Ghostface Killah isn’t the best emcee in the world – he really isn’t even the best emcee in his crew. His lyrics often make little sense to those unfamiliar with the Wu vernacular and he even made an entire album where he said nothing but shit that “sounded fly.” That album, Supreme Clientele, was worshipped and hailed as the return of the Wu. Why? Cause Ghost has it. What is it? No one knows, it is that intangible that an A&R can’t force on a new artist and a marketing team can’t put in an ad campaign. It is what makes Ghostface one of my favorite emcees ever.
Of course, there is a bit more than just it. Pretty Tony happens to have incredible taste in beats and prefers to make his own rules rather than follow them (like say just rapping over a Delfonics song). The man has more style and swagger than perhaps anyone in the game, be it telling the heartbreaking story of his childhood or talking shit about choppin’ them bricks. For those who are wondering what exactly Fishscale means, it is quite simply the finest cocaine money can buy. So you shouldn’t be surprised when he unites with partner-in-crime Raekwon to dedicate a song to the white as only they can on “Kilo.” Ghost and Rae connect several more times here, most notably again on the Pete Rock laced standout “R.A.G.U.” where they converse through story. Rae also pops up on the irritating “Dogs of War” with Trife, Sun God and Cappadonna, and on the bonus cut “Three Bricks” featuring Biggie, which sounds like it’s from the Duets cutting room floor. Bonus cut or not, it has no business on this album. Of course Rae and Ghost are also together for “9 Milli Bros.,” along with all 8 other Clan members. I don’t remember the last time they were all on one track, but they sound great over a typically dope MF DOOM beat.
Guests aside, Ghost holds shit down in classic fashion as he always does. He gets his storytelling on over the flavorful Lewis Parker banger “Shakey Dog” and the abbreviated-but-dope “Barbershop.” He takes it from the streets to the ocean for the DOOM-produced “Underwater,” where he gets crazy bizarre; “Sponge Bob in a Bentley coupe.” Yeah, like that. As expected, Ghost has some words for the ladies and all that shit is on point. He pens thoughtful songs for the struggling (“Momma”), the drug-addicted (“Big Girl”), and the trifling (“Back Like That”), and of course the tale of a dime piece over a sultry J-Dilla beat (“Beauty Jackson”). It’s his mother who inspires him the best again though as “Whip You With A Strap” has Ghost fondly remembering the beatings that kept him in check as a youngster.
Fishscale’s finest moments come when Ghost links up with two of Hip Hop’s best past and present producers. “Be Easy,” the lead street single blessed by Pete Rock, is as ridiculous as it gets as Ghost talks reckless over the minimalist thumps. Just Blaze takes it back to PR’s days with drums that bring tears to my eyes as Ghost spits his trademark darts, out to prove he is indeed “The Champ.”
To no surprise, Ghost delivers yet another dope LP, long cementing his status as the best solo artist outta the Wu. But much like 2004’s Pretty Toney, Fishscale has its flaws. A couple lackluster songs aside (“Dogs of War,” “Clipse of Doom”), the album doesn’t really flow too well and it’s a bit bloated at 24 tracks. While the album length isn’t overwhelming like the 24 tracks would indicate, Ghost could have easily lengthened some of painfully short tracks (“Beauty Jackson,” “Barbershop”), and cut out a couple others. Plus I must say, the continual presence of Cappadonna, who is getting worse by the bar, did irritate me quite a bit. Even with some missteps, Ghostdini knocks another out the box in his own unmistakable way. It certainly is that raw, uncut…