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Despite rarely being mentioned amid “best rappers alive” rumblings, Ghostface has yet to release anything but acclaimed hip-hop since his 1996 solo debut, Ironman. Even when Wu-Tang releases started failing to find an audience, Ghost put the Clan on his back and kept the crew relevant with 2000’s seminal disc Supreme Clientele. Possessing a unique pedigree of prose (i.e. “Ayo, this rappin’s like ziti, facin’ me real TV/Crash at high speeds, strawberry kiwi”) and unbridled lyrical passion, he is the reigning king of consistency. Inexplicably, though, the Staten Islander’s tunes tend to excite critics more than consumers. After treading more accessible waters with 2004’s kinder and gentler disc, The Pretty Toney Album, Starks takes it back to his Killah roots with his fifth solo platter, Fishscale.

Clan connoisseurs will find comfort in “9 Milli Bros.,” a colossal posse cut featuring all of the Clansmen—including ODB and the return of Ghost’s longtime partner in rhyme Raekwon, who appears four times here as opposed to not at all last time around. The duo rekindles that classic Cuban Linx chemistry on the cocaine instructional “Kilo” and “R.A.G.U.,” an intense crime saga heightened by chilling strings and bells. Bullet-ridden narratives continue on the captivating “Shakey Dog,” where Ghost stages a botched heist over Lewis Parker’s horn-heavy Blaxploitation soundtrack with scene-setting detail: “Three fuckin’ maricones on the couch, watching Sanford & Son/Passing they rum, fried plantains and rice/Big rounds of onions on the T-bone steak/My stomach growling, Yo, I want some!”

Surprisingly, Ghost’s return to a darker sound doesn’t include the RZA. In his place is a crop of subterranean track masters. The most prominent being underground poster boy MF Doom, whose avant-garde replacement of Bobby Digital’s sonic grit is triumphant. Collaborating on five cuts, Ghost and Doom mesh like dust brothers from another. Metal Face’s hypnotic flutes and wave sound effects anchor “Underwater,” Tony’s bugged-out aquatic fantasy, complete with “mermaids with Halle Berry haircuts” and “SpongeBob in the Bentley coupé, banging the Isleys.” Their combined excellence continues on the acid-trip symphony “Charlie Brown” and the body-dropping “Clips of Doom,” a murder-gram ripe with piercing electric guitars and Ghost’s vivid violence: “Put two cutter mirrors replacing the eyes/So when the cops come they’ll see themselves, they all gonna die.”

Lightening up for a moment, Toney turns his attention toward estrogen for “Big Girl,” where the Pretty One sweet-talks shorties with his signature peculiarity. Later he waxes parental atop J Dilla’s subdued guitar lift on “Strap,” a candid reflection about today’s wayward parental discipline. “Nowadays kids don’t get beat/They get big treats, fresh pair of sneaks/Punishments is like, Here, have a seat.”
Unfortunately, Ghost Deini succumbs to commercial pressure. Amid the shadowy production scope of the album, the love-gone-bad R&B number “Back Like That” featuring Ne-Yo feels out of place. Equally confusing is the head-scratching “3 Bricks,” which awkwardly combines Ghost and Rae with Notorious B.I.G.’s “Somebody’s Gotta Die” vocals. Produced by Cool & Dre, the track seems better suited for Biggie’s slapdash Duets.
With a few forced collaborations being its only flaw, Fishscale is Ghost’s most addictive dosage post Supreme Clientele. Packed with vivid street tales, comic relief and straight spittin’, the album continues his standard of excellence. Now if only consistency equaled power. If it did, Ghostface would be king. —MATT BARONE

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  • http://www.unkut.com Robbie

    I’m impressed that Def Jam only put one corny track on there. “3 Bricks” was meant to be on Duets – it’s almost as bad as when Nas did “Thugz Mansion”.

  • JuniorC

    GHOSTFACE = KING OF NY! Fishcale is a banger.

  • http://www.uncanny1.blogspot.com DJ M

    I’m so freakin’ amped for this joint. 3/28 can’t come soon enough. Early reports had Madlib doing a beat on “Fishscale.” Anyone know if that track made the final cut?

  • http://differentkitchen.blogspot.com ian

    XXL needs to set up an RSS feed for their site as a whole, not just the comment threads.

  • http://www.jivsweden.com wfff

    it’s that good.

  • SBK

    I think the vocals from Biggie on 3 Bricks are from “Niggas Bleed”

  • daesonesb

    i liked back like that………
    “gimme that ring.. wont come off? Then ill take the whole finger”

  • http://www.dick.com Shaolins Finest

    How could this album not have hip-hop’s greatest producer? Ghost you need The Rza. Great album, you definately sound sharp as a blade, but you need the razor.

