Ghostface Killah :: Apollo Kids
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
If the title of Ghostface Killah's ninth studio album seems familiar and you
find yourself catching deja vu, you're not crazy - you've heard "Apollo Kids"
before. The difference is that originally "Apollo Kids" was a slammin' single
off the seminal classic "Supreme Clientele." The duet between Ghost and Raekwon also featured
a visually memorable video where the ostensible CEO of Starks Enterprises
further distanced himself from his comic book namesake, owning and
operating a factory which indulged a fetish for sneakers rather than weapons
Over a decade later Ghost has resurrected the "Apollo Kids" name, which
would lead one to expect he's trying to recapture that sound and vibe of an
all-time hip-hop classic. Some would argue that's a needed move after the
somewhat disappointing vibes of "Ghostdini." On the other hand when it comes to delivering year in and
year out Ghostface is one of the few Wu-Tang members you can count on, and
he's delivered more hits than misses since dropping his first solo album back
in 1996. The artwork may speak more strongly than the choice of album name
in this case, particularly since Ghost can't be seen anywhere on the cover.
The impression one gets is that the popular Wu rapper went "back to school,"
complete with his wide ruled looseleaf and a #2 pencil. Whatever other
images he may have, ranging from internationally dapper don to hardcore
Staten Island thug, the one he wants you to identify with is top storyteller.
The Scram Jones produced "Starkology" makes that mission perfectly clear:
"Y'all respect my tour bus
We got whores with no drawers ready to do all four of us!
Wildin, bustin big bags of Ruffles
Show money, rubber band'd up in the duffle
With dirtball niggaz that steal cake from stores
Boostin niggaz that pop tags in the mall
True spot hoggers, used a few stockings
Niggaz hand over the cash when heat's to they noggin
I sing a lil' lullaby, who gon' testify
the way a gruesome murder been televised?
Stupid! My name still ring in the streets though
Eighty-six, used to slip crack through the peephole
This verse is like leavin the gas on
Hog-tie a nigga for his bread, have the Hefty bag on"
Despite the humorous use of a Tears For Fears sample by Jones, there's no
doubt Ghost is deadly serious when he warns other rappers "just watch next
time how you write your words" and promises to leave inferior emcees
hanging like "an old man's nuts that sag with no shame" all while vowing
that "payback's a bitch, yeah I smash y'all berries." It would be hard to say
this is a return to form given that in my opinion Ghostface never fell off,
but the passionate intensity of his delivery on this spartan track is hard to
ignore. After all Ghost is so amped up he vows "I can do this on crutches black
with no legs/both arms in a sling, push me on stage/Style still linger in the
air like Glade." It's a tour de force for Ghost, reminding us all why he's one
of the most cinematic rappers in the industry, painting pictures with his
words you see in your mind's eye like a Hollywood blockbuster.
Long time Wu-Tang fans may be disappointed to not see RZA's name
anywhere in the production credits of the twelve tracks here, but they
really shouldn't be. In truth he hasn't really been necessary to the success
or failure of a Ghostface album for a long time now, let alone any other
group or solo release involving the Wu family. Speaking of the family
though, there's no shortage of Clan members getting down with Ghost.
Frank Dukes produces three solid joints on this album and two of them
are Wu collaborations - GZA and Killah Priest blessing the slick R&B
piano and melody of "Purified Thoughts," while Cappadonna and
Trife Diesel take a trip with Ghost to Mexico on "Black Tequila." The
third Dukes track? That's a surprising but pleasant duet with The Roots
frontman Black Thought called "In Tha Park," a song with the heavy
overtones of a gritty detective TV show that has both rappers paying
their respects to the hip-hop's "power from the street lights made the
place dark" roots. You can also hear Raekwon, U-God and Cappadonna
on the Anthony Acid laced "Ghetto," while Meth and Rae join Redman
for the slamming Jake One produced finale "Troublemakers."
As shown by "In Tha Park," Ghost doesn't limit his love for fellow
emcees to just Wu familia. Some of the collaborators would be expected,
like Busta Rhymes rapping with Iron Starks on "Superstar," but a few
eyes may be opened when The Game and Joell Ortiz show up on "Drama"
or Jim Jones joins him on "Handcuffin' Them Hoes." With only three
tracks out of 12 riding completely solo (including the superb Pete Rock
joint "How You Like Me Baby?") some naysayers will complain that
Ghost became a bit player on his own album. Thankfully the boastful
lyrics, strong personality and impeccable delivery Ghost has crafted
in the last two decades keep him from being lost in the mix. While
this writer wouldn't call it a comeback since he's been here for years,
those who have felt something was lacking of late from Ghost will no
doubt find what they're looking for here. "Apollo Kids" represents the
Wu's most popular MC well going forward into a new decade.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: December 21, 2010