Ghostface Killah
Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry
(Def Jam)

Beats: XL
Lyrics: XL
Originality: L

No matter how gritty his catalog is, Ghostface Killah has never shied away from his love of soul. In fact, that fondness has helped spawn a flurry of past hits like 1996’s “All That I Got Is You,” featuring Mary J. Blige, and 2006’s Ne-Yo collab “Back Like That.” So it should come as no surprise that the Ironman would completely dedicate his eighth solo album, Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry, to his affinity for R&B.

Ghost wisely uses guest vocalists, like Estelle, John Legend and Lloyd, as accessories who assist him in the storytelling of love’s changing faces. On “Not Your Average Girl,” GFK whispers sweet nothings, while the Sean C & LV–produced “Lonely” finds the Killer Bee sobbing over a love lost. It’s not all romance, however. First, there is the violently humorous “Guest House,” featuring Fabolous, and then there’s the pornographic “Stapleton Sex,” where Ghost urges his lady of the evening to put his “dick in [her] mouth and play with my nuts.”

Yet the aggression eventually subsides, and it’s back to stirring female adoration. “Forever” spotlights Ghost harmonizing on a strings-coasting hook, as he declares, “Them other chicks must hail to the queen as I/Put them dudes straight up in check, ’cause the queen is mine.” Although, immediately following that wholehearted dedication comes the balmy yet ordinary “I’ll Be That,” featuring label mate and ex–Disney Cheetah Girl Adrienne Bailon, whose glossy contribution marks a dent in the album’s soulful cohesion. But even when the songstress teeters two steps behind, Ghost manages to remain lyrically impressive and crudely romantic.

Keeping his grit, while still aiming for a successful R&B feel, Ghostface proves he has a way with words that goes even deeper than rap. —TRACY GARRAUD