Def Jam Recordings
onestly, what does Ghostface need to prove? As little as he stands to lose—he's never going to run wild up the charts, he's certainly in no danger of breaching platinum sales figures (Fishscale, despite listing for $9.99 and being unloaded by a certain massive retail chain at a wallet-loosening seven bucks, has yet to go gold), and he's unlikely to ever alter his vocab-crunching style enough to penetrate the dome of the average fan of pop-rap pablum. Yet, he has all the critical acclaim of an Outkast with absolutely none of the eye-rolling. Bloggers, underground heads, acclaimed producers, and thugs all love Tony Starks.
Because the son of Man born Dennis Coles combines two arcane elements into one unstoppable force: he's gritty and he's funny. It takes nothing away from the man to boil it down like that—because, right now, who out there do it like Ghost do? Some have cited his devastating wordplay (rarely unsheathed to its full potential on More Fish) as the secret to his success, but it's really the tone of Ghost's verbiage that puts him over—you laugh, you cry, you're scared to be left alone in a room with him. That and the fact that he can casually drop references to the Flintstones, Hardy Boys, and Kelly Clarkson and still be hood.
So why More Fish?
Because hip-hop is in transition. It's never been more commercially omnipresent or creatively vacuous. While critics are busy spilling unwarranted syllables over the mundane likes of Young Jeezy, Ghost is cutting bricks and wrapping them in foil for the starving masses bored with the creative dead-end of undie rap and unstimulated by the crunk, the hyphy, and the whatsit. Meanwhile, Ghostface is on some Old Man of the Mountain-type shit, a mystic meditating beneath a tightly-drawn hoodie. He may have actually absorbed the essence of ODB when he passed—singing over Delfonics songs and making cookie-cutter club tracks with Missy, he's become the Wu court jester in Russell Jones' place. At the same time, he's more street than ever, exchanging Pretty Toney's more emotional timbre for the rugged drug tales of Fishscale and More Fish.
Early on, cuts like "Guns N' Razors" (despite a brilliant sample) worry the listener into mistaking More Fish for a mere posse record—toploaded with the aggressively average drug raps of Trife Da God and other miscellaneous Theodore Unit linemen (including Ghost's relatively promising offspring, Sun God). Luckily, the trademark Ghostface quirks are littered throughout—"Block Rock" features some "Bob George"-action on the chorus vocals, "Alex (Stolen Script)" hallucinates a backstory to Ray while Ghost absolutely murders the beat, "Greedy Bitches" and "Ghost Is Back" recycle classic ‘90s beats and actually improve them, and on "You Know I'm No Good," Amy Winehouse appears, to everyone's surprise.
At this point, it would seem churlish to suggest that Ghost is milking his audience—not only does such thinking run counter to the Wu-Tang ethos (if they've been squeezing a dry teat, they've been doing it all along), but the evidence here supports the contrary assertion—that he's simply sharing the overabundance he's been blessed with. Which isn't to suggest that Ghostface is incapable of throwaways—his albums and mixtapes are littered with them—but more that he's unable to explain or divide his own gift. Artistically, Ghost is your classic overeater—he lays forth a banquet when a light supper would do, but the feast is held at his expense, not yours. So, while it could be asserted that More Fish is leftovers to Fishscale's ten-course spread, we're still talking about something well beyond your average table scraps.
Reviewed by: Mallory O’Donnell
Reviewed on: 2006-12-14