Ghostface Killah - The Big Doe Rehab

Posted December 5, 2007

I truly believe that an MC’s name determines their talent level. Come up with a great MC...

The Big Doe Rehab Album Review

I truly believe that an MC’s name determines their talent level. Come up with a great MC moniker, Ghostface Killah for example, and you’ll have no choice but to make your music as dope as your name. On the other hand, I hear Diddy and all I can think of is my little nephew peeing his pants. Come to think of it, Ghostface Killah might just have the best handle in the industry. It’s simultaneously street tough and mystical. A man named Ghostface would drag you into an alley and stab you with a ninja star, but as you bled he’d drop a verse so dope you’d be thinking, “I wish I wasn’t being stabbed, but that was a great line.” Yeah, his name’s that tight.

Ghostface is the perfect example for my theory because he consistently lives up to his impossibly cool name. Ten years ago no one thought Ghost’s abstract gangster flow would make him the most prolific member of Wu-Tang, yet the dapper don's career is now seven-albums deep and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. His 2007 album Fishscales was critically acclaimed (meaning mainstream reviewers finally figured out he existed), and now the Ghost returns with The Big Doe Rehab, an album that proves he hasn’t lost a step, but he hasn’t learned any new tricks either.

With all due respect to Slick Rick, Ghost is the best storytelling rapper in the business. He uses his overpowering flow to chronicle the often-brutal underbelly of urban America, but unlike other rappers (paging Mr. Cent) he shows violence for what it is; a last resort with terrible consequences for both the shooter and the victim. Walk Around imagines Ghost killing a man in a grocery store, then trying to maintain his sanity as he remembers the slaying; “I was up close so part of his nose was stuck to my Padres/standing over him shakin/everything got real slow…” That kind of unflinching flow plus some soul-searching 70’s style production makes Walk Around worthy of Ghost's greatest songs catalog. Shakey Dog Starring Lolita is another cut worthy of a movie script. The beat stalks with Godfather-esque flare as Ghost and fellow Wu-Tang member Raekwon lyrically shoot it out with a Latina mob boss (the aforementioned Lolita) for control of the city. Nobody blends reality with imagination like Ghost; he’s the Quentin Tarantino of hip-hop, which makes Big Doe Rehab the rap equivalent of Pulp Fiction.

If Shakey Dog is a cinematic masterpiece than Barrell Brothers is more like a bootleg DVD you buy off the sidewalk; uncut, unedited and raw. Ghost is best known for rhyming over smooth soul production, but Barrell Brother’s beat is about as subtle as a baseball bat to the face. Ghost drops the metaphors in favor of a more crushing lyrical style, but for once he doesn’t have the best flow; he’s ultimately outdone by Beanie Sigel’s superb verse. He recovers nicely on Killa Lipstick, a pimp-heavy track featuring Ghost and Method Man trading verses about a certain femme fatale. Lipstick’s grown and sexy vibe is Ghost at his bejeweled best and Meth delivers the kind of hilariously dirty verse we expect from the maker of How High. Ghost’s rhymes always walk the fine line between overly abstract and disappointingly basic – Barrell Brothers and Killa Lipstick strike the perfect balance

A lot of reviewers seemingly want Big Doe Rehab to be a classic Ghostface album so badly they’re willing to overlook its shortcomings, but the album’s just not as good as Fishscale or Supreme Clientele. Sorry, it’s not. While there are some production bright spots (Slow Down), there’s not one beat on here you absolutely have to listen to on repeat. The Hitmen supply almost half the album’s production and it’s clear they saved their best material for American Gangster. Furthermore, when Ghost drops his more conceptual tracks they have the potential to become certified hits (Cherchez LaGhost comes to mind), but Big Doe Rehab’s concepts largely fall flat. The quasi-award show White Linen Affair never gets off the ground, and a rapper of Ghost’s creative caliber is too good for the simplistic We Celebrate. Maybe if he had titled the album Even Better Than Ready To Die instead of Big Doe Rehab he would have felt compelled to make sure the music lived up to the album’s name. After all, a dope name can make you or break you. Just ask Ghostface Killah, a.k.a. Ironman, a.k.a. Tony Starks, a.k.a. Pretty Toney...damn he’s good.

P.S. – We lost one of the industry’s biggest talents today with the passing of Pimp C of UGK. Normally I’d ask for a moment of silence, but this is hip-hop. So let’s pay tribute by blasting Int’l Players Anthem as loud as our stereos will go. R.I.P. Pimp C.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted December 5, 2007
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