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Ghostface Killah

Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City

Rating: 4.0/ 5.0

Def Jam

2009 has brought the release of one of the most anticipated sequel albums of all time, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, which lived up to its hype as another Mafioso rap classic. Imagine the surprise of the hip-hop community when Ghostface Killah, one of its pioneers, announced that his next album will be R&B infused. What’s next, Jay-Z recording an album of Sinatra standards? The Roots doing doo-wop? If Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City is any indication, Black Thought better start spit-shining those patent leather loafers.

Ghostface has a versatile flow, switching from laid back and relaxed to full force heat at a moment’s notice. Ghost has admitted he grew up mostly listening to soul and R&B music, and his penchant for expressing emotion while retaining bravado has served his career well. On Ghostdini, he has adjusted his meter to better reflect the smoother, slicker production and although he has his moments of genuine expressiveness, there’s never any doubt that this is the same Ghost that will fight for his woman, as well as fuck the shit out of her. If any song on the album validates this claim, it would be “Stapleton Sex,” which features Ghost in all his explicit glory, supplemented by a funky and breezy guitar line, while Ghost goes so far as to mouth the effect of insertion. Traditional R&B would stop just short, but Ghostface has a unique tongue for situations like this, and the explicitness of his lyrics make it stand out from the norm.

“Stay” is a touching and earnest moment, with Ghost rapping his desire for a partner to stay with him. On all the songs, he spits with a more relaxed, rhythmic tone that ebbs and flows, and the song’s female vocals and dreamy keyboard line transcend hip-hop, almost reminiscent of a ’70s Al Green song. “Paragraphs of Love” features a slinky, piano-lounge construction as Ghost goes on about meeting a beautiful pregnant woman, played by British songstress Estelle. As the keys tinkle, Ghost sounds legitimately sprung, which is new territory for the man who once claimed “If it’s one thing I ever learned that/ Never trust a female on no scale/ You just confirmed that.” The interplay with her and Ghost is a tender moment and a transcendent moment. Ghostdini is an album about switching styles and about getting in tune with his inner romantic, and songs like this highlight the multifaceted elements of Ghostface that would normally remain dormant.

However, there is enough traditional Ghostface to appease his fans without turning them off to his new direction. “Guest House” is one of his famous story songs, dealing with infidelity and masculinity. Featuring Fabolous, it has a battle between the two that echoes the fistfight that ensues in the story. The baritone piano backing adds to the tension as Ghost wonders where his woman was, and subtle horns come in as he continues to get angrier. A song like this would not be out of place on a previous Ghost album, but it serves as a grounding point.

Perhaps the only misstep on the album is the inclusion of a “Back Like That” remix. Already a popular song from Ghost’s superlative Fishscale, this remix was popular, but already has received attention. For a project that showcases a new form of songwriting, the inclusion of this track feels like filler material in an album that is so well-rounded and constructed on its own.

Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City may not be immediately recognized as one of the best Wu solo albums, but it is assuredly a brave new endeavor. Although Ghostface himself has crafted some of the finest gangster and Mafioso rap albums, he always had a side that was attuned to soul and rhythm that was only lightly touched on.

The Wu-Tang has always been about crafting diverse styles together, and this album
accentuates the many styles of the Ghostface Killah. All the aliases he has taken have not just been for show- they’ve been indicative of a fighter far more skilled and adaptive than the average opponent, and with Ghostdini, he has shown his fierceness and tenderness draw from the same, seemingly limitless energy source. This one’s a gem.

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