June 22, 2008

Ghostface (Killah) - The Pretty Toney Album (April 20, 2004)


Dennis Coles saw his third album, Bulletproof Wallets, spontaneously combust under the pressure that his label, Sony, placed upon its commercial prospects. Combined with the lack of promotion he received and the loss of much-needed backup in the sample clearance wars, Ghostface Killah found that he had no choice but to defect to another label. Sony, sensing defeat, quickly authorized the "Greatest Hits album" protocol, thus terminating their relationship.

Ghostface Killah ended up at one of the best known hip hop labels in the world, Def Jam Records, which coincidentally also had Wu-Tang brother Method Man among his new family. He quickly set to work creating his fourth opus, The Pretty Toney Album, with the proper label backing that he deserved.

Or did he? The first order of business was to change his name for this particular album. All promotional materials, liner notes, and inlays referred to Dennis Coles as simply "Ghostface", completely dropping the "Killah" from his moniker, although Ghost never officially changed his name. (I believe this was done in an ill-advised attempt to introduce Ghost to a new audience, when in fact the new audience didn't much care, and the old audience preferred him as Ghostface Killah. He would quickly add the surname back with all subsequent projects) Secondly, the efforts to get radio airplay were ramped up, and the collaborative efforts began to come at Ghost double-time: artists that he never would have necessarily worked with before, such as Missy Elliott and Musiq Soulchild, were now being summoned to studio sessions to provide hooks, but at the same time, Def Jam was now footing the bill, so the promotional arm was also stretched out to aid as much as humanly possible.

None of this actually worked. The Pretty Tony Album sold roughly as much as Bulletproof Wallets, a move that would be considered a death blow to an artist's career today, especially when you consider the fact that this guy has sold millions of albums around the world. He was locked in to a contract, though, so he had that going for him, and he was allowed to continue redefining exactly what it means to be a Wu-Tang Clan member with an actual career.

All right.

1. INTRO
A useless rap album intro that happens to feature one of the most ridiculous press conferences I've heard in recent memory. Ghost's response of "God is my bodyguard, n---a!" essentially sums up the entire track.

2. BISCUITS (FEAT TRIFE DA GOD)
I actually liked Trife's verse more that Ghostface's. But True Master's beat is so damn good, I suppose I should keep the complaints to a minimum.

3. KUNTA FLY SHIT
Ghost's first couple of lines can be misinterpreted in so many ways (okay, maybe only one way), but this out-of-left-field Rza production complements this one-verse wonder nicely.

4. BEAT THE CLOCK
I love this song. The taunts coming from Ghostface's own brain (specifically "Surprise, time started already, motherfucker!") made me laugh out loud the first time I heard this song, which made for a strange trip driving my grandmother to the airport. As an added bonus, the song still sounds great today, thanks especially to Minnesota's production skills.

5. METAL LUNGIES (FEAT SHEEK LOUCH & STYLES P)
I remember not caring much for this track back when The Pretty Toney Album originally dropped, but in hearing it today, I think it's actually pretty good (and I still think it's a pretty inspired choice for a certain hip hop blog's title). I was surprised to find that Chicago's No I.D. produced this banger, but I found myself just thankful that the guy has found steady work. Even though Styles P disappoints, Sheek's verse more than picks up the Lox slack.

6. BATHTUB (SKIT)
...

7. SAVE ME DEAR
Fuck all that sampling shit: Ghost will just let someone else's song play in its entirety and just rhyme over it for the hell of it. That approach makes this song sound inappropriately random, though, so ultimately it does not work.

8. IT'S OVER
K-Def (from Real Live, not to be confused with Real Life, of "Send Me An Angel" fame, which is odd that you mentioned it, since I do feel like researching within a montage similar to that of Teen Wolf Too) deserves a bit of credit for not simply jacking the beat from Biggie's "Who Shot Ya?". Instead, he pulls a different sample from that song's source material, David Porter's "I'm Afraid The Masquerade Is Over". As I'm convinced that this song would have sounded better if Ghost simply swiped the beat a la Mos Def's "Brooklyn", I'm not impressed.

9. KEISHA'S HOUSE (SKIT)
This is actually a short song, although I could have done without hearing Ghostface rhyme about taking a shit.

10. TUSH (FEAT MISSY ELLIOTT)
I can't imagine that Ghostface actually enjoys recording these inane radio-friendly tracks. At least he deserves credit for making this Def Jam obligation sound more and more bizarre with each subsequent album, but this song does, in fact, suck, so there's that.

11. LAST NIGHT (SKIT)
While this skit-that's-actually-a-song proves that Ghost can spit over any beat, it's still not very good.

