Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ghostface Killah - Apollo Kids review

As anyone who has seen my Last.fm chart (the blue list on the right hand side of this page ) will tell you that Ghostface is my most played artist (Closely followed by Al Green and Gangstarr.) that is why when I heard he had a new album dropping I started to look forward to December the 21st. When I heard the album was named after one of Ghostface's best tracks, Apollo Kids I knew it had to be a dope album just to pay homage to the original song from Supreme Clientele.
For a fan of NY Underground/ crime rhyme / Wu-Tang music Apollo Kids does not disappoint. Although there is an absence of The Rza and some of the other Wu producers the album's production works very well. I was hoping to hear another MF Doom beat or two but Ghostface opts for some newer producers whilst picking a few choice underground beatsmiths; the Chocolate Boy Wonder Pete Rock along with up and coming producers Jake One and Scram Jones. The rest of the production duties on the album fall to; Frank Dukes, Shroom, Sean C & LV, Chino Maurice, Big Mizza & Anthony Acid.
The album kicks off with 'Purified Thoughts' which features a welcome return from Gza and Killah Priest over a Frank Dukes banga'. The track is straight fire featuring a nice guitar loop and a vocal sample taken from a track called 'Am I a Good Man' by them two if I'm not mistaken. Ghost drops his verse, followed by Killah Priest both building anticipation for the lesson in lyricism that we all know Gza is going to drop. As usual Gza does not disappoint but neither do Ghost and KIllah Priest all dropping verses better than most commercial and underground artists, a clear reminder of what the Wu was and can still be.
Next up is the fantastic 'Superstar' produced by Shroom, who I dont recall ever hearing of before this joint but what an introduction a sick beat on a Ghostface album featuring Busta Rhymes. The beat is a fast joint and utilises a Roy Ayers sample taken from 'He's a Superstar'. Theres all sorts of things going on in this joint a nice fender rhodes keyboard sample along with some flutes and a 70s guitar riff. It even has some cheesy ladies singing 'He's a superstar' which surprisingly isn't half as annoying as one would image. Even Busta avoids being annoying and gives us a slice of fast paced detailed lyrics. One of my favourite joints on the album.
Then we have Black Tequila featuring Cappadona and Trife over the second Frank Dukes produced track on the album. This one utilises a sample from what sounds like a 70s Bollywood detective thriller and it suits the Mafioso styled lyrics of the three Wu Gambinos. Ghostface and Cappadonna work so well together, despite the fact that their pretty much talking undecipherable nonsense, But Trife comes through with a dope lil' verse that actually has a little story telling element to it. Another strong track.

Following on from Black Tequila is the slower paced Drama featuring Joell Ortiz and the Game over a Sean C & LV produced track. As I said the beat is slower and perhaps sparser than the previous joints on the album but I feel that is because we're dealing with more intricate lyricists here. Joell Ortiz and the Game are lyricists of a higher Calibre than the likes of Cappadonna and Trife but Ghost steps up his game to match these two spitting line for line some of the best rhymes on the album. You may not get down to this one in the club but its lyrics will draw your attention more than some of the other tracks on the album apart form the Gza joint and the Black Thought one of course.
2getha is the next joint on the album and this one is a solo Ghost joint produced by Yakub and contains samples of "Together" performed by The Intruders. Its simply a classic Ghostface joint that could have easily been of Ironman, Bulletproof Wallets or another one of the classic Ghostface albums. It has the trademarked dusty sounding loop with the 70s soul vocal sample for the bridge and Ghost dropping lines like "Yo I roll on bitches like a skateboard". What more could you want ?
The next joint, Starkology uses numerous samples from the Dave Matthews disco version of the Star wars and an ill placed Tears for Fears vocal sample. I loved the original Dave Matthews joint with ist crazy R2D2 samples so it was kind of pre ordained that I would love a Ghostface version of it and I do.
In Tha Park features another one of my favorite lyricists; Black Thought. Black Thought is someone I had always hoped I would hear alongside Ghost and this banging track using a sample from "I'm Alive" performed by Johnny Thunder works so well. Black Thought is a fast paced lyricist capable of rhyming at Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane speeds bu he slows it down a little for this electric guitar based track although he sounds just as furious. The track itself is an ode to the early days of Hip Hop in the Bronx and its good to hear two of its modern heroes paying their respect to the godfathers of the game.
Pete Rock provides Ghost with a nice if not understated track for How You Like Me Baby. Another solo Ghost joint which has a nice Syl Johnson sample take form "Different Strokes" from 1968 album Dresses too short. The Wu has always been fond of a nice Syl Johnson sample and Pete utilises this one to suit Ghost perfectly. Even Ghost's singing works on this joint. Pete though could have been a bit more adventurous but these days he tends to use well known samples but track works well anyway.
Handcuffin Them Hoes features Jim Jones and is produced by Chino Maurice. Although its enjoyable enough its not one of the stronger tracks on the album and it wouldn't be out of place on a Jim Jones album. Maybe its the fact that Jim simply pales in comparison to Ghost and the other lyricists on the album or the slightly candy flavored beat but it simply isn't gritty enough or intelligent enough to sit alongside the other tracks.
Next up is Street Bullies featuring Shawn Wiggs, Sheek Louch & Sun God. This one is produced by Big Mizza and contains a sample from "You Are Just a Living Doll" performed by J. J. Barnes. Although the beat on this one is much better than the previous song the lyricists are only slightly better than Jim Jones and I get the feeling that in keeping songs like this on the album Ghost is hoping to capitalise on some of fans. Good luck to him anything that brings Ghost some more fans is a good thing I would prefer it though if he went with some of the more talented thus NY rappers like Jadakiss, Styles P and the Likes of Fat Joe.
Ghetto is a fully formed Wu Track featuring Raekwon on Top form along with Cappadonna and U-God providing support for Tony Starks. The track is produced by newcomer Anthony Acid and features an obvious Marlena Shaw sample taken from her classic "Woman of the Ghetto" but the fact that it uses an obvious sample does not detract from the track. I enjoyed it a lot and its nice to hear U-God again back on form.
The album ends up a high point with the excellent Troublemakers featuring Raekwon, Method Man and Redman. The track is a horns laden Jake One banger throws a few bass riffs in for good measure. Its great gearing all of these dope emcees together on the track each one on point and bringing their A Game. The track starts off with Raekwon dropping that slightly threatening storytelling/boasting style, Ghost steps up to the mic next dropping another sick verses with different character verses too, Reggie reminds us why we love his style so much with lines like "my eyes looking like I learned how to sky dive" and finally Meth comes along ends it perfectly with a witty verse that sounds similar to his pre Riddler style which is a good thing.
I love this album and its no surprise that Premier listed it as his favorite album of the year. Even the weak tracks are good but the album as a whole just works well. I commend Ghost for giving so many new producers a chance and also those producers for giving him good reason to. This album above all others from 2010, apart form maybe Premier's album, deserves your hard earned cash, pick it up.
Check the link below for a sample track form the album and three of the breaks used on the album.

"Troublemakers" (feat. Raekwon, Redman & Method Man)

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