  • http://xxlmag.com bobdigi

    Damn XXL, I was almost convinced you guys didn’t know shit about hip hop. Until I seen you guys gave Ghostface an XL, yall shoulda done an article on Ghost, shit put him on your next cover. He is truly one of the most creative origional mcs out and thats what true hip hop is all about.

  • kmax25

    ghostface is garbage yall. the nigga aint been relivent since the wu broke up. the single with ne-yo is wack too. nobody on the west, south or midwest gonna get is album. thats strickly for ny and ny only. he might push about 100k in ny alone but his music is too limited

  • http://myspace.com/bmp Def

    Now this is what hip-hop needs more of these days. This years gonna be all about Def jam wait til Raekwon drops…if he does. Hopefully.

  • http://T:OBitch Young Piff


  • http://source.com one

    I thought u might have had a little sense but i guess not ghostface is hot his sound is 4 everyone on every caost.See what i’m talk’n bout u been stuck down south 4 so long ur ears then got used to that wack as style of music.thats exactly what im
    talk’n bout niggas down there lack the safistication to understand when somebodies really say’n somthing.
    i guess all that sizzurps got ur mind all cloudy.like i said yall should stick to what yall know dirt roads and tractors and leave the real music in the city. you country
    bumpkin ass farmer..

    cali all day

  • G The Vegan

    i wish you young niggaz would read some books…
    Ghost is a monster.
    no one is really testin him right now.
    this album needs a XXXL

  • Pingback: unkut.com - A Tribute To Ignorance (Remix)

  • SparkIt1QP

    What KMAx u need to get of that stuff u on. Shouldnt u b out kissing your cousin or something, or leaning and rockin on something. jus goes to show u that real niggaz gonna listen to real music and party ppl gonna listen to whatever the gurls gonna dance with him to.On another note Im happy to c that ghost doin his thing. And Trife is ight 2oo dont sleep.
    the devils plantin fears inside the black babies/50 cent sodas in the hood they goin crazy/dead meat placed in the shells they eatin coldcutts/fast from the heart yall and grow up/1

  • syed

    robbie ur DUMB NAS smacked thugz mansion he outhsined tupac u dnt no ur hip hop s duk out

  • http://hotmail.com bullion cube

    the ill, abstract poet is back….
    future rap hall of famer….no doubt

  • Killa Swiss

    Uh, KMAX25, I’m from tha south, homey, and I will be coppin this album on THE DAY IT COMES OUT!!! You got ya head stuck up ya ass if u think this joint is just 4 NY niggaz. U out ya rabid ass mind, homes. There’s real hip hop fans everywhere. We may hard to find because of all of tha commercial and mainstream garbage, but we out there.

  • A.T.S.


  • radnuw

    Ghostface is dope.. The album is insane.. I’m from the south.. and Ghostface is very relevant….. Hip Hop is not necessarily regional.. (Wu-Tang is global) Get it right.

  • Freddy Freeloader

    “KMAX25: He might push about 100k in ny alone but his music is too limited.”
    Okay, you don’t have to like him but saying Ghost is too limited makes me wonder what kinda chemicals you’ve been ingesting. If there’s one thing Ghost isn’t it’s limited. By the way, it ain’t straight NY’, over here in the Netherlands (Europe) I’ve been banging this for weeks now.

  • http://source.com one

    the netherlands man fuck europe
    yall dont even matter. who cares about hiphop in europe.aint nobody try’n ta listen to no nigga with a accent try 2 talk about street life.get real americans barley even listen 2 dem ugly ass floetry bitches
    leave hiphop to the pro’s in the states.i know what yall can have. george bush being that he already owns tony blair and england.close ur mouth when grown folks is talk’n…
    american hiphop politics his nothing to do with yall so mind ur buisness.

  • J robinson II

    Big Ups to Matt Barone’s review of Fishscale. Tupac, Biggie, and the rest of the lost ones are puking in their graves over how sorry hip-hop has gone. Nas,Kanye & Ghost are the only ones keepin it true to the heart and soul. I can’t wait until the day that the Hip Pop shit dies

  • Joost

    Ghost is the king.

  • All-Star

    U forgot andother X. I aint hatin on u guys but this album is too, too dope. He doesn’t get enough props. The Ghost come out with another banger and this could be, COULD BE, his best album. The best album of ’06 already! If u gonna cop sumthin on tues. cop both fishscale and king.

