After the relatively disappointing Wu Tang album it was comforting to see that Ghostface was releasing his 11th (Damn) studio album on December the 9th. This is a concept album based around Tony Starks' return to Staten Island after nine years away from the Island, he is after a quiet life but of course that would not make for a good album. The album itself is fourteen tracks long and released on Tommy Boy. Production is supplied by a number on non Wu producers and features guest spots form AZ, Kool G Rap and Pharoahe Monch amongst others. This album follows on from his 2013 concept albums "12 reasons to die" which was a strong original album that deserved numerous listens.
The first track is called "The Battlefield" and is produced by MOP's Fizzy Womack and the Revelations. Kool G Rap, AZ and Tre Williams all join Ghostface on the Mic for a heavy track. It features a mid tempo drum break and a nice electric guitar loop. Tre Williams adds some dope singing to the track for the chorus. Ghost drops the first verse with the Godfather G Rap taking on the second verse and AZ taking the third. The rhymes are crime stories spoken with depth and complexity. Out of all three emcees on the track AZ come with the dopest rhymes and when his fellow emcees are Ghost and G Rap thats a mighty task.
Track two is "Love don't live here no more" and has Ghostface telling us the tale of Tony Stark's return to his girlfriend after missing for nine years. Kandace Springs provides a soulful reply to Ghost's rhymes telling him of her loneliness during his absence. The beat is a nice mid tempo track produced by Malik Abdul Raahman and the Revelations. It features a piano loop over some stripped down drums. Below you can see the great video for it starring Michael K Williams from Boardwalk Empire and The Wire.
Track three is "Here I go again" and features AZ and Rell. The beat is sweet with a very nice piano loop reminiscent of Infamous era Mobb Deep only not as dark. Ghostface drops the first verse with Rell providing some nice mellow singing for the chorus. before AZ comes back in welcoming Starks back to the neighbourhood. I usually don't like singing on Hip-Hop joint however Ghostface's understanding of when singing will add to the track and not detract from it is always on point and this track is another example of this.
Track four is "Loyalty" and is produced by The Revelations. Its a somewhat short track with only two verses; the first is handled Kool G Rap and the second by Nems (no Ghost on this one). The beat features a sparse piano sample and a soft Spanish guitar loop, it switches between each of these samples throughout the track. It could have been a bit longer and had a verse from Ghost on it but other than that its a dope little track.
The fifth track is called "It's a thin line between Love and Hate" and features the soulful tones of The Revelations who also produce the track. This is a straight up soul track that could have been from the likes of William Bell or Bobby "Blue" Bland and come out in the mid seventies. Its not a Hip-Hop track but its a damn fine track.
"The Dogs of War" is the sixth track on the album and once again features Ghostface Killah and Shawn Wigs. It features a fierce bass guitar riff, some muted snares and xylophone stabs. All three emcees rap about the dangers of dealing on their block. Ghost and Kool G Rap come hard with their rhymes and Shawn Wigs handles the ad libs for the chorus. It has a strange but interesting outro, all in all a dope track.
Track seven is a banger featuring Phroahe Monch called "Emergency Procedure" and produced by The Revelations. Its incredibly funky with bongos, horns, 70's Wah Wah guitars and some heavy lyrics from two of Hip-Hop's best. Ghost drops the first verse with Monch taking the second before Ghost comes back in again to finish things off. One of my favourite tracks on the album.
The eighth track of the album is call;ed "Double cross" and features AZ with the Revelation behind the boards. Ghosta handles the first two verse with AZ dropping the third one. The beat is mid tempo with some crisp snares and a heavy bass riff. It works well for both rappers who spin intricate storytelling rhymes over the dark beat.
Track nine is more of a soulful interlude featuring the second appearance of Kandace Springs on this album. It is a very short track called "Bamboo's Lament" and it works well as a bridge between two tracks on the album.
AZ comes back for another spot on the album's tenth track, "Pieces of the Puzzle". A dope track with a simple cymbal based beat with and organ sample or two. Ghost drops the first verse continuing the story of Tony's return and his relationship with Bamboo who it is clear is the partner of AZ's character in this story. The beat is very nice on this track and the variety of organ loops keeps it fresh throughout.
The eleventh track is called "Homicide" and features Shawn Wigs and Nems rhyming about how they will take their revenge on Tony Starks. Shawn Wigs takes the first verse with Ghost taking the second. After the second verse the beat changes up for a few bars before returning to the original beat for the remainder. Nems handles the ad libs for the chorus. The beat itself is hard with some super crisp snares. It is produced by Malik Abdul Raahman and the Revelations.
The album's twelfth track is produced by the 45 King and the Revelations. Its an up beat track with Ghost being chased by AZ who is out for his blood. There are some sick horns and a nice little guitar sample. The track is fast and it works well as a chase narration. Its a nice use of an up tempo beat to create hectic fast paced imagery.
"Call my name" is the album's penultimate track and only Ghost has the mic for this one. He pledges his allegiance to his people telling them to call his name when they need him and that he is NY's top contender and city defender. The beat is again produced by the Revelation and is a nice straight up grimy beat with a dusty piano loop.
For the album's finale we are treated to an instrumental track that could have easily been released on Stax in the mid seventies. Its mellow and it works. Once again The Revelation provide the music and although short its a perfect ending to this album's tale of return and retribution.
In a recent interview Ghostface said this album took him eleven days. he said he was given direction and a rough outline of the story before he worked with the other emcees and musicians to produce this musical story. As a concept album is is very strong providing narration and character development throughout. The emcee's and singers provide a strong cast and in particular AZ and Kool G Rap play their supporting roles well. However it is Ghostface who is the main attraction here, as he always is on his albums despite often having very strong guests. However if we take away the idea of the concept album this is another strong Ghostface Killah album that works on a number of levels; musically and lyrically. If you can only pick up one Wu Tang album this year it should be this, without a doubt. Tony Starks is back although to be honest he never went away.