Reviews Ghostface Killah Fishscale

Ghostface Killah

Fishscale

If "The Champ" has not, by the time of publication, been mass produced onto 12" record and shipped to every club DJ in the hip-hop speaking world then there is something truly fucked with the world. You see, with summer fast approaching the dance floors of the world are screaming out for a new jam that will make women emit high pitched squeals and abandon their drinks in favor of tearing it up under the bright lights. "The Champ", with its Rocky borrowing dialogue and funk driven beat, has the ability to be this song.

"The Champ" may be the most obvious example of a banging tune here, but it's by no means in bad company. RZA is notable by his absence, but his large sneakers are amply filled by the likes of the ever brilliant MF Doom, the now deceased J Dilla and Just Blaze, the man behind the board on "The Champ." It makes for a mixed bag. While tracks like the aforementioned "The Champ," "Be Easy," and "9 Milli Bros." are guaranteed to keep the club bumpin', the flipside is the more soul drenched tracks like "Whip You with a Strap" and "Back Like That" which sound as though they could have been lifted from amongst the best work of Talib Kwali or Common. Whoever said that too many cooks spoil the broth (soup? gumbo? whatever) never ventured into this kitchen.

Great beats mean little if you don't have a skilled MC to make full use of them. Thankfully, there is here and the compatibility is what really makes Fishscale so good. Ghostface delivers the multitude of his lyrics in a more straight forward way than he has been noted for in the past, but his attention to detail is as meticulous as ever. The first proper track here, "Shakey Dog", captures Ghost at his storyteller best. A messed up crime tale which isn't special because of the subject matter but rather the way the story is delivered and the attention to detail. The narrator goes from throwing ketchup on his fries and getting tartar sauce on his S Dot Kicks (the horror!) to having to break a bone in the wrist of a big tittie bitch that has a cannon pointed at him and nearly getting blown away by his partner. It glorifies nothing, but like a Scorsese great it doesn't preach either.

Fast paced crime narratives are not the only thing Ghost lays his able tongue to. On the Doom masterminded "Underwater" he delivers some of his most off the wall lines over some of the metal faced one's best beats. "Whip you with a Strap" gives a glimpse into his own upbringing while paralleling it against those of present day kids:

Nowadays kids don't get beat, they get big treats/ Fresh pair of sneaks, punishment like having ceas/ Back then when friends and neighbors would bust that ass and bring you back to you Momma she got the switch in the stash/ That's back to back beatings, Only went outside for free lunch with welts on my legs still leakin' yo.

Questionably parental tactics aside, his ability to tell a vivid emotional story is hard to fault. Fischscale ends on a similar note; demonstrating that, like Tupac at his best, Ghost can switch between Ghetto Thug and Ghetto poet as he sees fit. Beginning with a lonesome sax, before being joined by Ghost and the soulful vocals of Megan Rochell, "Momma" could have been lifted straight from the pages of an Iceberg Slim novel:
It's your Fathers fault your Momma is an alcoholic, confusin' the brain from the booze and the pain/ And plus he cheated on her, beated on her, smack dead in the rain/ She lost her first child in '74/ And that lead to nervous breakdowns, Bacardi dark she downin it raw/ She can't take it she constantly cryin', fallin' down on her knees/ Like help me Lord, please, I'm ready to leave.

Fishscale suffers from the same two problems as most hip hop albums: excessive length and pointless skits. The latter is no more obvious than the dreadfully unfunny "Heart Street Directions" when a woman asks for directions and is told to "Go down three lights, get on Bush highway, go past Vagina Street… make a left on Dick… the next block is Clit Boulevard but you gotta be careful, its kinda wet down there." If this isn't to her liking, she can always take Butt Avenue. Perhaps it was vaguely funny one late night ganja binge but really it should have been cut in the cold light of day. Chopping such skits along with the admittedly few weak cuts would have made for a razor sharp album, but to Ghost's credit even with these mild blemishes he has still delivered an excellent record.

8.9 / 10Neil
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Def Jam

2006

8.9 / 10

8.9 / 10

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