Ghostface Killah ‘Superme Clientele’ (2000)

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In the interest of variation, I didn’t really want to review another Wu-Tang album so soon, but hey…it just worked out that way.

As far as I can tell, there’s two types of Ghost fans – ones who think ‘Ironman’ is his best album, and many more who prefer ‘Supreme Clientele.’ I’m in the former camp, wearing out my copy of that album way more than this. It’s one of my favourite rap albums of all time. But there’s no doubt that this was a classic album existing at a time when not only the Wu had arguably fallen off, but the East coast rap scene was entering an era of unprecedented commercial success at the cost of a messy creative slump where the sample heavy sound was being traded in for a profit-boosting MIDI-heavy direction. Hip-hop was probably sick of paying out royalties, and even worse – being sued by old musicians and their estates. It’s understandable, but in my opinion at least, rap always struggled to sound authentic without samples – up until Atlanta figured out how to make rap’s own nihilistic brand of heavy metal – trap music. Don’t get me wrong, the dirty south and west coast g-funk had their own sounds on lock, but back then, it was New York that ruled rapland. As the South began to rise, the East tried to adapt – an awkward process that still exists to this day. Anyway I digress…

This album bucks that trend, with a host of glorious sample-led beats produced by mainly lesser known contributors, but reportedly all overseen by The RZA, who himself was going through a tough production (d)evolution. No signs of that here – the beats are absolutely stellar all the way through and are the project’s biggest strength. ‘Ghost Deini’ is The RZA at his most ruggedly delicate, and ‘Stroke of Death’ is cheeky creativeness that just happened to be genius.

But what would it be without Ghostface? He’s always been a rapper rich in both style and substance – top 3 MC in the Wu for sure. With charisma arguably only topped by Ol’ Dirty; visceral, vivid storytelling skills perhaps matched only by BFF Raekwon and easily the winner of the conveyor of emotion crown within the clan. This  emotion is in how he tells the stories, not necessarily the content of the story so much – but then, that’s always going to be more of a subtle, underlying element when these stories are fables from the streets Ghostface spent his younger years, undoubtedly forced to act like a man shielded in iron –  in the face of rival gangs and imminent police intervention – cold on the outside but incredibly thoughtful and creative internally. Don’t expect any ‘I Can’t Go To Sleep’ moments here, but Ghost always manages to weave a little vulnerability into the tough guy braggadocio. And there’s braggadocio in spades – Ghost sounds genuinely disgusted by the caliber of rappers in the game at the time – always finding creative ways to boast that most can’t hold a candle to his descriptive genius. And he’s not wrong. Fuck rapping, Ghost is a true poet.

Now, I wouldn’t skip a moment of the aforementioned debut album ‘Ironman,’ it’s just amazing songs back-to-back – but this album suffers from some horrendously drawn out skits. Maybe their content goes way over the head of a British whiteboy like myself, but the penultimate ‘Clyde Smith’ in particular clocks in at almost 3 minutes, consisting of a pitched down voice rambling on about what appears to be a series of in-jokes. The entire Wu family may have been rolling around the studio in stitches at the time, but this along with the other skits are truly detrimental to the flow of the album and stop it from reaching unskippable masterpiece status even if the songs were all good enough without them – which I would personally say they’re just short of anyway.

For example, there’s two loaded Wu posse cuts, which on paper should be absolute slobberknockers. The beats are on point but the guest verses just don’t quite make the Wu classic grade. The Cappadonna from ‘Winter Warz’ doesn’t quite turn up on ‘Buck 50’ or ‘ Wu Banga 101’. All members contribute good verses, but theres just an intangible hunger missing from that 1993-1998 heyday.

This album is a classic in the context of the time, but my hindsight remains the same as my feelings when it was released – it’s not quite the masterpiece many people claim it to be. This album is great, but I’ll be taking my copy of ‘Ironman’ to the desert island instead.

Best songs: ‘Ghost Deini’; ‘Stroke of Death’; ‘Malcolm’; ‘Cherchez la Ghost’; ‘One’; ‘Nutmeg’

Worst songs: The skits

Please leave your comments below on mine and your own thoughts, I want to hear them!

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Ol’ Dirty Bastard ‘Nigga Please’ (1999)

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Wow, what an album to start with. This process is going to be pretty fucking random because even though I own a ridiculous amount of vinyl and CD’s, I’ll just be dropping a bunch of albums onto a USB stick and listening in my car. And my stereo seems to have a mind of its own as it pertains to the order of play.

So, anyway, anyone who knows me knows I’m a pretty big Wu-Tang fan. In fact I’m not just a fan of the core members, I could probably qualify for a PHD on the subject of the affiliates associated with them. I mean, I created a website as a shrine for Warcloud aka Holocaust in 2002. Now that’s scary pre-blog fanboy shit. I’m sure more stories about my personal Wu history and keen-ness on Killa Bee info will find its way into these posts eventually, but for now we must focus on ODB’s second solo album from 1999. Now, I’m sure I own this CD (they all sit in the loft mostly untouched these days) but probably played it once. Now, that’s a damning statistic. As the tinny, soulless percussion hits for the Neptune’s produced, Chris Rock featured first track kick in, it all makes sense to me again why said CD is probably still in near mint condition.

