Back in everyone was going crazy for the Wu-Tang Clan. Their debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), shot up both the charts and critics best of lists, ushering in a new wave of hip-hop. A couple years later, members dove into the solo arena, further praise was heaped upon the likes of Raekwon and The GZA while Method Man became a household name. Despite all this success, not every member became a mainstream smash or critical darling on their own.
Dennis Coles, Ghostface Killah, has been raging against this fate his entire career, steadily building a solid discography and loyal fanbase. His latest release, Fishscale, is further proof he possesses the greatest staying power of any of his colleagues.
Fishscale is loaded with Ghost’s trademarked syllable-spewing, nigh incomprehensible delivery and the soulful beats he has made a living rhyming overtop. On the surface it’s nothing new, but the album is infused with an unavoidable desperation.
“The Champ” begins with a boxing trainer telling Ghostface he “hasn’t been hungry since [’s] Fishscale.” A sampled crowd roars, a killer horn section kicks and Coles starts spiting verses, proving without a doubt his hunger is insatiable now.
“The Champ” is just one of the standout tracks on Fishscale, all of which, except for the few requisite skits, reach near unprecedented heights for a rapper closing in on 40. Though Wu purists may cry foul, one of the reasons the album hits as hard as it does is the noticeable lack of The RZA, who has held a monopoly over the producer’s chair on nearly any Wu-Tang related project. Instead, Fishscale boasts a who’s who of hot producers like Pete Rock, the late J Dilla, Just Blaze and MF Doom. No producer strays far from Ghostface’s niche but they instill their songs with a vibrancy no one can blame TheRZA for lacking after all these years.
Whether talking about a surreal undersea adventure, spanking or the album’s central theme, cocaine, Ghostface has created a masterpiece. Though Fishscale may not get the mainstream attention it deserves, it will go a long way towards finally cementing Ghostface Killah’s position at the top of the Wu-Tang Clan.