Thursday, March 26, 2009

Album Review: Ghost Deini The Great

When Def Jam released Ghostface Killah’s “Ghost Deini The Great” last holiday season I was reasonably sure it was going to be another ill-conceived (“More Fish” 2006) or poorly marketed (“The Big Doe Rehab” 2007) project put out by the brain trust at the label to cash-in on Ghost’s core following without spending much on promotion before the end of the year.  I did not rush to buy the album when it was released in December 2008 because I already had many of the tracks in my collection and I was busy with the holidays, but I recently purchased the album for a very low price at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square (I guess this is the silver lining in the biggest single example of the music industry inadequately dealing with the advent of digital music, the closing of  Virgin Megastores nationwide is surely the death nell for purchasing music as a physical product , but at least I got a good buy on a pretty solid collection from Tony Stark). 

“Ghost Deini The Great” is cross between a Greatest Hits Album for casual fans and a Rarities/B-Sides Collection for Ghost-fanatics that may not have been able to track down all of these remixes and alternate versions.  The album is a sold introduction to GFK’s best work and focuses mainly on his more recent material like the crossover “Fishscale” from 2006 and 2007’s criminally slept-on “The Big Doe Rehab.”  While it’s cool to include these selections, which highlight Ghost on diverse tracks provided by producers ranging from Pete Rock (“Be Easy”) to MF Doom (“9 Milli Bros.”), the collection would have benefited from the inclusion of earlier material like “Daytona 500” and “Motherless Child” that really established Ghostface Killah as a solo artist.  Also, because this is a Def Jam project it only includes stuff from Ghost’s solo catalog that was recorded for the label, while this provides a wide array of material to chose from it excludes his classic appearances on “36 Chambers: Enter The Wu-Tang,” “Wu-Tang Forever” and Raekwon’s classic “Only Built For Cuban Linx...” these vintage verses are missed to an extent, but it does not really take away from the overall dopeness of this package.  

The album includes the ’96 classic “All That I Got Is You” (if you think Kanye started “Emo Rap” listen to this and realize it dropped 8 years before “The College Dropout”) and then skips most of the late 90’s to include cuts from 2000’s “Supreme Clientele” like “Mighty Healthy,” “Apollo Kids” and “Chez Chez La Ghost” which all sound incredibly fresh nearly a decade after their release.  2001’s “Bullet Proof Wallets” is completely ignored and 2004’s “The Pretty Toney Album” is represented by the remixed version of “Run” featuring Jadakiss, Lil’ Wayne, Raekwon and Freeway.  This is a rare occasion where a remix actually lives up to the hype created by the list of guest MC’s, Jada and Freeway sound hungry, Rae and Ghost are typically impressive and Wayne more than holds his own with New York’s heavyweights (remember, this was 2004 and Weezy was still trying to prove he was more than a typical “Southern Rapper”).  

More recent selections like the Wu-Tang reunion “9 Milli Bros.”, the Ice-Cube assisted “Be Easy” remix and the radio friendly “Back Like That” featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo are all hot songs, but simply feel too new to be included in a career retrospective.  The album also includes a few rarities (does this concept even exist in the age of iTunes, Youtube and Limewire?) like “Slept On Tony” from the Iron-Man movie and a remix of “Kilo” featuring Malice from The Clipse that fans of Wu-Tang and Re-Up Gang will appreciate.  

The package also includes a DVD of Ghost on tour with a live band that is not bad, but not particularly interesting and will only be watched more than once by the most adamant fans, but as a free bonus it’s not bad to throw in the DVD player when there is nothing better on TV.  

Overall, “Ghost Deini The Great” is a good introductory course for fans of Ghost that may have jumped on the bandwagon with “Back Like That” and want to learn more about the MC and a solid refresher for those that may have forgotten how long and prosperous his career has been (the only other rappers from ’96 with this kind of relevancy today are arguably Nas and Jay-Z).  The thing that is most impressive while listening to this collection is that it’s nearly impossible to tell what year these songs were recorded because Pretty Toney never resorted to using fads, trendy slang or collaborating with flash-in-the-pan artists.  This kind of consistency is rare in Hip-Hop and the fact that this man has remained relevant for the better part of two decades without using Autotune, making up a silly dance, beefing with other rappers, collaborating with the R&B chick of the minute or getting tracks from “so-hot-right-now” producers like Scott Storch, Cool & Dre or Ron Browz is really a testament to his talent as an MC, his understanding of his fan base and his ability to tell his story regardless of what is happening in the rest of the Hip-Hop world.  I don’t want to throw darts, but I will be very surprised if ten years from now I am reviewing a similar album by Soldier Boy, Rick Ross or Young Jeezy...just sayin’. 

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