Ghostface Killah is my favorite artist and rapper of all time, and in the wake of attending my 7th concert, I decided to take a trip down memory lane by perusing (and reviewing) his extensive discography.
First up is:
I was about 15 and not fully into rap when Ironman was released. I knew who Ghostface Killah was because I remember ripping a colorful wallaby-filled Ironman cover ad, out of Vibe magazine and taping it to the front of my Chemistry notebook in high school. “Cream” had been my first real introduction to the Wu-Tang Clan in 1994, one year after I’d moved to this country from the island of Jamaica. At the time, I was still heavily into R&B. A couple years later when my appetite for Hip Hop and Rap was at a high point, I begged my neighbor ‘B’ to borrow his Ironman CD. I’d heard the song “Camay” and fallen head over heels in love with it. To make a long story short, he never lent me the CD and for a few years Ghostface fell off my radar…but not forever. I officially purchased the album in 2008 and it blew me away. His rhyming style was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Each track was hella exciting, well produced, and not to mention, razor sharp! The album was also very cohesive with a strong unifying theme (I love that!) and it featured excerpts from cool movies and entertaining skits. There were no other albums like it when it was released. No other artists, except those in his own crew, were doing what Ghostface was doing. This album blazed a new trail and is one of my favorites today.
Supreme Clientele (2000)
Supreme Clientele was the next album that Ghostface released. I wrote about my initial reaction to it in this post. Once I heard this album, I was knocked out….completely! I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is without a doubt my favorite Ghostface album EVER. I can listen to it from beginning to end, without skipping one song. The theme is super creative and I love how all the tracks come together to paint a vivid picture. The production, is impeccable and Ghostface’s lyrics are savory and almost unearthly. It doesn’t even matter that you can’t understand what he’s saying. All that matters is how fantastic the tracks sound. They are so addictive that you can’t help but find yourself thinking about them when you’re not listening to them. And you can’t help but smile or chuckle when you think of the hilarious “Woodro the Basehead” skit. There are so many amazing moments on this album. Supreme Clientele is a triumph; a rare jewel, that should be regarded by all as one of the best rap albums of this decade.
Bullet Proof Wallets (2001)
Bullet Proof Wallets was the follow up to Supreme Clientele. This album came out while I was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. This was an exciting time in my life. I was so thrilled to hear this album that I walked up to the enormous HMV at 32nd and Broadway between classes to purchase a copy. I had a portable CD player then and I remember being so excited peeling the wrapping off the CD. I had high expectations for this album and I wasn’t disappointed at all. From the first track to the last track it was a solid album. “Maxine” and “The Forest” both tickled my fancy and I really connected with “Walking Through the Darkness”. Other standouts were “Strawberry”, which is undoubtedly the sexiest and smuttiest Ghostface song every written and “The Hilton” featuring Ghost’s right hand man Raekwon. This album also had a lot of radio friendly tracks on it like “Never Be The Same Again” featuring Carl Thomas and “Love Session” featuring Ruff Endz. I’m shocked it didn’t do better than it did and that to this day, it has not been certified Gold. I mean, damn… this was a decent album.
The Pretty Toney Album (2004)
For this album, Ghostface switched record labels. This was his first baby at his new home, Def Jam. The Pretty Toney Album deemed by many as more of a tragedy than a triumph, had both its good and bad moments. One of the lowest, worst, most horrible moments, was the Missy assisted “Tush”. I can’t begin to go into how awful this song was. Okay, I am over-exaggerating but I really think it slightly ruined the album. “Save Me Dear” is one of my favorites. It’s so bouncy and catchy you can’t help but sing along. But it is track 12 entitled, “Holla” that is the true gem of this album. Ghostface pours out everything he’s got on this 3 minute and 19 second opus. The skits on this album are markedly better too, namely “Kunta Fly Shit”. You almost wish they were songs instead of just short skits. The Pretty Toney Album gets a solid 8 out of a 10 from me.
Fishscale is probably the Ghostface album that I enjoy listening to the most. I really connected with it very strongly. Unfortunately I haven’t seen Ghostface perform many songs from it during his live shows. I have no idea why because I think it is AMAZING. From “Shakey Dog” to “The Champ” to “RAGU” to “Big Girl”, all of the songs on this album awaken an emotion. I love the use of the Dell’s “I can sing a rainbow” on “Shakey Dog”. I am also enamored with the enchanting beat on “RAGU” and the amusing tale Ghost spins on that track. The J Dilla produced ‘Whip me with a strap” and “Beauty Jackson” add dimension to an already impressive album. I really think Ghost should be proudest of this album because it achieves the same thing Supreme Clientele did. It ushers in a new wave of exciting, cutting-edge sound while managing to stay coherent. It also went Platinum, so kudos to Ghostface for that. This is the Ghostface that I love the most; a seamless melding of grimy and gangster with a shot of introspection and spontaneity.