  • Freddy Freeloader

    ONE, Let me get this straight, you’re saying Ghost’s sound is for everyone except if you’re not American? And the rest of the world should shut up when the US is talking? Sounds like something ya boy George dubya could’ve come up with.

  • smirl

    ghost never failed to dissapoint me this joint is CRAZY paints a movie WU TANG WORLDWIDE PEACE FROM CANADA

  • Manny Blanco

    Hip Hop is in a terrible state right now. I can’t listen to the radio no more unless it’s a throwback. Ghostface is real and needs his credit. I am amped that he keeps putting out but doesn’t get that shine. “My odds is crafty, while ya’ll are stuck on laffy taffy, wonderin’ how ya niggaz get past me,I’ve been doing this since Nas dropped the nasty”.

  • http://XXL.COM 1&ONLY


  • http://NOBODYSSMILING don W

    Name some one better than Ghost, and proove it I’ll assainate you answer for him! try…………………

  • MH

    This shit is fire and the skit with the bad ass kid is funny as hell. True hip hop fans gonna love this shit. Most of yall dont know what to listen to in a song, you just wan the shit to beat so you can be seen by hoes. Who can fuck the CLan name a group, region, country, universe. Cant nobody question they music because they stayed true to what they began with. CHANGE FOR NO ONE

  • Streets Disciple

    one, Im from england an truf b told did u no dat 1 of tha greatest of all time 2 grace da mic was born in britain, he graced d mic with the human beat box wiv la di da di an the show, he goes by tha name slick rick, so u need 2 chek yoself wiv knowin abowt hip hop, hip hop is global an im sure ul be hearin abowt a sub genre of hip hop called grime soon, an den ul know wat uk spittinz abowt, neway ghost denie graced the mic once agen, although tha review needz anuva X, jus waitin for the Wu-Gambinos 2 get 2geva agen

  • DW85

    Ghost,lyrical/abstract genuis is back. This album is definite banger and XXL gave the correct rating to this album.

  • http://source one

    street disciple u need to learn how to spell.the education system must not be to good in england.(second)nobody gives a damn about slick rick he was dope but not anymore.(third)yeah i heard that grime shit but i really aint impressed.



  • Ironman

    One, you need to check yourself. American hip hop politics has everything to do with us as we listen to hip hop too.(second)You can’t say anything about our accents because even Ghost spits about rapping with a british accent on ‘We made it’ (supreme clientele).(third)Your ignorance is preventing you from seeing the relevance of europe and its artists. Hip hop is for everyone.

    UK and Europe stand up tall!

  • http://myspace.com/justthisleagueinfinitecity Dru

    “…The Wu is back…” heard the whole joint at the listening in MIA, this should get 5 mics/XXL(which ever is better these days). Cop it! Let’s bring back the Wu era. Only way to do it is to support the artist! The Wally Champ is here, and aint goin’ nowhere!

  • http://mcmafiaontopyahoo.com Big Mick

    Yo!, I think Ghost always had it! and his Wallibee crew.Ya’ll that diss the Fishscale album need to redo ur math cause fire reconizes Fire!! Thats right…North Carolinas finist is here…check me out ,coming soon..Big Mick and Da McMafia Crew..Fishscale…Go and get it!!!

  • L From up north

    Killah is one of the only people i would go to the record store to buy besides nas and some of 2pacs albums but i do like the album but it has to many skits. I love listening to Wu’s skits but bad mouth kid skit is worthless its funny but not a neccesity and also major operation but i do like heart street direction. I dont like Three Bricks song could of been on the duets album. But they didnt even like big so i dont understand that song jus like somebody else said it was jus like thugz mansion. or even me and my girlfriend by Jayz all them joint were wack cause they werent meant to be. Plain and simple but Besides the skits and 9 milli they all bang hard though not a classic worth the purchase

  • Ironman

    “One, you need to check yourself. American hip hop politics has everything to do with us as we listen to hip hop too.(second)You can’t say anything about our accents because even Ghost spits about rapping with a british accent on ‘We made it’ (supreme clientele).(third)Your ignorance is preventing you from seeing the relevance of europe and its artists. Hip hop is for everyone.

    UK and Europe stand up tall! ”

    THIS IS THAT NIGGA WHO KEEPS STEALING MY NAME!!!!! HAHAHA YO U ON HHG AND NOW XXL MAG!!!!! DAMN HOMIE. WE GOT THE SAME VIEWS BUT LIKE DAMN KINDA WACK SHARING THE SAME NAME, so bein’ the good person i am i’ll comprimise. To make things normal [since i can see ur from the uk..or europe.., right?] I’ll put Ironman[USA] just to keep shit real. Haha funny shit. But yo.