ODB over Neptune’s beats was the thing nobody knew they ever wanted. The beat to ‘Cold Blooded’ made me want to drive into oncoming traffic just so I didn’t have to put myself through any more. It’s not all The Neptune’s fault. Murder Inc. honcho Irv Gotti supplies a couple of uninspired inoffensive Swizz Beatz-ripoffs. Around this time these beats were the standard. I mean, that’s no excuse, but regardless, these beats don’t suit Ol’ Dirty. The notable exception may be ‘Got Your Money’ – likely his biggest hit, still getting rotation at every student nostalgia club night no doubt – and you know what? For a rap song half-assed trying to be a pop song it’s not too bad.

A few beats are RZA produced, when he was still in his sample-light, MIDI-heavy phase. He even tries to reproduce a Neptune’s style beat with Wu-affiliate producer Buddha Monk on ‘Dirt Dog’. It’s hard to believe the RZA efforts on here were made around a similar time he made those divine masterpieces on ‘Supreme Clientele’. Speaking of Buddha Monk, he produces the shortest posse cut I’ve perhaps ever heard, ‘Gettin’ High’ which features the infamous Shorty Shit Stain who turned heads on the first ODB album, if not for nothing other than his amazing name – but not even ODB himself. The song is one of the few bright spots and almost tricks you into thinking you’re in the midst of a vintage Wu affiliate album like ‘The Swarm’. Alas, the song ends way too soon and we’re back in Wu hell.

Having said all this, most of the album is just lacklustre beats with Ol’ Dirt Dog just freestyling madly in what appears to be a recording method which sees him spit a line or two at a time. Must have driven the sound engineer mental. Now, songs in which ODB has guested like Bobby Digital’s ‘Kiss of a Black Widow’ and Wu songs like ‘Diesel’ and ODB solo ‘Dog Shit’ and even ‘Doe Rae Wu’ show the very best of this approach – ODB just busts his way into our lives and spits some crazy shit that has your attention transfixed, and then he goes away for a bit, before he outstays his welcome. But when it’s a whole album, the entertaining curiosity of a waffling madman (allegedly) on crack wears thin. Especially when most of the beats are pretty weak and insufferable in their attempt to be minimal. I will be listening to his first solo at some point – and although that album also wasn’t overly popular with my CD player back in the day, I’m sure its a better example of how he could make a solo album work.

As a side note, some of the misogynistic lyrics on this album which are obviously supposed to be funny, do not age well in 2019. I’m sure this will be a common theme on this page. I’m not expecting anything else and I always believe that any work of art is a snapshot of it’s time and should be left as such. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t wincing when ODB politely asks his female companion ‘You wanna kneel and suck dick? Imma keep your throat sore. Bitch you got herpes in ya ass’. Funny? Maybe. After a whole albums worth of similar material though…hmm it wears a little thin. It even lacks originality – he begs for pussy from a prostitute without the exchange of money on ‘I Want Pussy’ three years after Akinyele already did it with way more flair.

In conclusion, it was made in what was a pretty weird transition period for rap. And this album seems to be a monument of that time.  I’m not sure if he reached out to the young Neptunes boys, or if maybe Pharell envisioned turning ODB into some kind of new millennium version of Rick James, but for me it wasn’t a good fit at all. Maybe the synergy could have been more successful later when Pharell expanded on this awful sound that made popular rap music sound like someone had just mucked around on an early synth plugin and exported it by mistake (I’m sure we’ll revisit this subject again). The rest of the album was OK, and certainly has its entertaining lyrical moments, but at various points I just shook my head at the shoddy workmanship of the songs, and the overall patchyness of what was shockingly a major label album that must have passed it’s way unnoticed through all the red tape that surely comes with that process. Maybe for that very reason it should be applauded for what could only be described as a punk aesthetic.

Ol’ Dirty is a hip-hop legend, and he will be remembered fondly as the Wu jester with the warped mind. But this project was never going to work, especially in this era.

Best songs: ‘ Nigga Please’; ‘Gettin’ High’; ‘Got Your Money’

Worst songs: The rest

Please leave your comments below on mine and your own thoughts, I want to hear them!

Intro

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Yo, yo, yo, this is the intro.

Sorry, that was a crap start.

Anyway, so the story is – I’m a massive hip-hop fan, and have been since I was 12 – in what has stood up as my single favourite year in rap, 1997. A long time has passed, and even though the the genre suffered through some pretty patchy years along the way, it slowly expanded its horizons, and today we see hip-hop’s influence on countless other genres, and likewise hip-hop has taken on influences from far and wide too, creating hundreds of little sub-genres. But we’re not interested in categorizing particularly, we’re just interested in whether the music’s good right?

This is where this blog comes in. Ever since I started driving, I’ve found car journeys to constantly be magical little things – an opportunity to keep up with the latest music, but also to listen to my favourites, my not-so-favourites, and masses of albums which I missed at the time of their release. Recently, as I begin to fly through my thirties, I often find myself doing little reviews of the albums as I speak out loud and share my thoughts with myself (Isn’t it great that modern technology means that no one bats an eyelid when you talk to yourself in the car anymore? For all they know, I could be talking to my Aunt Fanny on Skypebook Videotime™).

Originally, I was just going to post reviews on Instagram. And I’m also going to do that alongside these posts. But it turns out I’ve got a bit more to write about these albums than I originally though, and Instagram’s text section, although freakishly large, does have a limit. So on IG, there’ll be mini-reviews – and on here it’ll be the real deal.

Anyway, let’s just get into it. And please do leave your comments and thoughts along the way. I welcome people to disagree with me as I always appreciate different perspectives, and might even have my mind changed, who knows! Regardless, I’m keen to talk to people who really feel the music. Without sounding too self-righteous, most of the normies we meet in our everyday lives just don’t quite get it do they?

Let’s get to it…