March 4, 2009

Ghostface Killah - More Fish (December 12, 2006)


In 2006, Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah released Fishscale, a critically praised album that earned the nine-man collective some of their best press in years. It featured heavy involvement from both his Wu-Tang brethren (they all even managed to appear on a single song together, although that was more of a feat of studio wizardry than an actual attempt at closeness) and his newly-formed Theodore Unit crew, with production duties handled by, among others, two guys on opposite ends of the hip hop spectrum: Pete Rock and MF Doom. While it didn't sell nearly as well as some of his past work, Fishscale was generally seen as a success.

Even with that information, it was still surprising when Def Jam president Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter greenlit a second Ghostface album to be released around Christmas 2006. It was titled More Fish, which led bloggers to immediately believe that it was a sequel to Fishscale, or, at least, maybe included some tracks which were dropped from the original disc due to time constraints or whatnot. Early reviews by the press were positive, but, as you two may already be aware by now, Ghostface Killah is the most liked member of the Wu-Tang Clan when it comes to his music, and hardly ever garners a negative review, unless it comes from this very blog.

When More Fish hit store shelves, I was surprised at how grade school the packaging and liner notes appeared, especially after the professional-quality shots that filled Fishscale's booklet. The disc is heavy on guest appearances and is produced mostly by unknowns, except for MF Doom, Hi-Tek, Madlib, and Mark Ronson (based on a technicality). I believe the rest of the Wu was outside on a union-sanctioned smoke break, as none of them bother to make an appearance: considering the heavy Wu involvement on Ghost's next opus, The Big Doe Rehab, that's just another reason I believe these songs were just sitting around Ghost's bedroom for years before he decided to clean up his apartment.

Let's begin.

1. GHOST IS BACK
After a lengthy and unnecessary intro revolving around a New Year's Eve celebration leading into 2007, Ghostface Killah jumps onto the beat from Eric B. & Rakim's "Juice (Know The Ledge)" with good results. The reason this track falls apart is because of Ghost's incessant need to list all of his friend at the very end, right before he mentions he has bills to pay. That's always a good reason to release an album, Pretty Toney.

2. MIGUEL SANCHEZ (FEAT TRIFE DA GOD & SUN GOD)
Second song on the album, and already Ghost is sitting out. Trife sounds as good as he usually does, but the surprise here is Ghost's son Sun God, who turns in his best performance to date. Maybe Ghost did the right thing by leaving his boys to handle their business alone.

3. GUNS N' RAZORS (FEAT TRIFE DA GOD, CAPPADONNA, & KILLA SIN)
Ghost and the higher-profile members of his Theodore Unit rock over one of MF Doom's special herbs (specifically "Dragon's Blood", which has been utilized a few more times by Doom himself), and they do a fucking great job of it (even Cappadonna manages to sound decent), although I may just be partial to the Scooby Doo-esque instrumental itself. (It's actually a sample from the old Spider-Man cartoon series.) This is among my favorite MF Doom productions to date, and not just because it reminds me of watching Saturday morning cartoons.

4. OUTTA TOWN SHIT
This track is alright, but it didn't resonate with me the way that some of the man's other tales have in the past (*cough* "The Hilton" *cough*). The Lewis Parker beat isn't bad, though.

5. GOOD (FEAT TRIFE DA GOD & MR. MAYGREEN)
This song is just bad. (Did you see what I just did right there? Clever, right?)

6. STREET OPERA (FEAT SUN GOD)
This is the same song that appeared on that bullshit GhostDeini The Great album I wrote about a while back. It's not bad, but I've already moved on, and perhaps you should, too.

7. BLOCK ROCK
After a weird false start, Madlib's beat (that's right, I said Madlib) kicks in and beats you into submission. Ghost also steps his game up, and the result is an entertaining track in less than three minutes, although the weak hook sounds like it's being performed by Clyde Smith. Clean up the sound a little bit, and this could have fit in on Fishscale pretty nicely.

8. MISS INFO CELEBRITY DRAMA (SKIT) (FEAT MISS INFO)
While this may lead into the next track, it's still awfully pointless.

9. POKERFACE (FEAT SHAWN WIGS)
This is essentially a Shawn Wigs solo song (about playing poker) with Ghost reduced to appearing on the hook. The concept of Wigs getting his Kenny Rogers on is amusing, but the track as a whole is pretty boring.

10. GREEDY BITCHES (FEAT SHAWN WIGS & REDMAN)
Kind of goofy in its execution, although it should be noted that both Ghost and Wigs are more misogynistic than you may be accustomed to. Reggie Noble swoops in and saves the track with a hilarious verse, but when taken as an entire package, this song isn't very good.

11. JOSEPHINE (FEAT TRIFE DA GOD & THE WILLIE COTTRELL BAND)
Producer Hi-Tek graciously allowed Ghost to borrow this song from his collection, even though it previously appeared on his own album, Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip. Although I could have done without the hook, Ghost and Trife bring listeners a couple of heartfelt verses over some cool, calm, and collected production.