    This album is nice, and man fuck that nigga “ONE” Slick Rick used to be hot??? Uh yeah sure I guess he used to be but you’re actin like he still puttin out records and shit. No joke that man is EASILY top 10. Very underrated.

    I’m also sick of everyone being so stereotypical/ignorant. Man Ghost ain’t limited just cuz he got a NY sound don’t mean he limited. Shit I could say that every south artist’s style is limited, but cats up north are still buyin’ their shit. and I’m sure people down south is buyin some ny shit. Ain’t no such thing as LIMITED hip hop. Like the other people said it’s global. Some people just have different styles, between diff. regions that’s all……

  • http://www.myspace.com/jturncwebb J-Turn

    Another classic by ghost but what happened to the charlie brown track ?? Also the version they used for ” the champ ” I cant even listened to after I heard the bootleg version. I can understand if they didnt get the clearance for the Rocky shit in the beginning but they didnt have to fuck up the beat like that?? I do question the no RZA thing, but Ghost proves he is still one of the greatest ever.

  • QB

    Ghost is VERY relevant. Look, I’m from Texas and I might be the only Ghost fan within 100 miles, but down here all people care about is dumb shit like grills and whatnot. He is his own MC, if you like the majority of the bullshit that comes on BET & MTV everyday, you might not like Ghostface. Its a shame, he’s one of the greatest MC’s of all-time, and very few people know it…..

  • H.N.I.C.

    fishscales is the shit. 1 of the best albums i hav heard in a long tyme. good work on dat ghostface

  • Big O

    Yo One, Ghostface shit is hot to def!! I have all of his joints, This is my man doing the damn thing. I just dont understand why you shittin on people who are supporting “Ghost”, now go at K-MAX25 all day his response was stupid and he deserved it, but to have people overseas support real hip hop especially from my hometown NYC!!!I’m Lovin the respect they give chill with that loud talk, people already think we are to big headed!!!!Laurelton Queenz stand up!!!!1

  • A.T.S.


  • lance

    I’m white, and I love this album. Rest in peace J-Dilla

  • $iLEAN$


  • snipez

    yea I downloaded it


  • sylvia

    I am 39 years old and a female hip hop fan. I love most of the songs on fishscale mostly “mama”. I have respect for the old school artist trying to do their thing.

  • lance

    by the way, Madlib wasnt on the album! Maybe you got confused because J-dilla was on it who worked with Madlib. The Jaylib album is hot!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jason

    damn i dont care what anyone thinks lyrically ghostface is the best..the way he puts his rymes n all its just amazing hes the greatest the KING of NY and the king of LYRICS

    jason from rockvile, maryland :-)

  • KLO

    This album is a phucking CLASSIC!! Phuck what you heard!

  • Shottingham

    Yo ONE, the Shaky Dog tracks produced by Lewis Parker, who’s English you dumb fuck, as for being educated i’d go back to 3rd grade or whatever it is you retarded, self important burger munching yanks call it and go die, little bitch.

  • Eneuri

    Its a shame that this album will probably not be appreciated by the masses as it should be….Its by far the best album i’ve heard this year, and if it wasn’t for that track with Biggie, this album would be labeled a classic!

  • mesai

    tru banga, solid production, great samples, go and cop it….

  • narada

    The FishScale is hot best in a While thats real music

  • Mozeek

    One, why did you diss that dude from Europe? Quoting KRS-ONE, hip-hop is universal now. The whole world’s listening to it. The only problem I see is that a lot
    of them listen to commercial hip-hop
    instead of real hip-hop. Ghostface is real hip-hop. Leave that dude alone.


    biggies vocals arent from somebodys gotta die there from niggas bleed so xxl your wrong. anyway fishscale is probably ghostface best album yet.

  • mlja

    classic album………..4.5 mics


    yall little smut dudes need to stand up and salute ghost for that album,
    ghost for PRESIDENT

  • http://www.myspace.com/venom3030 Pipe C. Jaxon

    I agree that the 3 Bricks should have not been put there! I really think Charlie Brown was a much better song and should have been on the finall tracklist. “Be Like That” well I mean who hasn’t release a CD on a major label without a top 40 radio friendly song on it lately. I think this is pure uncut Ghost. I my opinion the only factors holding Wu together lyrically is Ghost, GZA, and Masta Killa! Still love RZA being the maestro behind the boards.

  • mayeni

    what happened to the charlie brown track?!!!that beat was SICK!

