Dusted Reviews

Ghostface Killah - Fishscale

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Ghostface Killah

Album: Fishscale

Label: Def Jam

Review date: Apr. 6, 2006

Ghostface Killah is rarity in hip hop: an MC that's stuck around and avoided irrelevance. A purists' MC, Ghost’s cognizant of rap's heritage while consistently stretching its turf. And he goes back. In his own words he's "been doing this since before Nas dropped the Nasty.” Sure, he started out with a stocking on his face batting sixth in Wu's murderer's row, but it's hard to deny that he's evolved into the team’s most complete playa.

On Fishscale's "The Champ," a Cus D'Amato-type gets in his grill: "You ain't been hungry since Supreme Clientele." It's only half true. Prior to Fishscale, Clientele was his recorded peak, but Ghost sounded pretty damn hungry on 2004's The Pretty Toney Album – a record that employed a vat of honeyed soul samples and was one of the year’s more lauded hip hop releases.

Fishscale is a different breed. It encompasses the full spectrum of hip hop: Biggie's "10 Crack Commandments”; battle raps that could incite riots; and a reunion of possibly the most formidable hip hop collective ever. All that, and Ghost still has time left to blow the sisters kisses and hug mom. The standout pop single "Back Like That,” a hilarious story about his girl getting down with a rival cat ("Let me get that rock on your finger. Oh, it's stuck? Then I'll take the whole finger"), touches on almost all the above. The equivalent of a triple threat in basketball, ’Face can beat you in so many ways: seditious writing, dope voice, ridiculous flow.

The complaint you hear most about Ghostface is that he talks in nonsense, ephemera, non-sequiturs. And to a certain extent he does. Supreme Clientele was supposedly composed of shit that just "sounded fly." Flipping that script, the element on Fishscale that really comes through is Ghost the writer. After one of the album's pointless skits, (the only weapon capable of stunting his volatile flow), lead track "Shakey Dog" reads like a graphic novel sprayed in graffiti and blood. Details and plot interchangeable, Ghost spits about a "whip smelling like fish" and "smoking baseball spliffs" on some gangster shit in a black cab uptown. The bar is raised early, but the ensuing crack spot tales are just as fleshed out and compelling: "Told him play the window, keep your eyes on that Verizon truck / Every fiend that walk through the door, check if he wired up."

Ghostface's microphone malleability, no matter tempo (or temperature) is the main ingredient. A disciple of G. Rap one minute (”Niggas want me dead but they scared to step to me / Rip they guts out like a hysterectomy”), he's back in the cut talking shit on his barber the next ("One minute you hot, next minute you not / Remind me of the New York Knicks with they jumpshots"). He sounds as comfortable with an almost shrieking, high-pitched voice on "Clipse of Doom" (clearly the record's vocal high point) as he does mournfully reminding his soon-to-be ex "I thought we was iller than that / all them kisses and love yous when Jake came you hid my packs." The guest spots only magnify his presence; he reigns over every track no matter who rides shotgun. (The sole exception is The Chef, whose down-tempo demeanor compliments Ghost's gruff, reminding us all why Cuban Linx was so indelible.)

More often than not, the beats – almost an afterthought because of ’Face's charisma/swagger – match his otherworldly flow. Reminiscent of Nas' Illmatic in the way hip hop’s top minds converged to make a record of immense girth, the production on Fishscale lifts an undisputed rhyme bout to another level. Pete Rock, who's been around longer than Ghost and produced Illmatic's "The World Is Yours," shows his continued relevance on "R.A.G.U." – the Creator's classic boom swerving against black-and-white cinema stings. MF Doom's dusty metal fingers are all over this, most impressively on "Clipse Of Doom" and its backward guitar phrasing. The belt, however, goes to Lewis Parker, the unsung British producer behind the D-Nice-style beat on "Shakey Dog” that’s so hot, it relegates Just Blaze’s “The Champ” to second place.

If not for J Dilla's Donuts (an instrumental version of "Whip You With A Strap" appears as "Song For Ghost" on that record), Fishscale would be the undisputed frontrunner of 2006. As it stands, I'd be surprised if anybody, in any field, drops something this potent in the next nine months.

By Jake O'Connell

Other Reviews of Ghostface Killah

The Big Doe Rehab

Read More

View all articles by Jake O'Connell

Find out more about Def Jam

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.