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Ghostface Killah | Fishscale (Def Jam)

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However, it’s not solely a reference to his music, as Ghost and partner in rhyme Raekwon continually revisit their less-discretionary days on this record.

From the Wu-Tang Clan’s first album, the solo standout stars seemed obvious immediately: Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck. Over a decade later, only one stands strong as a consistent solo artist—surprisingly, Ghostface Killah, aka Tony Starks. On his fifth solo album, Fishscale, Ghostface promises more of the same, as the title is a reference to the hottest drug product on the street…which he plans to deliver with his music. However, it’s not solely a reference to his music, as Ghost and partner in rhyme Raekwon continually revisit their less-discretionary days on this record. These songs hearken back to classic albums like “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” and answer critics who claim that the Killah had become too abstract in his solo work. Tracks like “R.A.G.U.,” “Crack Spot,” and the Schoolhouse Rock impersonation, “Kilo” show that, although they may have matured from their days in the drug trade, both Ghost and Rae haven’t completely left it in the past.

Every Ghostface album features excellent production, and the beats on Fishscale are no exception. Fans are given Stark’s usual hard-pounding electric melodies on “Shakey Dog” and “The Champ,” but other instruments—like the bells on “Be Easy” and the soulful keys from the first single, “Back Like That”—set a very nice stage. This isn’t surprising, as Ghostface has recruited some of hip-hop’s best in Pete Rock, Just Blaze, and J Dilla. The best production, however, comes from underground artist MF Doom, who does four tracks: “9 Milli Bros.,” “Clipse of Doom,” “Jellyfish,” and “Underwater.” None of the beats sound alike, but they’re easily distinguished by the odd instruments and sounds Doom uses. “Underwater” is a particular standout, with a soft flute in the background setting the stage for a dream sequence from Ghostface regarding spending time breathing underwater with mermaids and Spongebob.

Ghostface is at his best when he’s displaying his swagger. Although he rarely resorts to comments regarding money and cars, he’s not afraid to throw a few shots around. He does this at D4L’s current hit, “Laffy Taffy,” on the album’s best cut, “The Champ.” As always, he considers himself the King of Rap and isn’t afraid to tell everyone that he’s the hottest out right now, informing rappers that their music doesn’t live up to his standard. The braggadocio from some artists can be off-putting, but here, it doesn’t seem like bragging—it seems like honesty. Even though Ghostface enlists quite a few guests—including the entire Wu-Tang Clan, a posthumous Notorious B.I.G., and protégé Trife da God—they never take away any of his personal momentum. And while the album does suffer from an over abundance of skits, they remain short and entertaining, so the flow isn’t really affected. Overall, Fishscale fits together very nicely. It has strong songs all the way through, and doesn’t have anything resembling a weak track. Another knockout for the champ.

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