), so Ghost has returned back to his Only Built 4 Cuban Linx steeze, rapping about cocaine, crack, and the process of making the former into the latter. If this is a precursor of what to expect from the forthcoming Raekwon-collaborated Cuban Linx II album coming soon (this year maybe?), then anticipation'll be sky high. Ghost continues to separate himself from the average rap-about-drug-dealing MC (ahem**Jeezy**ahem) with his intense mic presence and vivid attention to detail. On "Crack Spot", you almost feel as if you're standing next to Ghost, watching Woodrow the Basehead fall face-first on the coffee table bleeding after taking a hit of some uncut, 3 rocks falling out of his pipe.

Ghost's ear for production that fits his style is what continues to amaze the most album after album. Just Blaze laces the intense "The Champ", while the late J. Dilla's slow and harmonious "Whip Me With A Strap" has Ghost emotionally reminiscing about getting beat by his mother as a kid. Legendary N.Y. beatsmith Pete Rock produces 3 tracks, bringing out the violins on "R.A.G.U. (Rae & Ghost United)", one of the album's highlights. And, perhaps most surprising considering Ghost's record label (Def Jam), MF Doom, everyone's favorite "hey-look-at-me-I'm-a-fan-of-him-too" artist, produces 4 tracks, including "9 Milli Bros", which features the entire Wu-Tang Clan (RZA's "appearance" being a cut-and-pasted shoutout at the beginning is made up for by Cappadonna referring to himself as "the cab driver"). Although all of Doom's beats had actually been used previously from his less-publicized past, they still sound fresh as they did 5 years ago, Ghost breathing new life into 'em.

The few downsides are easily overlookable considering the overall quality of this album. There's no RZA beats, but most Wu fans have probably come to accept situations like this by now. Some of the better tracks end at about a minute in, like "Beauty Jackson" and "Barbershop", but this has become a staple of Ghostface albums, and with Fishscale at 24 tracks long and 64 minutes, it doesn't compromise the length of the album. "Back Like That" f/ Ne-Yo is expected "1st single" material, and actually becomes listenable after a while; the only bad track on here is, oddly enough, the bonus track "3 Bricks" f/ Raekwon & Biggie (better yet, a rehashed verse of Biggie's), a Biggie Duets leftover not suited for this album.

Heavy on samples and substance, Fishscale is Ghost's best album since... well, since his last one. Quietly one of hip hop's most consistent artists, Ghost has yet to lose a step, and with Cuban Linx II and Swift & Changeable (his album with MF Doom) in the works, he's found a work ethic to match.