More Fish (2006)
Ghostface should have probably stopped the “Fish” theme right after Fishscale but he felt he had more jewels to share. Unfortunately not too many of them appear on More Fish. This album suffered from a lack of cohesiveness and too much Theodore Unit. Bogged down with horrible skits and too many throw away songs you almost wish Ghost hadn’t released it. Don’t get me wrong though. It wasn’t all bad. There are a few good songs like “Street Opera “featuring his son, Sun God, “Josephine”, “You know I’m no good” and “Alex (Stolen Script)”.
The Big Doe Rehab (2007)
This album heralded in a new Ghostface. The callous, hardcore, gun toting Ghostface that we only caught brief glimpses of on other albums was fully present on this go around. I was shocked when I heard “Walk Around”, an impressive little ditty about Ghostface shooting a man in the head at close range. The story telling on that track is amazing, as well as Ghost’s dialogue with himself. Also notable were “Yolanda’s house”. “Killa Lipstick” “Rec Room Therapy” and “Shakey Dog featuring Lolita.” I hadn’t expected this type of album from Ghostface. This was his darker alter ego and I really dug it. Ghostface is always evolving as an artist, which keeps the music fresh and his fans happy!
Ghostdini: The wizard of poetry in Emerald City (2009)
Honestly, I didn’t like Ghostdini:The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City when I heard it the first time. I thought it was much too soft. I wasn’t feeling it at all because I thought it was obviously geared towards females. I still can’t fully say that I love it 100%, but I do like it a lot. I’m a big fan of the way the tension builds in “Guesthouse” (featuring Fabolous), and I’m always touched when I hear “Lonely”. It’s a strong album all in all and the only skippable track is the cringe worthy “Stapleton Sex”, because who wants to hear a song where Ghost raps about having sex in overly graphic detail more than once? There were some funny moments in that song..like at the end where he says he needs a cigarette, and his lover says, “you don’t smoke nigga”. Ghost nonchalantly answers, “Oh yeah, I forgot”.( LOL) “Do Over” is another treat as well as the radio single “Baby” and the rousing, “Stay”. “Forever” is my favorite track on the album. The beat is great and so is the message.
Apollo Kids (2009)
It took me a while to connect with Apollo Kids which was released in 2010. I felt like it was released with little fanfare and I don’t remember seeing a lot of promotion for it. I don’t believe it got much press either and I thought there was something kind of backwards about that. He named an album after one of the best tracks on Supreme Clientele, so naturally the expectation was that the album would have been bangin’ too. But I don’t think it lived up to the hype. I didn’t listen to it until late last year, and I wasn’t overly impressed. Don’t get me wrong though. There are some noteworthy tracks, namely “Purified Thoughts” and “Black Tequila” which features Cappadonna and Trife. I’m such a huge fan of Cappadonna. He bodies most of the tracks he appears on, and this was no exception. “Drama” featuring Joell Ortiz and The Game, was dope as well and the Pete Rock produced, “How you Like me Baby” is very satisfying and catchy. My final verdict on this album is that it deserves a 7 out of 10 but maybe that will change if I listen to it some more.
Twelve Reasons To Die, 2013
Twelve Reasons to Die is Ghostface Killah’s tenth studio album. I didn’t see this album coming at all. It kind of blindsided me to tell you the truth. I remember being on Twitter on the morning of April 16th, 2013 and seeing Ghostface tweet about his new album! I screamed, dropped whatever I was doing, and quickly signed on to Spotify so that I could listen to it. The first track, “Beware of the Stare” was jaw-dropping! I must have played it back to back 20 times before being able to move on to the next song. The concept of the album was so ill! “The album’s story is set in 1960s Italy and centers around the character of Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah). He is an enforcer for the DeLuca crime family, who is murdered by his former employers after striking out on his own and falling in love with the kingpin’s daughter. His remains are melted in vinyl and pressed into a dozen LPs that, when played, resurrect him as the Ghostface Killah, a force for revenge incarnate….”
The music on this album is UNBELIEVABLE mostly due to the production skills of Adrian Younge who crafted the sound for the majority of the project. My favorite tracks on the album are “I Declare War“, and “The Center of Attraction” featuring Cappadonna. The latter track stirs up something in me every time I hear it. Ghostface’s lyrics are stirringly heartfelt and unfiltered. He pours out his heart in an incredible fashion as he raps about his perfect girl. It makes me want to melt every time I hear it. I love the way the album is centered around the one theme, and how each track is like a piece to one of the best puzzles ever!
This was a dope album, even with the gritty, and sometimes gruesome murder-themed lyrics. I wouldn’t be mad if this is how Ghostface chose to go out. He’d be ending his career on a very high note. This album is again, unlike any other albums or anything his contemporaries are doing. And that is why I love Ghostface the way that I do. He’s always pushing the ticket creatively and will be my eternal favorite.
So that’s it. Those are my thoughts on the work of someone I deem the greatest. Let me know what you think, or leave a comment letting me know what was your first impressions of these albums. I’d love to hear your thoughts!