There’s an old adage that says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Ghostface Killah has ridden that axiom into the ground over the course of this millennium. He’s crafted one of the strongest solo catalogs of the decade by simply recycling his formula of charisma, sharp rhymes and wtf lyricism over dramatic beats. You may not know what he just said, but it sure sounds good. That formula continues on his latest release Apollo Kids, featuring a healthy amount of guests and a return to the soul sample sound that has worked so well for him.
“Purified Thoughts,” with its somber bass, soulful wail and soul sample vocals is the perfect starting point. Killa Priest and the GZA, Wu’s most lyrical members, add imposing support with GZA telling a tale of crack-fueled tragedy. 60’s psychedelia forms the mood of Busta Rhymes collaboration, “Superstar.” Wah wah guitars and pace-setting keys meet fast drums and snares while Busta does his usual stellar closeout job.
An intro that sounds straight from a spaghetti Western (or a Kill Bill interlude) opens “Black Tequila.” The faux Mexican-tinged Spanglish gringo talk and references from Ghost and guests Capadonna and Trife are corny (They don’t know the difference between Puerto Rican and Mexican Spanish) but the song is passable. Game drops the verse of his life on “Drama,” another one of those classic Ghostface story-telling expositions. He adds some weight to his name dropping for once, infusing elements of Menace II Society, and some real ill lines. The ravenous Joell Ortiz also stars and stays within the narrative without trying to out-bonker the beat.
“2getha Baby”flaunts Motown flavor on the breaks as Ghost does a bit of thug boo-loving, while breakbeat-driven “Starkology” is the quintessential Ghost fast track, full of 80’s reference, nods to pop culture and connectivity to stuff 70’s babies relate to, as well as that weird ass disconnectedness that only he can get away with.
Black Thought joins with Ghost on the old school ode “In The Park.” Thought steals the show with a mean history lesson on Philly street-hop, shouting out Schoolly D’s PSK, Cash Money and Lady B while enlightening the unlearned to the real Hip-Hop experience. “How You Like Me Baby” takes Ghost back to the babes with a high-pitched delivery that illustrates the fly side of Ghost. It’s a mid tempo rhythm with Mr. Coles singing on the hook like an old Cold Crush routine.
Jim Jones guests on “Handcuffin Them Hoes,” a track that should have been left on the cutting room floor or as a bonus track on last year’s “Wizard of Poetry” album. Thankfully the hardcore mojo returns on “Street Bullies.” Sped up soul vocals intersperse throughout the composition and Sheek Louch interpolates “The Bridge Is Over,” recalling that “Metal Lungies” magic. Sun God and Wiggs spit that hard shit as well, but you wish Styles P was there to close it out.
The album closes strong with two Raekwon features. Dirty bass and maracas combine with a sultry soul vocals on “Ghetto” while Rae spins that street science. Fellow purple tape cast members Capadonna and U-God round out the realness just like old times. The final note is the hard drum-driven “Troublemakers” with Meth and Red adding the rough rugged and raw. Redman sounds like his old self and Method Man shines, but Ghost steals the show with his high-energy.
Apollo Kids is more of the same Ghostface you’ve been hearing over the last 10 years. He’s done this album before and better. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting some of that Ziti. The rhymes are tight, the beats are dope and Ghost is Ghost. No wizardry included.
3.75 out of 5
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