August212009

Record #60: Ghostface Killah’s ‘Fishscale’

Ghostface’s 2006 solo release Fishscale is only the second hip-hop record I’ve listened to since my experiment began. It’s of a decidedly different ilk than my last rap record (Common’s Be). It pretty closely follows the gangsta rap/hardcore rap format: It features a great deal of tracks—many of them lascivious or drug-themed skits—it’s extremely sample-heavy, and, while Ghostface’s subject matter is occasionally intelligent in its own right, it’s not especially socio-political in nature. At least not explicitly. I’ve of course heard Ghostface’s flows on many Wu Tang tracks, but this is the first of his solo records I’ve checked out.

I really like most of the samples Ghostface picked for the core of his songs. They’re mostly R&B and soul tracks, and he flows over them with an aggressive, self-assured swagger that—while I often dislike the arrogance of hardcore rap MCs—works for the authentic, streetwise content of his subject matter. It isn’t often especially accessible for a listener like me, but he occasionally breaks out of the “Monster Don” approach to speak on things that are more thoughtful and telling than simply his predilection for violence, sex and drug sales/consumption. “Whip You With a Strap” is the perfect example: It tells of Ghostface’s dual fear and appreciation for his mother’s methods of discipline while he was coming up. True, hip-hop isn’t my forte, but I’ve amassed a bit of knowledge over the years, and this album features true understanding for pop hooks and flow. Not my favorite rap album of all time, but it’s certainly gotten me interested in checking out other Wu Tang members’ solo records, and it’s the consumate hip-hop psych-up record.

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