My roommates call it my “Beatlemania” moment: Just before Thanksgiving break, one of about six girls in a throng of adoring fans packed into Toad’s and overcome by powerful renditions of the best from his own and the Wu-Tang Clan’s catalogs, I start uncontrollably shouting, “I love you Ghostface!! Have my babies!”
My undignified screams were inspired mostly by Ghost’s past work. Opening with “Be Easy” and closing with “Back Like That” and “Run,” interspersing his set with odes to Ol’ Dirty Bastard and covers of Wu-Tang classics like “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” Ghostface delivered one of the best live hip-hop concerts imaginable. After listening to his newest release, it’s inexplicable why he didn’t introduce more of his newest songs. The Killah’s “The Big Doe Rehab” fully cements — for anyone who had doubts — his reputation as the most consistent, talented and prolific solo act to rise from the feud-ridden ashes of the Wu-Tang Clan. Ghostface isn’t doing anything new with this latest addition to his canon, but more of the same from the Killah is never a bad thing.
Ghostface’s charm and appeal lies in his whining. His gravelly, abnormally high and agitated voice pleads with the listener, and over the course of 15 years it has become one of the most instantly recognizable voices in hip-hop that subverts the typical rapper-as-macho-man persona. Though with “The Big Doe Rehab” Ghostface runs the risk of using his predictable story-telling formula just one too many times, even a Ghostface who is merely going through the motions still manages to haunt, joke and spit deep, layered lyrics all over soulful, spine-tingling beats.
On “Walk Around,” for instance, a Patti LaBelle sample forms the base for a litany of unending, violent threats against largely imagined enemies. Paranoia — toward cheating women, poverty and the police — punctuates much of Ghostface’s past work and is featured prominently on this track, which also boasts some of the most skillful production to be found on any of his albums.
Other notable tracks include the Method Man-assisted “Killa Lipstick,” a sweet ode to an intimidating, perfect but ultimately deadly woman. The album closes with “Slow Down” featuring Chrisette Michele, a lilting ballad about the materialism inherent in the rap game.
For those who missed the Killah’s Toad’s appearance, there is a chance they’ll be able to make up for it when the Wu-Tang Clan visit the venue in January. But conflicting dates for the Clan and Ghostface’s tours and creative disagreements between Raekwon and RZA don’t bode well for a true (although sans-O.D.B.) reunion. Judging from the prolific last few years, though, it’s reasonable to hope that Ghostface will shortly follow “The Big Doe Rehab” with another visit to the Elm City — and none too soon.