Sunday, December 2, 2007

Record Review: Ghostface Killah: The Big Doe Rehab

Rating: 4/5

70s soul samples, tales of cop chases and drugs, maniacal, sexist rants, Raekwon appearances--yeah, I think we may have ourselves a new Ghostface record. A good one at that, not that Ghost really cuts loose any weak records. This one has a couple weak points, though, and doesn't reach the sensational moments of either Fishscale or Supreme Clientele, and sounds a bit too much like an attempt to capitalize of the Christmas market. Still, if I've learned anything about hip-hop, it's that Ghostface Killah possesses too much fury and confidence to ever truly fail. If at times here he seems uninspired, he always gets by with pure lyrical heat and swagger.

Those moments of weakness I just mentioned? The Big Doe Rehab's opening combo leads us to believe "weakness" doesn't exist when it comes to Ghost, and that he will personally kick your ass just for mentioning the word. "Toney Siegal aka The Barrel Brothers" (featuring Beanie Sigel) presents the typical fire-breathing Wu member, whose steamrolling rhymes suggest Ghost has returned to the studio to drop another classic. LV and Sean C's strutting, funky synth hook (either intentionally or unintentionally nearly identical to the hook on Outkast's "Gasoline Dreams") only underscore Ironman's relentless confidence. By the time Ghost screams, "300 pound nigga, Pumble gotta fuck him up!" and namedrops Oprah, Obama, and Eric B., the intensity has reached an almost unhealthy level, and you start wondering when Ghost will just flat-out explode.

Ghost follows this with the Raekwon/Method Man collab "Yolanda's House," an instant classic and the album's best moment. Ant-Live down a beautiful backdrop, thriving on a swaying string hook that I could listen to all day. Of course, the verses are what elevate this to a level of brilliance (particularly Meth's). In short, Ghost is being chased by the cops, he hides in a women's house in the projects and they are gonna have sex when he hears the cops outside. He then goes to hide in a room where Method Man is having sex. Meth, spitting an absolutely ill flo, expresses his anger at the barge-in and the fact that Ghost has dragged him into his legal situation. Then Raekwon comes in and needs money for some drug-related something or other. Point is, the beat is incredible, and the three Wu members manage to tell a typical Ghost-running-from-the-cops story and poke fun at themselves at the same time. It's fun, dramatic, and gorgeous at once, and is as enjoyable as anything Ghost has recorded.

From there, we don't really get a mixed bag, but rather a sub-Fishscale one. "Walk Around" is a strong, vintage Supreme Clientele-era street tale, but "We Celebrate" and "White Linen Affair" are little more than party tracks, the latter featuring little more than Ghost listing a bunch of big names in hip-hop and R&B. "Yapp City" is entertaining (particularly the verse from underrated Theordore Unit member Trife da God), but just does not demand multiple listens. Much of the material is alright, the flow acceptable, the beats decent though not exceptional.

Some are better than others, however. Ghost hits his stride on the horn-driven "Supa GFK" and the Raekwon/U-God collab. "Rec-Room Therapy," the latter featuring some of the album's best rhymes ("To smoke these rap niggas Ima need a match/To bust the game wide open Ima need an axe/I juggle as practice/Smuggle heroin in the cactus"). Of course, Ghost's handling of lively R&B beats is unsuprising, in fact expected. There's a lot of soul sampling here, so Ghost never really leaves his comfort zone. Even the excellent sequel to Fishscale standout "Shakey Dog" finds Ghost in a state of satisfied chill, lacking even an attempt to match the force and calculated chaos of the original.

So the criticism of Big Doe Rehab is that it doesn't push the limit, doesn't seem all that inspired despite its early brilliance. Nothing here tries to be hit the incredible high of the aforementioned "Shakey Dog" or the electrifying "The Champ." In Ghost's defense, some of the blame can be laid on (chief producers) Sean C. and LV, who seemed to have used their best stuff on American Gangster, dishing out nothing here (even "Toney Siegal") that comes close to Fishscale's best production moments (eg. "The Champ"'s blaring horns and flashy guitar). Still, it was Ghost that was willing to get downright surreal on "Underwater," the track that truly made his last record complete. It represented a true artistic desire to make the best possible product, to throw a curve amidst a typical (if exceptional) batch of Ghost raps. On Rehab, we have no such adventures, and only flashes of Fishscale's brilliance.

This is good record, though, so enjoy it. Did you really think another Fishscale was in the works only a year later? Tony Starks is still Tony Starks, the charismatic Wu member that has outlived all other Shaolin samurai, and even when he's pitching on three days rest, he's still pretty damn hot. Neither as soulfully rich as Supreme Clientele nor as thrilling and eclectic as Fishscale, The Big Doe Rehab is nonetheless an apt exercise in Ghostface's frenzied neosoul attack, and one I'm gonna be listening to alongside his classics.

1 comment:

D-Ford said...

No love for the Pretty Toney Album? For shame, Joe.
Still, Ghostface is quickly emerging as one of the best mc's around today, so suck it, Lil Wayne!