Alas, it appears that even the mighty Tony Starks is no match for the modern music industry. After an enigmatic debut as the masked member of Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah spent the better part of fifteen years as hip-hop’s Iron Man overcoming the jiggy era, the Southern invasion and myriad label dramas to drop, perhaps, hip-hop’s longest streak of stellar solo albums. But, Apollo Kids, Ghost’s ninth solo release unfolds more like a prototypical exercise in 2010 record industry economics than of the artist’s trademark grimily abstract craftsmanship.

Ghostface is formidable as ever on the mic. If his cinematic vignettes on fellow Clansman Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx 2 didn’t convince you, then his vintage verse on Apollo Kids’ explosive opener “Purified Thoughts” surely will. As he waxes passionately poetic on financial and spiritual liberation over the thunderous beat, long time fans will have every reason to expect another Ghostdini epic. Yet, the album quickly loses steam as the insipid hook on “Superstar” plays like an all too forced attempt to recreate the quirky club magic of the classic “Cherchez LaGhost.” The funk tinged production on “Tequila” feels alarmingly cold and mechanical in comparison’s to Ghost’s trademark soul drenched backdrops.

Towards the middle, we get a glorious glimpse of what the album could have been with a trifecta of minimalist boom-bap tracks that pay rousing homage to hip-hop’s golden era. The highlight of the sequence, even the highlight of the album is “Tha Park,” a rollicking reminiscence of the ‘80s over a cavalcade of pounding drums, rumbling bass and distorted guitar. It would take a masterful MC to top Ghost’s vivid imagery, and that MC arrives in the form of Black Thought, who anchors the track with one of his most forceful performances to date. But, the momentum quickly dissipates as the Jim Jones featured “Handcuffin’ Them Hoes” quickly degenerates into misogynistic clichés and an under whelming hook.

Many of Apollo Kids’ flaws are likely a result of outside factors. The awkward adherence to commercially viable formulas wreaks of a record label looking for a song they can “push,” and the absence of Ghost’s usual collaborators behind the boards (not even a single RZA track, let alone Madlib) probably speak to budget constraints. It’s a testament to Ghostface’s MC bonafides and sheer force of personality that, while easily his weakest solo outing, Apollo Kids is far from a bad album. It just doesn’t quite feel like a Ghostface Killah album.

-Jeff Harvey

Comments

  • MP

    I can’t believe how wrong the review is for Ghost’s Apollo Kids album. I’m really in shock.You guys usually are pretty accurate with your reviews, but 79? Ya’ll were off by at least 10 points with this one [89]. his album is lyrically superb & the production was tight! Man, I’m genuinely shocked by this one……

  • koolie

    This was a better album than scored… This is sh!t is fresh

  • sstretch

    Come on OKAYPLAYER, 79?? really ?? Duffy gets an 85 and Ghost a 79?? The Album was short but it was a solid strong good album. I mean RZA didn’t produce any tracks but the production and lyrics were on point from beginning to end. Ya’ll ready to give KANYE a perfect and straight trash GHOST on here. I bet if KANYE did this album, you would have given him a near perfect and ANOTHER GENIUS MARK.

  • http://esteeminatti.wordpress.com esteeminatti

    you BUGGIN!!! Apollo Kids deserves AT LEAST an 88. I’m a Ghost fan, true indeed. Starks was able to keep it in that pocket that only The Wally Don could rock! Production, lyrics…hell, even I was shocked at how much I liked Handcuffin with Jim Jones! This one is for the OLDHEADS, 88er, Golden Era, Boom Bap niccas! THAT’S what makes it such a good album, the fact that it doesn’t sound like anything else out right now! Do the knowledge.

  • KD06

    I’m probably one of the biggest GFK supporters out there but the album is hit and miss. As of late the Busta Rhymes collabs haven’t been working with the WU and Superstar is another one. I haven’t seen a review yet that said the Jim Jones track was good, because it wasn’t. Overall I think the album need the songs arranged better and the removal of the those two songs for sure. But don’t get it confused there is some heat on there… He comes through on a number of levels….

  • http://claaa7.blogspot.com claaa7

    i think the review is pretty spot on, but come on now Ghost has purposely chosen not to work with RZA since 2004′s “Pretty Toney Album” and Madlib and he only collaborated once previously to this. doesn’t mean that i don’t agree with you on that though, it’s rare that an emcee has as great chemistry with his producer as Ghost did with RZA. “Ironman”; “Supreme Clientele” and “Bulletproof Wallets” is in another leauge than his other LP’s although i own his entire discography and all of them bang HARD.

  • Chea!

    79? Nope. Not even close to being correct. 89 would have been about right. The short, rushed tracks as well as the mundane topics here and there, keeps the album from soaring. And forget the RZA tracks. RZA is on that other shite at times; he does not produce any gritty, dusty beats anymore. Now, I would much prefer to hear Ghost over some Oh No or Madlib tracks. Or, more Jake One beats.

  • wow

    The record doesnt even deserve a 79. A complete disappointment. Boring, lacking creativity, some really wack guests/verses and beats I wouldnt pay a dollar for. The worst Ghost record yet. After playing it through a few times I literally felt like shit because he put this out. One more of these (Big Doe, Ghostdeini, Apollo Kids) and he will start seriously fucking up his legacy IMO

  • Steve!

    Very few clan members albums have a Wu presence anymore. I think the reason why OB4CL II & Wu-Massacre were such solid efforts and received with shining reviews, were because of a strong imprint and contribution by core Wu members. Ghost’s best album to date for me is Supreme Clientel and it seems to me he keeps trying to recreate (his last 3 solo albums). I’d like to hear him just put a hard core Ghostface Killah album, with raw beats and rhymes…until then i’ll just keep rockin that Wu-Massacre to quinch that thirst!

  • Monk

    I thought the album was dope.