Ghostface Killah

Fishscale (Island)

Great storytellers know the details sell the tale. A botched robbery might be interesting on its own, but little touches--a .45's recoil breaking a woman's wrist--wipe away the clichés. Wu-Tang legend Ghostface Killah hasn't let up after so many solo and Wu albums, charging into stories on Fishscale just as guns are drawn and panic sets in. Adrenaline surges like "Shakey Dog" and "R.A.G.U." are Ghost's specialty and surpass even songs like "Run" from his 2004 joint, The Pretty Toney Album. But it's his characters that make you care what happens. Conflicted with loyalty, resentment, love and greed, they throw themselves into dangerous, evil situations and emerge regret-scarred but wiser and sometimes richer. Ghostface alter-ego Tony Starks and his accomplice conspire to rob a coke dealer in "Shakey Dog," and while they're wrong as hell, you want them to get away almost as much as you want to hear gunfire. But the lifestyle takes its toll in numerous heartbreaks. And it's a girl who eventually takes the key to his million-dollar stash of "fishscale" (pure blow). Another highlight is a new damn-near bona fide Wu-Tang song. "9 Milli Bros." even brings back the late Ol' Dirty Bastard for a few throwaway rhymes, enough to make you miss his unhinged singsong gibberish. Production from all-stars like Pete Rock and MF Doom stay true to Ghost's love of old funk and soul samples, and the tight beats match his taut tales perfectly.

 
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