Too often, a rap artist reaches a point in his career when he becomes blatantly self-conscious of a newly won veteran status and occasionally slips into tedious place-holding rhymes about past glories and misdeeds, to varying effect. Notoriously prolific Gucci Mane recognizes this on his 2009 mixtape The Movie 3-D: The Burrprint, “and yet,” he notes, “it’s still not time to write my memoirs!”
A world away, the similarly productive Ghostface Killah isn’t writing his memoirs, either, but that’s not to say his most recent release, this year’s Apollo Kids, breaks much new ground. Still, it’s an admirable affair.
The album’s production follows a familiar formula, with catchy soul samples riding comfortably along on thudding percussion and neon-studded synth. This aesthetic features most prominently on a track like “Superstar.” Ghost sounds typically muscular here, as the Wu-Tang’s resident lion-throated loudmouth rips through his verses against a funky guitar lick. A crew of sirens fills out the chorus, playing cheerleaders to the tongue-twisted interplay between Ghost and guest Busta Rhymes.
This soulful sensibility reaches a skin-prickling high on standout “2Getha Baby”. It’s Ghostface Killah trapped in “The Twilight Zone,” as a mellow, otherworldly Intruders sample in disarming conflict with the rapper’s angry flow.
Of course, the abundant throwback content never overshadows the fact that Ghostface Killah sounds absolutely fresh and ferocious as ever. And he chooses his guests wisely, spitting alongside typical partners-in-crime like Raekwon and Cappadonna. There’s even a reliably loopy turn from Method Man and Redman on the relentless album closer “Troublemakers.”
Hopefully, the album’s quiet, early January release won’t signify its future reception. Without bothering to brush up against any previously unexplored realms and barely even reaching 45 minutes, Apollo Kids certainly isn’t Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale 2. But here his reliance on arguably safer methods has yielded a sturdy effort worthy to stand up next to the heavy-hitters in his discography, even if it casts a noticeably smaller shadow.
Isolée – Well Spent Youth tracklist
- “Purified Thoughts”
- “Black Tequila”
- “2gether Baby”
- “In Tha Park”
- “How You Like Me Baby”
- “Handcuffin’ Them Hoes”
- “Street Bullies”