Ghostface Killah
Wallabee Champ
Starks Enterprise

Sometime between the release How High and the latest Wu-Tang album, Ghostface Killah surpassed Method Man as the most popular member of the Wu. His guttural brand of New York hip hop hasn’t changed since the first verse of 36 Chambers, but now everyone from XXL to the indie tastemakers at Pitchforkmedia.com are proclaiming Ghostface the man of the moment. It seems people still love hearing a Staten Island tough guy pour his heart out on record.

We’ve seen numerous solo full lengths, a Wu Tang reunion album, and endless collaborations in recent years, so I take it Ghost is one tired dude. To continue his flood of stellar material (15 years into his career, mind you), he has released The Wallabee Champ, a collection of remixes, rarities and random selections from his vault.

Hip Hop music has taken on endless personas since he started rapping in ’93, but Ghost has remained gritty and constant throughout. He has seen countless bandwagons arrive in his industry, but he has wisely stuck to his guns. The cuts on Wallabee Champ cover the lifespan of Ghost’s career, and the masterful grasp of his technique is evident throughout. Like the fictional ninja he took his name from, Ghostface Killah remains fierce and relentless on this collection of tracks.

Following a live freestyle intro, Ghost lands a one-two soul slap over Jay-Z’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” instrumental and the full vocal version of “ABC”. Ghost loves rapping on emotive soulful instrumentals, which might be why so many white folks love him these days. Like some intern at Paste magazine said, “Hey guys, you know Ghostface is pretty much an emo rapper. He calls himself Pretty Tony and he’s always telling stories about getting his heart broken.”

Longtime collaborator Raekwon appears throughout the album sharing typical abstract murder goon conversations with Ghost. Their compatibility is flawless on “Roosevelts”, with its intense twinkling piano licks and horn fills. Trife thankfully sticks to the chorus while the pros go to work on the verses.

“Hidden Darts remix” opens with Ghost warning, “Ya’ll niggas know what time it is to kill with the laser beam vocals”. He proceeds to annihilate the so-so instrumental, shouting detailed threats of violence and bravado. “Charlie Brown remix” features a jazz piano loop and a double-time drum shuffle that allows Ghost to flaunt two great verses that burst with his trademark vocab. The verbal imagery stays ripe on “Clips”, as Ghost explains, “My man’s got the big rap sheet, that’s outweighing two elephants”

As you reach the end of the album, Ghost’s authenticity is so apparent that you’ll be second-guessing the claims of all your other favorite rappers. The legacy of Tony Starks is cemented on the final track, a seven-minute freestyle with Method Man from 1993. Wallabee Champ is a no-brainer while we wait for new material from this rap legend.
–Chris Seeger

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