12. HOLLA
With Ghost's love of soul records, and his incessant need to rhyme over them, the sample clearance budget for The Pretty Toney Album had to have cost at least twenty times more than what this album collected in sales.

13. GHOSTFACE
This track had leaked to the Interweb prior to the album's release, and I felt that the beat was annoying as shit. Guess how I feel about it now?

14. BE THIS WAY
This isn't bad. Sorry, but that's all I have to say.

15. THE LETTER (SKIT)
...

16. TOOKEN BACK (FEAT JACKI-O)
The fuck?

17. RUN (FEAT JADAKISS)
Easily the best song on the album. The Rza's frantic production is the perfect companion for Ghost and Jada to spazz out to. This shit fucking rocks. The video version features a third verse featuring an unknown rapper by the name of Comp, who to this day is only really known for being one of the more odd choices for a playable character in Def Jam Fight For NY. This is a shame, since I seem to remember liking his verse.

18. LOVE (FEAT MUSIQ SOULCHILD & K. FOX)
This is, quite truthfully, the first time I have ever heard this song in its entirety. It's sweet, but thankfully it isn't anything I will ever have to hear again.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Well, at least The Pretty Toney Album sounded different than anything else Def Jam was releasing at the time. That isn't a good thing by any stretch of the imagination, though. Ghost's fourth album is too self-indulgent, with very few of the tracks actually appealing to hip hop fans, let alone Wu followers. A minor setback, but still, this is his worst album to date. Personally, I'm still a little curious as to why Ghost ended up chopping more of the hardcore tracks, most of which later ended up on the Theodore Unit album 718: if they had been retained, this album would have most certainly sounded better.

BUY OR BURN? I would recommend a burn. I don't understand how people name Bulletproof Wallets as his worst album, and yet give this one a pass, when this disc isn't very good at all. Al least Ghost regained his lost momentum with his follow up discs.

BEST TRACKS: "Run"; "Beat The Clock"; "Metal Lungies"; "Kunta Fly Shit"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Read all of the other Wu-Tang write-ups by clicking here.

12 comments:

  1. I liked this album...

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  2. "Beat The Clock" is really hilarious, I will say that much.
    Thanks for the shout out, Max. In a strange coincidence, I'm actually interviewing No I.D. for Hip Hop Is Read.

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  3. AnonymousJune 22, 2008

    so fine you're doing all that wu stuff!

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  4. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJune 22, 2008

    I love Keisha's House. Greatest rhyme about taking a shit in the history of hip hop. No contest.

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    Replies
    1. Have you heard Das EFX's "Looseys"? THE ENTIRE SONG is them telling embarrassing stories of how they shitted themselves. Hilarious stuff.

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  5. "Pretty Toney" is not a bad album. It does not sound like Wu, but it's o.k.
    Moving on Def Jam was crucial, beacause Ghostaface left once and for all the Wu sound behind him...

    Anyway, I think Ghostface learned from his mistakes (Bulletproof Wallets) in the past and chose to follow more mainstream directions.

    -Kay-

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  6. AnonymousJune 24, 2008

    how can u say that Biscuits has a "damn good" beat? this beat is annoying

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  7. strange, possibly the first time i don't agree with your review: i remember quite liking the disc, but maybe it's because i bought it together with "tical o, the prequal" ? that disc makes any 2nd purchase sound great lol

    i'll have a listen again to it to see if it still works for me ...

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  8. Those Motown samples are sooooo dope, and this is my favorite Ghostface album. But, I usually don't agree with the general public about hiphop (considering record sales), so whateverwhatever.
    YOU ARE RIGHT!- "Tush" is giving me mental images of Missy Elliot's big ol' swampy bush! And then I imagine the stank...

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  9. You should get slapped for thinking this album was anything less than brilliant. Where do you n00bie wannabe hip hop fans come from anyway?make sure you go back where you came from. thanks.

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  10. Although I highly respect Max as a blogger/reviewer/fellow Wu stan, and I agree with him on many key points (U-God blowing hairy goat balls, for instance), I am amazed at how differently we can view many of the same albums. Pathetically misguided attempts by Def Jam to try and market Mr. GFK as if he had a hope of being a pop artist aside, Pretty Toney is a fantastic album. "Holla" is one of my favorite Ghost tracks of all time, and virtually every song on here (aside from the retarded "Push" and the boring "Love") is a banger. I love this album, even though the only other Clansmen to make appearances are Rza (in the form of a couple beats) and ODB (appropriately hollering on "holla"). To be honest though, I love the hell out of every single GFK album (Wizard of Poetry included), except Apollo Kids, in which Ghost let me down for the first time ever with a less-than-brilliant release.

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  11. Run is just amazing, but Jada's verse completely knocks Ghost's out of the park I think. And to Nam Sane: Apollo Kids was awesome, listen again

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