Album review: Ghostface Killah's 'Apollo Kids'
Whether accidental or intentional comedy, the iTunes tags that accompany Ghostface Killah’s ninth album classify “Apollo Kids” as country music. Of course, Dennis Coles isn’t pulling a Nelly and enlisting Tim McGraw to croon the hook on “Handcuffing Them Ho’s,” but in its rigorous devotion to genre standards, it resembles a triumph from a veteran Nashville musician.
With impeccably selected guest spots (The Game, Joell Ortiz, Busta Rhymes, Black Thought, and his Wu-Tang brethren), the Staten Island stick-up kid hews closely to the bloody-nostril boom-bap the Wu-Tang Clan pioneered a decade ago. Lyrically, Ghostface eschews the surreal bent of his second-career zenith “Fishscale” for straightforward boasts about fast cars, fast women and faster blades.
Though “Apollo Kids” is light on the sweat-dripping narratives Ghostface staked his reputation on, “Drama” finds Ghostface in “Masterpiece Theatre” mode, sketching crime scenes of guns and grams surrounded by “big jars of haze, Cheech & Chong bongs, Tropicana strawberries and diced bananas.”
Album finale “Troublemakers” finds Ironman pairing with Method Man, Raekwon and Redman to play “backgammon in the cabin.” Like the album itself, its intentions are minimal—adamantine beats, colorful raps, and little filler.
Due to his abstract innovations and imagination, fans and critics expect Ghostface to win the Daytona 500 every year. But as he says on album highlight, “In Tha Park, “this rap [stuff] came at a time that was accurate / Twenty years later I mastered it.” “Apollo Kids” shows that one of rap’s company drivers is still on the speedway -- zooming slightly slower than before, but with better pacing and control of the wheel.
-- Jeff Weiss
Three and a half stars (out of four)