Review Summary: Ghostface Killah and his Theodore Unit schools us on the crack game for a second time in 2006 - and everyone's taking notes!
A few years back, if the Wu-Tang Clan
were to offer the general public “more fish”, they’d probably be flatly rejected. From their glory days in the mid-90s of releasing groundbreaking solo albums and underground hit singles, the latter era of the Wu was dominated by saturated ideas, mediocre response from the media, a sitcom starring Method Man, and generally things that would bring shame on a nigga. Among all the imperial endeavors, one Ghostface Killah always remained a steady favourite among critics and fans, though the consistency still only translated into declining sales. 2006 was when he finally broke back into limelight, with March’s Fishscale
catching the eye of everyone, and showing that the Wu-Tang Clan is like a far-reaching rodent infestation that will never really die.
is his second offering of the year, and where in the past, swift onslaughts of Clan releases proved to be their demise, here it elongates the breath of fresh air that Ghostface provided. The goal of Fishscale
is as clear as the title suggests (referencing a type of cocaine,) as Ghostface himself says, “[...] I just had come back to raw drugs, sex, money, and murder shit
real quick to show these young niggas how it's s'possed to be done." And what better way to show a deep dig into the world of crime than to create an elaborate world of selling, smoking, killing, and, uh, beating kids through cocky, neurotic, rapid, yet observant, and carefully crafted rhymes?
takes a more casual role, with less guest spots from famed colleagues, to even more focus on Ghostface Killah’s Theodore Unit (thus continuing the Wu-Tang plan to continually sharpen up and promote protégés.) While most of his unit has nothing on Ghostface, the most prominent member, Trife Da God, proves to be a worthy sidekick with a similar stark, but quick style, and a New York drawl. Casual doesn’t mean laid-back, though, More Fish
brings on Ghostface’s stylish aggression from the beginning with “Ghost is Back”. Driven by a jazzy bassline, pulsing live drums, and riddled with scratching and fleeting glimpses of horn samples popping in and out, the music encompasses a blast of energy as Ghostface spits out some of his most stream of consciousness oriented rhymes.
After the opening party track, however, Ghostface is ready for business, painting a criminal scenario once again with “Miguel Sanchez”, elaborating on a guns-a-blazing drug deal, but all the rapping duties are handed over to Trife Da God and Ghostface’s teenage son Sun God (who already has a manlier voice than his old man!) Sanchez and its follower the MF DOOM
produced “Guns N’ Razors” already set up a completely different sound from the opening track, having a dense, ominous, not raw like the early Wu-Tang, but rather true to a Mafioso lifestyle with a stylishly lavished sound. The lead single “Good” throws the balance off of the album with an over-the-top jubilation a la Kanye West
’s “Touch the Sky”. It comes off sounding forced, sounding too glammy and cheesy compared to the rest of the album, especially the chorus, which employs a generic R&B singer to croon the word “good” over top the masturbatory behavior of every MC and producer involved with the track. Besides the slip-up with the glossy single, More Fish
does a great job at balancing cinematic, dark and larger-than-life samples, with more earthy, instrument oriented samples stemming from soul and funk.
While More Fish
keeps Ghostface’s distinctive sound pretty consistently, “Alex (Stolen Script)” truly throws back to the classic Wu-Tang days, having the Killah hastily spit out a thrill-seeking story about a Cuban illegal’s life in the seedy American business life over raw, building orchestral samples, and no visible song structure. Though “Alex” still relates to crime in some way, Ghostface Killah proves to be a diverse enough storyteller to make it as exciting as the songs relating directly to him. "Josephine" is another great example of Ghostface’s scenario building, telling the story of a young woman slowly overcoming to her own drug addiction mixing witty metaphors and realistically harsh descriptions (“The monkey on her back is now a gorilla/fiendin’ for a hit knowing one day it gon’ kill her,” is one example of Ghost’s literary seasoning.) The live band backs up the song soulfully, giving an earthy feel with the pulsing bass and warm organ unique to the album. “Josephine” gives an old school feel of authentic soul playing, like “You Know I’m No Good” gives a taste of jazz with Amy Winehouse’s old fashioned lounging yelps and big band horn samples driving the song about one unfaithful acquaintance of Ghostface in one of the uniquely energetic song highlights. The closely related subject-wise “Back Like That” (that cheating ho!) is remixed by Kanye West for the album’s closer, not deviating from the original very much, but giving Ne-Yo, as well as Kanye, more verse time than Ghostface. It’s nothing special compared to the original, and is some of the bulk that makes Fishscale
flow better as an album.
The varied production, vivid lyrics and moods, and protégés excelling on guest spots makes More Fish
another great add to the Ghostface Killah collection, especially for his second in a year. But at the same time, it is
his second in a year, and it expectedly falls short in places compared to its predecessor. The sappy second-last song “Gotta Hold On,” featuring only Shawn Wigs, one of Theodore Unit’s less memorable members, and one-hit wonder Eamon, is even more disappointing when one realizes it’s the last original on the album and no grand ending is planned. Besides Redman’s appearance in the vulgar, funky jaunt “Greedy Bitches”, Wu-Tang affiliate Cappadonna, and Kanye West, no big name guest artists show up, hurting More Fish
’s arsenal compared to the rapper loaded Fishscale
. Nonetheless, Ghostface Killah’s second serving of fish works well with what it has, and is a hearty meal after going through the first.