12. GREW UP HARD (FEAT TRIFE DA GOD & SOLOMON CHILDS)
No attempt at hiding it here - this is a Trife Da God song, through and through. Ghost doesn't even bother to show up to the studio. The song itself is alright (Trife is still one of the better Wu affiliates), but I was more amused with Solomon Childs on the hook: he implies that everyone that doesn't regularly attend operas is living a hard life. Operas? Really?

13. BLUE ARMOR (FEAT SHEEK LOUCH)
Ghost continues his fruitful relationship with The Lox (he should just record an entire album with those guys as an honorary fourth member or something) by featuring the underused and frequently undervalued Sheek Louch on a track. It starts off sounding like a direct lift from labelmate (and fellow Clan member) Method Man's "Walk On", his collaboration with Redman, but luckily the beat switches to something harder. Sheek's line about being "fire in the streets/like in Back To The Future, when the car left" gets me every time.

14. YOU KNOW I'M NO GOOD (FEAT AMY WINEHOUSE)
I had actually heard this song before I ever knew who Amy Winehouse was, and I thought it was alright at the time, even though the song basically consists of Ghostface jumping on an already established song, sort of like he did on The Pretty Toney Album. Today, it sounds pretty good, as Ghost meshes with Mark Ronson's beat as if he had grown up there. I feel that Def Jam screwed the pooch by not dropping this as an official single or video, as it could have actually helped boost Ghost's profile tremendously. A shame, that.

15. ALEX (STOLEN SCRIPT)
Probably the strangest story Ghostface has ever committed to wax (it involves a man whose screenplay, based on the life of Ray Charles, is stolen, and the ensuing film that is made helps Jamie Foxx win an Academy Award). It's amusing, thanks to Ghost's usual attention to even the most minute of details, making it seem as if you're in the room with him while he's telling the tale, but you'll probably only listen to it the once.

16. GOTTA HOLD ON (FEAT SHAWN WIGS & EAMON)
No, I really don't.

17. BACK LIKE THAT (REMIX) (FEAT NE-YO & KANYE WEST)
Included solely because it would justify Def Jam's advertising More Fish as "featuring Kanye West". Kanye's verse is admittedly interesting (as is his reference to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), and Ghost, to his credit, adjust his rhymes to recognize the presence of his guest, but as a whole, this remix was entirely unnecessary, especially since the original song wasn't that good to begin with.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The title More Fish indicates that this album was culled from outtakes and castoffs from the far more ambitious Fishscale project, and although that rumor has never been substantiated (or denied) by Def Jam Records, in spinning this today, I'm all but certain that was the case. There is little cohesion between songs, there are entire tracks on which Ghostface Killah doesn't appear (which, I realize, can be explained away by the "Theodore Unit" tag on the album cover, but it's still bullshit), and most of the beats aren't engaging enough to wake you out of a midday nap. The lack of Wu-Tang involvement is also a detriment (Killa Sin from Killarmy doesn't count), and including Kanye West on a remix to a song that he didn't produce in the first place is questionable at best. All in all, I was very disappointed when I first bought More Fish, and I still am, so much so that I wish I didn't get seconds.

BUY OR BURN? This is a burn. Ghostface Killah has slowly become the most consistent member of the Wu-Tang Clan (mainly because Gza/Genius only releases an album once every four years), but he's not infallible: I wouldn't be surprised if it was revealed later that this album wasn't actually sanctioned by the artist, but was instead compiled as a tax write-off for Def Jam. Pass.

BEST TRACKS: "Guns N' Razors"; "Block Rock"; "You Know I'm No Good"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Other Wu-Tang material can be found here.

8 comments:

  1. Fishscale went gold so it was pretty successful by Ghost standards. He has never been that big of a seller.

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  2. Ghost went gold with Fishscale so he did pretty good by his standard.

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  3. It's time, Max. Time to review an MF DOOM album.

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  4. Word up its time for an MF Doom album

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  5. Ghostface is too busymaking guest appearance on 30 Rock now. Muffin Top anyone? :)

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  6. AnonymousMay 10, 2013

    "It didn't sell nearly as well..."

    Really? I was under the impression it outsold all of his other solo releases. It sold like a hundred-thousand in its first week.

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  7. AnonymousMay 10, 2013

    ghost sounds dope as shit spitting over lib. when lib works with people for full albums -- see the guilty simpson stuff, percee p's "perserverance" (with that dope beat sampling the game CONTRA -- check it out asap!), and obviously madvillainy -- he truly creates the work of hiphop gods. I know it's not likely probably but a whole album of lib/ghost would be kill. Supposedly, doomstarks is coming out around halloween and will indeed feature lib beats so that will rule balls.

    you ever hear this, max?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pfflz7DNsw

    lib beat doom/ghost obviously not in same studio throwing down aight verses. obviously it's doom's show but it's still 100% rad overall.

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