For those that didn’t already know, Ghostface Killah defies definition. The veteran MC, who’s most recent releases (the solo outing Ghostdini the Wizard of Poetry; the collaboration with Raekwon and Method Man, Wu Massacre; and the follow-up to Raekwon’s classic debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2) truly ran the gamut from radio-friendly R&B influenced to hard-hitting throwback jams returns in 2010 with Apollo Kids – another throwback of sorts. The album’s title is an obvious reference to the Raekwon-Ghostface track of the same name from Supreme Clientele – arguably Ghostface’s finest solo release. That reference, coupled with a very minimalist cover (Ghostface doesn’t appear on the cover at all), definitely suggests that the album will be a return to the “glory days” for the MC – although, truthfully, Ghostface has seen very few lows since Supreme Clientele dropped.
And from the outset of Apollo Kids, he makes sure this won’t be a low either. The album’s opener, the Frank Dukes-produced “Purified Thoughts”, is certain to satisfy Wu fans all over. The soulful sample that opens the track gives way to a beat that sets up perfectly for the host, as well as his guests Killah Priest and GZA. While it’s a familiar formula (soulful sample + hard-hitting drums + great lyrics), when it’s done right there isn’t much better from a hip-hop standpoint. Not surprisingly, each MC pushes the other to lofty heights – and we, the audience, are the beneficiaries.
The guest is also common on Apollo Kids – as Ghost only goes solo on three of the album’s 12 tracks. Thankfully, he has chosen his guests wisely – for the most part. The aforementioned Frank Dukes delivers another absolute banger on “In tha Park”, while Ghost and his guest, Black Thought, absolutely tear the production to shreds. The ode to hip-hop done in the park works on a number of levels – and is a track that will certainly get a lot of spin in your ride, your iPod or whatever personal musical player you choose. The same can be said for the Jake One-produced “Troublemakers”. Our host invites Wu brethren Raekwon and Method Man, as well as a rejuvenated Redman, to help close out the album – and the combination is nothing short of amazing. Jake One continues to show why he is respected in hip-hop, as his beat truly captures a classic Wu-Tang Clan sound (without sounding forced). It also helps that the four MCs have their A-game for the track. Ghostface shows off his story-telling skills alongside Joell Ortiz and The Game on “Drama”. The Sean C and LV production allows all three artists to deliver – and operate with their usual flair.
The album, however, isn’t without minor faults. With so many guests, some are bound to fail – and both Jim Jones (on “Handcuffin’ Them Hoes”) and Cappadonna (on “Black Tequila”, but not as badly on “Ghetto”) pale in comparison to the album’s host and its other guests. Busta Rhymes’ guest turn on “Superstar” is slightly underwhelming. And that is a surprise, considering that the Shroom production, which sounds like a ‘70s movie soundtrack, should fit Busta’s flow nicely.
While the guests MCs generally bring out the best in each other – and Ghostface – the album’s tracks featuring just the host also show a hungry and somewhat rejuvenated Ghostface Killah (even though he hasn’t really ever fallen off). On Scram Jones’ “Starkology”, the Wu Tang MC showcases his considerable skills while issuing a challenge to any MCs that want to knock him off his hard-earned perch. Ghostface gets another opportunity to demonstrate the skills that have earned him such a large fanbase on the Pete Rock-produced “How You Like Me Baby”. The Chocolate Boy Wonder gives Ghostface a hard bass line to ride – and the host obliges. With a slightly altered flow, but the usual Ghostface swagger, the song is definitely a success – and hopefully is a harbinger of future collaborations between the two veterans.
In the end, Apollo Kids works because of Ghostface Killah. Despite going solo on only three of the album’s 12 tracks, Ghost makes the most of his mic time – never wasting a verse or lyric, and always putting his personality on display. Long-time fans will be pleased with his “return” (although he hasn’t really gone anywhere), while anybody new to the Ghostface experience will definitely be able to see what all the fuss is about. Because he’s such a presence, Ghostface can make an album like Apollo Kids – as he is the undisputed star of the show.[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/ghostface-in_the_park_feat._black_thought.mp3|titles=Ghostface Killah – “In The Park” f. Black Thought]