Ghostface Killah

Even if he hadn't made his name rapping about kilos and capers, Wu-Tang MC Ghostface Killah's long-form flow would still be described as straight dope. But Ghostface — AKA Tony Starks, Ironman, Pretty Toney, and now Ghostdini the Wizard of Poetry — did form a reputation from swaggering through tales of the uncut slums. So the turn of his latest album, Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, toward mellow, R&B-backed stories of sensitive playas and sexcapades is, on paper, strange. The idea seems as bugged out as a fiend from one of Ghostface's narratives about hittin' the fish scale. (And just wait till you see the album cover's Wizard of Oz Emerald City theme.)

It's not unprecedented for Ghostface to detour from streets to sheets; it's just that he has never before done it for more than a couple of cuts off each album. Still, he brings the same eye for itemized detail to tales of hittin' skins and cheating wives that he does to those of grindin' in an entrepreneurial sense. The new material isn't as anxious, fiery, and righteous as that of previous albums (or as his appearance on the sweet sickness that is Raekwon's recent Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II), but he's still at the top of his game. Now, almost 40, he's more about expanding his legacy than simply extending his reputation. His new joints still mean hot tracks, not hip replacement.


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