April 20, 2021

Ghostface Killah "The Pretty Toney Album" (April 20, 2004)

Return of the soulful Apollo kid... It's quite bewildering to think that some don't get Ghostface. But then some have no natural rhythm, so we guess it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. For the educated rap faction, however, he still remains the most remarkable of modern emcees as he imbues his on wax outbursts with an astonishing amount of soul. And on solo shot number four the usual Ghost Deini themes are all present, which means hens and femmes take up a large chunk of Ghost's world.... And, of course, there's the usual shopping list of chip-chop abstract aesthetics, from cans of Banana Nutriment to a return of those "bowling bowl head n!ggas". With Ghost, the genius is partly in the details. The Theodore-down Trife kicks a career defining verse, reminiscent of a hungry Big Noyd on "Burn." "N!ggas ask why I use my Glock/'Cos it's 2003 motherf#cker I refuse to box," he explains, letting the LP's delayed release history out of the bag as early as the first track proper and perhaps even outshining big Tony himself. As a curio, the only other core Wu involvement comes from a duo of RZA productions, most notably on the concept-driven "Run."

The replacements, on both vocals and backbeat fronts, don't disappoint: Minnesota laces Ghost's conversation with himself on "Beat the Clock" with great momentum, K-Def gives new life to a David Porter break known to a generation of kids as 'that Biggie beat,' while Jada, Styles and Sheek Louch spit molten street heat on their relative contributions. Some will hate on the radio single "Tush," but it's only the next stop on the disco journey Starks began with "Cherchez La Ghost," continued with "Ghost Showers." Likewise, some have already diminished "Holla", it's B-Side, as being "Just him wailing over a Delfonics track." To do so, of course, is to marginalize hip-hop itself as 'just some street vagabonds shouting over music stolen from other people.' You know where the exit sign is. It's common knowledge that the copy of "Pretty Toney Album" you'll pick up in stores isn't the complete "Pretty Toney Album" project Ghost first envisioned. Sample clearance and his label's decision to put the god on hold while albums from Keith Murray and Joe Budden bombed scuppered that. Besides, it's easy enough to download or pick up bootleg copies of rap lessons like "My Guitar", "Toney's Money" and "The Drummer" if you want the complete picture. But in 2004, with the crunk in the clubs and the grimy underground of the Wu having been completely superseded by the introverted underground of the Buck 65 brigade, Ghost probably doesn't exist to make 'classic' albums of perfect hip-hop art. Rather, he exists on the retail shelves to give people hope to the thought that the 'real' emcee, the at times indescribably talented emcee, the emcee who knows that real kids spit that shit, the emcee steeped deep in hip-hop history, can still exist. And for that we should all give thanks. - HHC. This was never my favorite of GFK's releases, but it should be revisited all the same.