  • http://www.myspace.com/venom3030 Pipe C. Jaxon

    Supposedly the folks at Def Jam weren’t impressed with the track so they may release it as a white label single! I guess when you proclaim you’re out to save Hip-Hop cause it’s dying it’s not worthy to released to the masses

  • polorican

    best cd so far this year,shakey dog is that real hiphop shit, ill ass beat no hook just a raw verse all the way thru. the cd is full of ill samples,raw lyrics,and cappadona is finally starting to “maybe” start showing some life. and yall niggas need to chill on that usa/europe shit. We are the creators of hip hop in america, but in europe,even from artits own mouths if you really follow hip hop, that where they find the love and make they’re money. niggas over here listening to laffy taffy and shit all day on the radio. so we need to show some repect.with that said though yall still need to step the lyrics up over there on the real.

  • mayeni

    i live in london,n i can safely say that there’s a huge followin of ppl who love hip hop,real,raw,conscious hip hop.the difference with the states i think is that we respect rappers who experiment n create new sounds or dare to fuse with different genres.i suppose because we’re better @integratin n all that.it’s definetely not all about comercial hip hop here.

  • Mozeek

    Polorican, I agree with you. I’ve been to Spain once and I heard a car
    down there blasting Heltah Skeltah. Ask someone who Heltah Skeltah is here in the states, and they wouldn’t
    know who you’re talking about.

  • casey

    westcoastin, i was @work the other day. listing to my headphones when this 25-30 year old female ask,”what are you listening to?” I told her fine ass “ghostface”(fishscale) she replied “man I love him & wu tang”.I was supprised.She looks like a r&b fan. Know what i’m trying to tell ya’ll is this.dont ever be scared to try something new,like ghostface on the cover or even e40 (thats a banger too) instead of kim or shine. I do understand sob stories sell.
    thanks for reading

  • Barry

    Ghost-Deni is still the Wally Champ swinging the big belt! Fishscale is fire, ‘Underwater’ is insane, the album is hot. ’3 Bricks’ is ass and Jellyfish and Back Like That has no place on this record

  • http://source.com one

    you people on this blog owe me money and so does xxl magazine.are you people deaf or something this album is trash.with the execption of underwater.you muthafuckas on this site fooled me.you gave ghost an xl and you niggas leave’n blogs say’n how dope this album is and when i went and bought it it was complete garbage.i am a wu tang fan so i wanted to support.but this was a waste of my money.shit i could have just bought a sack and got high.all the beats suck and ghost singing (she must be a special lady) takes the cake.this is the last time i listen to xxl,s reviews.im feel’n ghostface and reakwon but if they keep making shit like this it’s curtains for them.im look’n forward to hear’n cuban linx 2 but you can be damn sure
    i aint gon buy it until i hear it first.i want my money back!!!!!!!!!!!

  • AssassinFlow

    BIG UPS TO GHOSTFAAAACE! This album is hot! Actually, this is the first Ghostface cd I’ve bought. I got mad respect for Ghost thru the Wu Tang shit, but I’m glad I decided to buy one of his solo albums. This guy is keepin it original and real hip-hop like. The only weak(er) track on here was the 3 Bricks with BIG cause everyone should jus leave BIG’s shit alone. Also, lemme end this just by saying that I give mad props and respect to anybody makin music themselves that they love and believe in. NY, Dirty South, West Coast, WORLDWIDE HIP HOPPAS STAND UP!!

  • Dissapointed

    Man, I get sick of trumpets and speedy gonzales soul singers on hooks.

  • http://www.myspace.com/hiphopspot17 Killa Bee

    I am without question the number one Wu-Tang follower out there. This is a sick album but I truly believe it’s becoming redundant hearing Tony Starks always rap about how he’s gangster because he sells cocaine and shit. Still, he managed to make a gangsterrific album even with the presence of Ne-Yo, who obviously shouldn’t be on there. The album had way too many skits. He should’ve put them at the beginning of tracks like the Wu used to do, not seperate tracks.

    That’s it. Buy that shit and support the Wu. I can’t wait for some new GZA material to hit the streets.


  • allnice

    Fishscale is an aight album, but Ghost’s lyrics need a tune up for real. Raekwon has always been the better lyricist, but I think that Ghost suffered from not having son on the songs with him enough through the years he was putting out albums. So now he reached a point where he ran outta material, so he had to start spitting corny shit like underwater rhymes and what not. I also disagree with the reviewer who said that Doom’s beats mesh with Ghost, because I don’t think they do. Ghost doesn’t have the type of flow you need to spit on Dooms shit. A cat like RZA or GZA could, but Ghost flow is high pitched and needs some more warrior and pretty toney type beats. Overall, the album is worth a listen.

  • Mrs.Jones

    I love the song “Back Like That.” with ne-yo that was hot!!!

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